For many postdoctoral scientists looking to start their own research group in the future, a fellowship is a key step to independence. Dr Christina Heroven, a postdoctoral scientist in Dr Ricardo Fernandes' team for two years, has been awarded a competitive Early Career Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust. Prior to joining COI, Chirstina completed her PhD and a short postdoc position with Prof. Radu Aricescu at the MRC-LMB in Cambridge.
The Early Career Fellowship, which will last 5 years, will support an ambitious project to better understand the interplay between receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) and phosphatases in cancer. RTKs act like switches at the surface of cells instructing the cell to perform basic functions, such as cell division. In cancer, these switches often malfunction, resulting in the uncontrolled growth of tumours. Phosphatases are enzymes that can turn off RTKs, but we don’t fully understand how this regulatory mechanism works or how we could take advantage of it.
Together with collaborators at the CAMS Oxford Institute, the University of Oxford, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the Max Planck Institute, Christina aims to develop new synthetic molecules that shut down RTKs by exploiting the enzymatic activity of phosphatases.
Christina credits her successful application to the fantastic support and guidance provided by colleagues from across the University, including Prof. Tao Dong, Prof. Benedikt Kessler, Prof. Gerry Gillespie, Prof. Graham Ogg & Prof. Paresh Vyas. In particular, she is grateful to Prof. Jane McKeating for the many hours of support provided. A mentorship scheme for COI researchers to support them with grant and fellowship applications is being established and will be led by Prof. Jane McKeating.
Christina's group leader, Dr Ricardo Fernandes, is proud and grateful to those that helped Christina with this achievement: "Congratulations, Christina! This award presents an incredible opportunity for you and the entire lab to embark on an exciting project. While we anticipate the challenges ahead, we are equally enthusiastic about it. I extend my gratitude to every member of the team for contributing to an exciting research environment. Additionally, a special thank you to the COI Team for their immense support. Here's to the promising path ahead!"
The Wellcome Trust Early Career Award scheme provides funding for early-career researchers from any discipline who are ready to develop their research identity. Through innovative projects, they will deliver shifts in understanding that could improve human life, health and wellbeing. By the end of the award, they will be ready to lead their own independent research programme. Find out more about the scheme here.