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Research expertise

CenGEM contains five well developed research clusters and one group, championed/led by CenGEM members:

  • Genome Organisation and Dynamics – Champion/Lead - Prof. Paola Vagnarelli
    Within this cluster we aim to understand the principles underpinning the organisation of the genome to support cells function and heath, how this organisation is maintained through generations, how it changes in response to external stimuli and how it is affected in diseases and ageing.

  • Cancer Mechanisms – Champion/Lead - Dr. Cristina Pina
    We investigate genetic, epigenetic, transcriptional and signalling mechanisms of cancer development. We aim to understand disease evolution, define actionable early diagnostic and prognostic markers, and develop new treatments. 

  • Disease and Therapeutics – Champion/Lead - Dr. Michael Themis 
    Within CenGEM our focus is on hereditary and acquired disease prevention and therapeutics. For a range of diseases, gene therapy has become a reality championed by several years cloning and expressing functional genes from viral vectors that can efficiently delivery these genes to suffering individuals. With over 300 clinical trials either completed or in progress, this field now has significant academic and pharmaceutical interest. Our work will be to deliver proof of efficacy in animals and non-animal models with a strong interest in safety and side effects. With the launch of TestaVec Ltd in 2017 as a Brunel spin-out, we are well placed to continue and commercialise our expertise.

  • Organ-on-a-Chip Group – Head - Dr. Ruth Mackay 
    The OOC group, co-led by Dr Elisabete Silva, incorporates toxicologists, engineers, endocrinologists, clinicians, microbiologists, life scientists and bioinformaticians.  The group’s research focuses on developing alternative systems to study women’s health issues, such as cancers (ovarian and breast), pregnancy outcomes and sexually transmitted infections (including bacterial vaginosis). We are currently working on organ-on-a-chip (OOC) platforms that bring integrate in vitro three dimensional (3D) co-cultures of cells with microfluidic systems to replicate female organs (vagina, ovaries, placenta and breast) and better understand causes (including chemical toxicity), initiation, progression, diagnosis and treatment of women’s diseases and disorders. 

  • Genomic informatics and epidemiology – Champion - Dr Fotios Drenos 
    We are an interdisciplinary group of scientists working on the development and application of computational and statistical methodology to understand the role of the genome in health and how this information can be used to come up with new interventions, diagnostic and predictive tools to decrease the burden of disease in the population.

  • Centre for Health Effects of Radiological and Chemical Agents (CHRC) - Champion Dr Rhona Anderson 
    The Centre for Health Effects and Chemical Agents is an externally-funded Centre that sits within CenGEM. Our work exploring the human health impact of radiological and chemical agents is organised as disciplinary projects delivered in an environment that fosters interdisciplinary collaboration. These can be grouped broadly as (1) Genetic markers of radiation exposure (2) Understanding health risks of exposures (3) Health and Wellbeing and, (4) Education and Engagement.

And we are presently building research interests in:

  • Mechanobiology – Co-championed by Dr Gudrun Stenbeck and Dr Joanna Bridger
    Our world, our lifestyles and our bodies assault our tissues, cells and genome constantly, over our life-span. However, we have evolved complex coping mechanisms that protect and repair damage. Nevertheless, excessive damage can lead to tissue degeneration, premature ageing and disease with the possibility of transgenerational effects. Understanding how physical constriction, environmental exposure and a cells' robustness withstand and repair external assault is a rapidly developing topic that we are starting to investigate in CenGEM, reaching out to and including other disciplines such as engineering, chemistry, computing and physics.
  • Space TravelDr Emmanouil Karteris 
    Within CenGem, we are facilitating a critical mass of biologists, clinicians, computer, sports scientists and bioengineers to understand how the human body adapts in space. In particular we are interested in conducting in vitro experiments to mimic adverse conditions and ultimately generate molecular data from samples sent to space.