Our Team

Biographies

Professor Karen Cichowski

Professor of Medicine; Director, Center for Targeted Cancer Therapies; Ludwig Investigator, USA

Organisation: Brigham and Woman’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School

Discipline: Signalling and epigenetics

 

Professor Karen Cichowski is the founder and Director of the Center for Targeted Cancer Therapies at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Hospital Cancer Center. She has a longstanding interest in understanding how deregulated signalling pathways drive cancer and in using this insight to develop new therapies.  To this end she has successfully developed several promising combination therapies for Ras- pathway driven tumors that are currently being evaluated in clinic trials. More recently, she has been studying the convergence of oncogenic signalling pathways and epigenetics in cancer and has made several fundamental discoveries related to how defects in the in PRC2 complex drive cancer development and progression.  

 

The Cichowski lab will contribute to the Grand Challenge project with her expertise in epigenetics and signalling and in exploiting various mouse modelling approaches to deconstruct complex mechanisms of pathogenesis. She has broad expertise in studying many different types of cancers that will be investigated in this Grand Challenge.

Professor Hans Clevers

Professor of Molecular Genetics; Director Research of the Princess Maxima Center for Pediatric Oncology, Netherlands

Organisation: Hubrecht Institute

Discipline: Stem cells and cancer

 

Professor Hans Clevers, MD, PhD was Professor in Immunology (1991-2002) and Molecular Genetics (since 2002) at Utrecht University. He was director of the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht (2002-2012) and President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW, 2012-2015).

Professor Clevers’s group has identified Lgr5 as the adult stem cell marker in the intestine and subsequently in several other tissues. Based on this discovery, the Clevers lab has developed miniature organ culture systems (“organoids”) of a variety of organs.

 

The Clevers lab will contribute to the Grand Challenge Project with his unique expertise in and extensive collection of human organoids/tumor organoids as well as genetic screening in these systems.

Professor Teresa Davoli

Teresa Davoli, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Institute for Systems Genetics and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

Organisation: New York University School of Medicine, USA

Discipline: Bioinformatics, Systems Genetics

 

Teresa Davoli is an Assistant Professor in the Institute for Systems Genetics and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at New York University School of Medicine. Her lab focuses on investigating somatic point mutations and copy number alterations (in particular aneuploidy) in human cancer, integrating bioinformatic analyses of primary tumors with novel experimental tools for large-scale functional genetic approaches. Her lab is particularly interested in proliferation control and cancer immune evasion.

Teresa’s main contribution to the Grand Challenge will be to combine functional genetic approaches and bioinformatic analyses to comprehensively map the genes and pathways that drive tumorigenesis across different human tissues. In addition, she will contribute to the definition of cellular decision maps that will provide a systematic understanding of why different tissues respond in different ways to the same oncogenic stimuli.

Professor Stephen Elledge

The Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics and Medicine, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Division of Genetics, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, USA
Organisation: Harvard University
Discipline: Cancer Genetics


Professor Stephen Elledge has a long-standing interest in understanding the proteins that sense and respond to DNA damage and regulate the cell division cycle and cancer and uncovered what is now known as the DNA Damage Response. He along with Dr. Wade Harper discovered the two largest families of E3 ubiquitin ligases, the CRL family initiating with the Skp1-Cul1-F-box E3 ligase family, and the role of RING domain E3 ligases.  Dr. Elledge has developed a number of genetic technologies that promote the use of genetics in mammalian systems including shRNA screening methods and ORF libraries that he has used to probe cancer biology leading to theories about how aneuploidy drives cancer.  More recently Dr. Elledge has developed immunological methods such as VirScan that allow the genome-wide detection of antiviral antibodies from a single drop of patient blood to determine the history of viral exposure.

The Elledge lab will contribute to the Grand Challenge project with expertise in understanding how cells of different origins show profound differences in their ability to respond to proliferation signals.   

 

Professor Kevin Haigis

Director, Cancer Genetics,
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, USA
Discipline: Cancer Genetics


Kevin Haigis was born in Naples, Italy to American parents. He received his Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin and did postdoctoral training in Cancer Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently the Director of the Cancer Genetics program at Beth Israel Deaconess Cancer Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Haigis developed the first mouse models of colorectal cancer driven by mutant K-RAS and N-RAS and identified isoform-specific functions of these two related oncoproteins. His role in the Grand Challenge is to identify the molecular mechanisms that underlie the tissue-specific oncogenic properties of K-RAS.

 

Professor Kristian Helin

Director and Professor, Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC) and Novo Nordisk Foundation for Stem Cell Biology (DanStem), University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Discipline: Molecular Oncology


Professor Kristian Helin is the founding Director of the Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC) at the University of Copenhagen. He has a long-standing interest in understanding the molecular mechanisms leading to cancer. The Helin lab has made several seminal discoveries, including the identification and molecular characterization of several families of chromatin-associated proteins and their role in stem cells and cancer. This work has also led to the establishment of a biotech company EpiTherapeutics, which was acquired by Gilead in 2015.

The Helin lab will contribute to the Grand Challenge project with expertise in understanding how the epigenetic landscapes shape the response to oncogenes and tumour suppressors.  Moreover, the Helin lab will put a major emphasis on glioblastoma and leukaemia.

Professor Richard Marais PhD, FMedSci, FRS

Richard Marais is Director of the CRUK Manchester Institute and Professor of Molecular Biology at The University of Manchester, UK. His studies on BRAF and cell signalling have significantly advanced our understanding of melanoma biology and aetiology. He has translated his basic research discoveries into clinical implementation, improving patient outcomes, elucidating mechanisms of drug resistance and developing new drugs against BRAF and other cancer targets. His research informs innovative clinical trial designs with signal seeking biomarkers to monitor therapy responses and optimise patient treatment. His research also highlights the importance of combining sunscreen with other sun avoidance strategies to reduce population melanoma risk. With colleagues, he received the 2012 AACR Team Science Award for cancer drug discoveries.  He received the 2017 Translational and Clinical Research Award from The ARC Foundation Léopold Griffuel Awards, and the 2017 Outstanding Research Award from The Society of Melanoma Research. In 2018 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.


Professor Marais continues to study the basic biology of melanoma and other cancers in order to deliver better treatment strategies for patients and he is dedicated to providing exceptional training for the next generation of multi-disciplinary cancer researchers.

Professor Peter Park

Professor of Biomedical Informatics
, Harvard Medical School, USA


Discipline: Bioinformatics

Professor Park was originally trained in mathematics but has been working in computational biology for the past two decades. He specializes in computational and statistical analysis of large-scale DNA sequencing data to uncover genetic and epigenetic mechanisms related to mutational processes. His group has developed several algorithms used around the world for analyzing structural alterations in cancer genomes as well as chromatin modifications. He directs the Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics PhD program at Harvard Medical School and is a co-leader of the Cancer Data Sciences Program at Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.

His group will perform rigorous integrative analysis of multiple data types to uncover the genomic and epigenomic landscapes that underlie tissue type-specificity of cancer drivers, taking advantage of both project-generated and publicly available data.

Professor Owen Sansom

Director and Senior Group Leader at the CRUK Beatson Institute, Deputy Director of the Institute of Cancer Sciences at the University of Glasgow and CRUK Glasgow Cancer Centre Lead
CRUK Beatson Institute and University of Glasgow, UK
Discipline: Cancer Biology


Owen was appointed Director of the CRUK Beatson Institute in August 2017, having been Deputy Director since 2011 and then Interim Director from 2016. The focus of his research is to understand the function of driver oncogene and tumour suppressor mutations in epithelial cancers. He has a particular interest in colorectal cancer and WNT signalling, pancreatic cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma. Owen has published over 250 papers and been instrumental in the use of in vivo models to determine the molecular hallmarks of epithelial cancers and for translating therapeutic concepts prior to clinical trials.

Owen’s contribution to this Grand Challenge project on tissue specificity will be to cross compare different oncogenic drivers in different tissues that either do or do not undergo transformation.

Professor Trey Westbrook

Professor of Molecular and Human Genetics; USA, Baylor College of Medicine, USA

Professor Westbrook is a McNair Scholar for Cancer Research and co-director of the Therapeutic Innovation Center (THINC) at Baylor College of Medicine. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester where he was trained in the mechanisms and models of cancer viruses. He continued his passion for cancer research and genetics during postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School. His team has developed genetic and chemical biology approaches to unveil cancer dependencies, with an emphasis in targeting intractable breast cancers. He also serves as an advocate for cancer patients through multiple fora. His group will contribute to systematic synthetic lethal mapping across tissues and validation/translation of high-priority tissue selective cancer pathways.

 

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