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Division of Structural Biology

The Division of Structural Biology aims to describe the structural and biochemical properties of proteins and the complexes they form, in order to understand the significance of these proteins in the development and treatment of cancer.

X-ray diffraction machine

Researchers in the division use a variety of biochemical and biophysical techniques to understand protein structures, with a particular focus on X-ray crystallography and electron microscopy.

By combining structural biology with biochemistry and functional studies, researchers are able to gain an understanding of important biochemical interactions in the spread of cancer throughout a patient’s body.

Consequently, several team leaders in Structural biology have joint appointments with other divisions (e.g. Cancer Biology and Cancer Therapeutics) to facilitate the exploitation of the molecular understanding of biological mechanisms in the development of new cancer therapies.

Current research activities include studying key cancer stem cell signalling processes (Dr Sebastian Guettler), the role of the proteasome and the Cop9 signalosome in protein degradation and turnover (Dr Ed Morris), and transcription regulation (Dr Alessandro Vannini).

All of these research areas have the potential to open up novel therapeutic strategies. The division also uses high-throughput screening on a variety of cancer targets, in order to identify and develop potential new candidate drugs for cancer therapy (Dr Rob Van Montfort).

Research teams

Hit Discovery and Structural Design

Team leader: Dr Rob van Montfort

Dr Rob van Montfort’s Hit Discovery & Structural Design Team uses screening techniques to narrow down the number of potential molecules to take forward into drug development.

Macromolecular Structure Group

Team leader: Professor Laurence Pearl

The Macromolecular Structure Group seeks to understand the structural basis for assembly, specificity and regulation of the multi-protein complexes involved in the recognition, repair and signalling of DNA damage, and in the chaperone-mediated stabilisation and activation of cellular signalling pathways.

Structural Biology of Cell Signalling

Team leader: Dr Sebastian Guettler

Dr Sebastian Guettler’s Structural Biology of Cell Signalling Team is researching the ways in which certain enzymes, known as ADP-ribosyltransferases (ARTs), control cell function.

Structural Electron Microscopy

Team leader: Dr Edward Morris

Dr Edward Morris’ Structural Electron Microscopy Team uses electron microscopy images to determine the three-dimensional structure and function of large, multi-protein complexes.

Vannini Group

Team leader: Dr Alessandro Vannini

The Vannini Group aims to understand how deregulation of a protein known as RNA polymerase III can cause cancer.

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