Who we are > FENS-Kavli Scholars > URTE NENISKYTE (2023)


Country of origin: Lithuania


Dr. Urte Neniskyte received her PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge (UK) working under the supervision of Prof. Guy C. Brown and contributing to the first studies that identified microglial phagocytosis of live neurons as a mechanism contributing to inflammatory neurodegeneration, now known as phagoptosis. Then she joined the group of Dr. Cornelius Gross at the Epigenetics and Neurobiology Unit of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Italy) for her post-doctoral fellowship funded by Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions to identify molecular signals that guide synaptic pruning by microglia. After returning to the Life Sciences Center of Vilnius University with another MSCA fellowship, U. Neniskyte established a Molecular Neurobiology research group. Since 2021 Urte is a group leader at Vilnius University and European Molecular Biology Laboratory Partnership Institute for Genome Editing Technologies.

U. Neniskyte aims to define the mechanisms that are required for the maturation of neuronal networks during brain development. The aberrations of these processes are associated with a range of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia or epilepsy. For her achievements, Urte has received multiple awards, including L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Rising Talent award (2019) and Presidential award of Knight’s Cross of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas (2019). In addition to her scientific research, Urte participates at various policy-making groups, such as the State Progress Council of Lithuania, and actively communicates science to diverse audiences, ranging from primary school students to the advocacy groups of the patients with neurodevelopmental disorders.


2016 - Present
VU-EMBL Partnership Institute, Life Sciences Center, Vilnius University, Lithuania
2013 - 2016
Postdoctoral Marie Curie Fellow, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Italy


Ph.D: University of Cambridge, UK
2008 - 2012
Graduate student, University of Cambridge, UK


The discovery of CRISPR-Cas systems and its application to specifically edit the genes provides us with new opportunities to treat neuropathologies at the genome level. To establish an effective approach of CRISPR-based gene editing in mammalian brain, we collaborate with the researchers identifying new Cas proteins, select appropriate viral and non-viral vectors for the delivery of CRISPR-Cas into the central nervous system, and trial their efficacy in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo. To thoroughly assess the outcomes of selective gene editing in brain cells we use a range of animal and human models with the aim to apply them to treat nervous system disorders. Using these new tools, we strive to define the molecular signalling pathways that drive highly specific pruning of unnecessary synapses and projections in developing brain. For this, we use both ex vivo tissue cultures and genetically modified mouse lines. We supplement animal models with the secondary use of surgically resected human brain tissue that allows us to directly investigate normal and aberrant human brain circuitry. We are developing novel molecular tools for rapid, selective and sensitive labelling of synaptic surface molecules and supplement high-resolution fluorescent microscopy with electrophysiology techniques and animal behaviour experiments. We aim to define the synapses destined for elimination and to elucidate their molecular signatures, giving direct insight into the molecular cascades that are required for the developmental synaptic pruning in the maturing circuits of mammalian brain