Blog with our Expert - Heinz Läubli

Author: Martina Konantz

Meet Heinz Läubli from the Cancer Immunotherapy Laboratory at the Department of Biomedicine. One of his main research areas is the improvement of cancer immunotherapies. He is investigating the role of glycans and glycan-binding receptors in anti-cancer immunity and works on the improvement of immune checkpoint blockade and new cell therapies for solid cancers. Today he shares his research and vision for cancer immunotherapies.


Heinz Läubli was born in Horgen in 1978. He studied medicine at the University of Zürich and Lausanne and then performed a PhD project in the institute of physiology at the University of Zürich. He accomplished his clinical training in 2012. He joined the research group of Ajit Varki at the University of California in San Diego in 2012 for his postdoctoral training. In 2014, he joined the Department of Biomedicine as a project leader and since 2019 as research group leader. He lives in Binningen and enjoys to play football, ice hockey and volleyball with his 4 children.


What is your personal vision of the direction of your field of research? In other words, why is it relevant and what are your main long-term goals?

We are working in the field of cancer immunotherapy. Although cancer immunotherapy has improved the outcome of our patients, only few patients develop long-term remissions. New rationale approaches are needed to tackle this problem of resistance to cancer immunotherapy. A long-term goal is to individually characterize a cancer and adapt the appropriate immunotherapy/combination therapy for each patient (personalized cancer immunotherapy).


Thinking about this vision which are your main contributions to the field?  

Our lab performs in depth analysis of patient samples to correlate biological signatures with resistance/response to cancer immunotherapy. In addition, we have established in vitro and in vivo cancer models to mechanistically explore these correlations and also to design therapeutic approaches. Finally, we have established a GMP production for cellular cancer immunotherapies (including non-genetically and genetically modified cells) that allow us to directly implement new insights from the laboratory into clinical phase 1 trials.

What are the main challenges in your field of research?

There are two main challenges:

- High-dimensional analysis of biological samples require complex bioinformatic analysis including potential learning systems

- Regulatory hurdles to perform clinical oncological trials are high and lead to very expensive phase 1 studies limiting the translation to our patients

Biomedical research should focus on translatable, ambitious goals to improve the care of our patients.

Heinz Läubli

What part of your work as a group leader do you enjoy/appreciate the most? If you can give an example… 

I enjoy to work with young innovative talents pushing the boundary of knowledge. For example, recently a PhD student designed a completely innovative, new screening experiment for a new type of cell therapies.


Last but not least? If we could grant you a scientific “wish”, apart from enough resources to perform your research, what would that be? The sky is the limit..(This can be about research and science in general or specifically about your own work or field)

Biomedical research should focus on translatable, ambitious goals to improve the care of our patients.


Read more about his research