Entrevista A Katharina Scherf

1. Tell us briefly about your professional career
Prof. Dr. Katharina Scherf leads the Department of Bioactive and Functional Food Chemistry at the Institute of Applied Biosciences, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany, since 2019. Having studied food chemistry at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Katharina Scherf obtained her PhD degree from the TUM. From 2012 to 2019 she worked at the Leibniz-Institute for Food Systems Biology at the TUM and led the research group Functional Biopolymer Chemistry since 2017.

Her research was awarded with several prestigious scientific prizes, including the Research Award of the German Coeliac Society (2019 and 2014), the Young Scientist Research Award of the Cereals & Grains Association (2018) and the Harald Perten Prize of the International Association for Cereal Science and Technology (2022). In 2022, she received the ERC Starting Grant GLUTENOMICS.

2. What is the specialty of your research?
We study the complex interplay between structure, functionality and bioactivity of food biopolymers, especially proteins, in a multidisciplinary way and use these fundamental insights to improve food security, food quality and food safety. One of our main research interests are analytical, immunological and biochemical aspects of wheat-related disorders, including celiac disease, non-celiac gluten/wheat sensitivity and wheat allergy.

3. Where do you think wheat quality research is headed? What do you think is the future?
Wheat quality research is currently done by many groups in different countries, but only few large-scale projects are done in a collaborative way. The link between genetics and genomics research, germplasm resources and properties related to end-use quality needs to be improved to tackle challenges related to processing, nutrition and health.

With more than two-thirds of global wheat production destined for food, wheat will continue to play a critical role in nutrition security, because it is an affordable staple food for about 35% of the world population. Wheat needs to be adapted to climate change and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to future-proof human nutrition.

4. What do you think this type of congress (International Gluten Workshop - IGW) can contribute?
The IGW can contribute to achieving progress in wheat quality research by bringing scientists from different disciplines together. By sharing knowledge, discussing recent findings and exchanging ideas, new networks will emerge and foster collaborative research.

5. What do you think would be necessary to develop regarding the quality of wheat? Dissemination, research, investment, etc.?
Investment in wheat quality research is needed, as well as dissemination and coordination of strategic activities.