Richard Bayliss is originally from Leeds, and is known to enliven his seminars with facts about his home city. He studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, and then completed his PhD in molecular biology at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge in the group of Murray Stewart. After a 1-year stint as a Research Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, he was an EMBO Long Term Fellow with Elena Conti at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, and then a Research Fellow in the group of Gabriel Waksman in Birkbeck College, London. He established his independent research group at the Institute of Cancer Research in London in 2006, funded by a Royal Society Research Fellowship and Cancer Research UK. He relocated to the University of Leicester in 2011 and then to the University of Leeds in 2016 to take up his current position as Professor of Molecular Medicine and a member of the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology.
Mark is the lab manager and a postdoctoral research fellow. He studied Molecular Biophysics at Kings College London and completed a PhD in Crystallography at Birkbeck College, London. Mark has been a member of the group since its foundation and has published more than 25 papers in that time, including seminal studies on the structure of EML proteins and drug sensitivity of EML4-ALK fusions in lung cancer, and the structure and function of the Aurora-A/N-Myc complex.
Selena is a protein biochemist with expertise in X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy and assay development. She studied for a PhD with Prof. Nigel Scrutton FRS and then joined the Bayliss group as a postdoctoral research fellow in 2006. Since then, her work has focused on the interactions of Aurora-A kinase, including the key structural studies of the Aurora-A/TACC3 complex. She has also established an in-house phage display facility for isolation of camelid nanobodies against protein targets.
“I am from County Kerry, a beautiful (albeit slightly soggy) corner in the South West of Ireland. I studied Microbiology in University College Cork where I became interested in viruses, particularly viral hijacking of host cell functions.
I pursued this interest with a PhD and Post-doc in the lab of Prof. Stephen Curry in Imperial College London where I studied the Norovirus VPg protein. I used a combination of structural and molecular biology approaches to, first determine its structure, and then characterise its role in viral translation initiation. This is where I became interested in the control of gene expression.
As a postdoctoral researcher in the Bayliss lab I work on mechanisms by which the proto-oncogenic transcription factor N-myc activates gene expression. My work looks at N-myc complexes; the ultimate aim being a structural characterisation of important protein-protein interfaces that could provide the basis for development of a small molecule inhibitors of N-myc interactions.”
“I moved from Cyprus to the United Kingdom in 2009, where I gained a BSc Biological Sciences and MSc Cancer Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Leicester (2013). Subsequently, I completed my PhD in cancer cell biology in 2017 at the same institution. I joined the University of Leeds as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Bayliss Lab in November 2017.
My research interests focus on the areas of cell division and cancer signalling pathways. One part of my research is studying how cancer cells with extra centrosomes divide and what mechanisms they use to cluster them during mitosis. These cancer cells find ways of escaping cell cycle checkpoints, clustering their extra centrosomes and progressing into division by promoting aneuploidy and chromosomal instability. Kinases, such as Nek6, and microtubule-associated proteins, such as Dynein, are implicated in this process but their mechanisms remain elusive. The second part of my research focuses on how EML4-ALK fusion is implicated in cancer signalling pathways. Fusions of ALK (Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase) and EML4 (echinoderm microtubule associated protein-like 4) are identified in about 3-7% of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have been proven highly effective in those patients – however, despite the initial responses the outcome of the treatment is variable. I am specifically interested in understanding how the two major EML4-ALK isoforms, V1 and V3a, respond to the ALK TKIs and what downstream signalling pathways they use to overcome these treatments.”
Dr. Matthew Batchelor studied for a PhD on biomolecular interactions at solid–liquid interfaces with Prof. Trevor Rayment and Prof. Chris Abell at the University of Cambridge. After working as a post-doctoral research fellow on protein unfolding at the University of Nottingham with Prof. Phil Williams, he worked for three years as a Publishing Editor at the Royal Society of Chemistry. In 2012, Matt returned to active experimental and computational research at the University of Leeds, first as an interdisciplinary research fellow working with Prof. Michelle Peckham, Dr Emanuele Paci, Prof. Lorna Dougan and Prof. Peter Knight on single-alpha helix domains, and subsequently with Prof. Richard Bayliss, working broadly on the structural dynamics and interactions of disordered regions of proteins with relevance to cancer, and the structural effects of phosphorylation.
Dr. Jennifer Miles studied for a PhD with Cancer Research UK, awarded by University College London. Following this, she moved to the University of Leeds to work as a PDRA with Prof Andrew Wilson and Dr Thomas Edwards on the structural characterisation of inhibitors of Protein-Protein interactions. After this she undertook a PDRA with Prof Paul Taylor, establishing his research group at Leeds. In her most recent role, she has been undertaking structural studies for the CRUK Manchester Institute DDU with Prof Richard Bayliss, based at the University of Leeds.
Sharon moved from tropical Malaysia in order to experience the famously dismal British climate. She gained a BSc in Biochemistry at the University of London in 1997 and earned a PhD in Molecular Biology at the University of Cambridge in 2001. She was a postdoctoral research fellow at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, then at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, London, and subsequently at the University of Leicester. She joined the Bayliss group at the University of Leeds as a research assistant in 2016.
The Road from Wigan Pier
Originally from the town of Wigan (best known for its rugby team and large number of pie shops) Rob took a short trip east to Leeds in 2014 to study Chemistry. He received his MChem degree at the University of Leeds in 2018. As part of his studies, he spent a year in the pharmaceutical industry working for YProTech (now Apex Molecular) where he developed a catalogue of compounds for use in antibody drug conjugate (ADC) research. Following his industrial placement, Rob returned to Leeds to complete his own research project under the supervision of Prof. Colin Fishwick, where he employed structure-based drug design to develop membrane-bound ion channel inhibitors with antimalarial potential. He is currently pursuing his PhD degree through the MRC DiMeN DTP program under the supervision of Prof. Richard Bayliss and Prof. Andy Wilson at the University of Leeds. His research combines synthetic chemistry with structural biology and aspects of biophysics to develop constrained peptides as inhibitors of key protein-protein interactions of the Aurora A kinase.
“I’m a final year PhD student working alongside the Nelson and Whitehouse Groups, with industry support from LifeArc, to identify and develop novel inhibitors against the RNA N6-Methyladenosine (m6A) methyltransferase complex.
m6A is a dynamic RNA modification and core component of epitranscriptomic regulation, which has been shown to control many important cellular processes. Dysregulation of the epitranscriptome, particularly hyper-methylation, has been implicated in a growing array of cancers, including AML and breast cancer. This presents the m6A methyltransferase complex as an interesting target for the development of novel therapeutics.
My project initially took a crystallographic fragment-based screening approach, facilitated by the XChem platform at Diamond Light Source, to identify an initial set of binders. Next, I developed a surface-plasmon resonance (SPR) binding assay to cross-validate these initial ligands, as well as screen a second library of compounds at LifeArc’s Centre for Therapeutic Discovery. The latter stage of my project has involved using synthetic chemistry to develop ligand potency by merging fragments together.
Alongside my research, I have been able to explore an interest in the commercial life sciences sector, gaining valuable experience with technology transfer and strategy consulting firms. Most recently I competed in the Young Entrepreneur Scheme, a nation-wide ‘Dragon’s Den’ style competition in which teams of PhD students must develop and pitch a business idea. Working with a group from the Universities of York and Sheffield, we reached the national finals and won the prize for best financial strategy.”