Research in St Andrews
We support research across all the fields of clinical, biomedical, physical or engineering sciences related to medicine. The following are awards made to researchers working in St Andrews University.
Awards in 2013-14
PhD Studentships awarded during 2012-13 included the following to St Andrews University:
Dr Paul Reynolds (School of Medicine) will be supervising Ms Awa Sarr during her PhD Studentship, "Investigating resistance mechanisms to gemcitabine using a whole genome RNAi approach.". This research will also involve close working with NuCana BioMed Ltd.
There is a growing need to personalise anti-cancer treatments because cancers, like individuals, are somewhat unique. Although gemcitabine is the backbone of several cancer treatments, it is effective in only the minority of patients; major resistance mechanisms in cancer cells dramatically limit its activity. Hence, patients receiving this compound have only a marginally improved life-span, compared with untreated individuals. The novel molecule NUC-1031 is designed to overcome these cancer resistance mechanisms and benefit the majority of patients. The studentship will involve a comprehensive and unbiased search across all human genes, aiming to identify the specific ones associated with cancer resistance to gemcitabine treatment. This work will involve laboratory experiments using cell culture models of cancer and tools to reduce the expression of genes. Any candidate genes will be validated thoroughly to find any associated with drug resistance. This approach promises real benefit for patients, since identified genes can be used as biomarkers to select the appropriate treatment for the most suitable patients. By better understanding drug resistance pathways, personalised treatment with NUC-1031, which is in early clinical studies, can be planned systematically. Therefore, the results obtained will enable patient identification of those most likely to gain a superior response from the novel agent NUC-1031.
Teodora Filipescu (Medical Sciences) supervised by Dr John Lucocq, for a project entitled, Identification and localisation of phosphoinositide lipids in intracellular microsporidian parasites using novel quantitative electron microscopic affinity methods
Angela Hu (Medicine) supervised by Dr Melissa Andrews, for a project entitled, Evaluation of cell-specific promoters to target different motor-neuron subtypes
Rebecca Hughes (Biochemistry) supervised by Dr Silvia Paracchini, for a project entitled, St Andrews University Functional investigation of the PCSK6 genetic variants associated with laterality: implications for neurodevelopmental disorders
Yen Lau (Medicine) supervised by Dr Paul Reynolds, for a project entitled, Investigating gemcitabine resistance in pancreatic cancer
Awards in 2012-13Undergraduate Vacation Scholarships were awarded as follows:
Abhinav Mathur (Medicine, Edinburgh University) supervised by Dr Paul Reynolds at St Andrews University, for a project entitled, The role of the hippo pathway in colorectal cancer.
Shona Miller (Psychology) supervised by Professor Julie Harris, for a project entitled, Developing a visuo-motor training strategy for reading via eccentric viewing.
Awards in 2010-11Undergraduate Vacation Scholarships were awarded as follows:
Mr Joshua Newmark (Medicine, St Andrews) supervised by Dr Gillian Brown, to study sex differences in the cytoarchitecture of the midbrain dopamine system.
Awards in 2009-10£146,832 over three years to Dr V. Anne Smith (School of Biology, St Andrews University) and Drs Simon Langdon & Dr Dana Faratian* (Institute of Molecular Medicine & Genetics, Edinburgh University), for a project involving taking a systems biology approach to the development of predictive patient selection for ovarian cancer therapy. [*No longer involved with this grant.]
Ovarian cancer has a poor prognosis: 65% of women die within 5 years, in spite of often responding well to intial treatment. Unlike breast cancer, there are no biological markers to indicate who should get what therapy. This project will involve creating datasets from treatment-sensitive and -resistant ovarian cancers and using a powerful statistical technique for data analysis. This systems biology technique allows the visualisation of how a range of variables, including biological measurements and response to therapy, relate to each other in pathways. These biomarker pathways should enable improved decision-making with respect to treatment suitability.
Undergraduate Vacation Scholarships were awarded as follows:
Mr David Clark (Medicine, St Andrews University) supervised by Dr Lorna Marson at Edinburgh University, to study the role of the lymph cells in the rejection of kidney transplants.
Ms Rohan Munir (Medicine, St Andrews University) supervised by Dr Andrew Sims at Edinburgh University, to study the accuracy of current tests for preducting breast cancer subtypes.
Awards in 2008-09£133,793 over three years to Dr Joanna L. Parish (Bute Medical School, University of St Andrews), for a structural study of ChIR1, a DNA helicase required for sister chromatid cohesion and papillomavirus genome persistence.
Cell division, involving the accurate copying and separation of the DNA into the resultant daughter cells, is important for the growth and maintenance of the body but its failure can result in cancer. During separation of the DNA, duplicated chromosomes are temporarily 'glued together' by a protein complex. This project will use X-ray crystallography to study the basic structure of an enzyme (CHlR1) which is known to be required for the gluing process and has also been shown to be essential to maintaining infection with the cervical cancer-causing papillomavirus.
Awards in 2007-08£141,343 over three years to Dr Gareth B. Miles (School of Biology, University of St Andrews), to test the 'synaptic stripping' hypothesis for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), by an investigation of cholinergic synapses on motoneurones in ALS.
ALS is a neurodegenerative, paralysing and fatal disease which results from the selective loss of motoneurones - the nerves in the brain and spinal cord responsible for controlling movement. It is incurable and the only available treatment has limited benefit. This project hopes to shed light on the poorly understood mechanisms which damage the nerves.
Awards in 2001-02£69,957 over three years to Dr Frank J. Gunn-Moore (School of Biology, St Andrews University) to investigate the amyloid-ABAD complex, a novel model for Alzheimer's Disease.
The protein amyloid is known to be deposited in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease, where it is thought to bind to ABAD protein. This research will study the molecular effects of deposition and look at the early processes in Alzheimer's.