I was born in Greece and at 18 I moved to London to study for a BSc in Molecular Biology at UCL. An industrial placement in biological mass spectrometry instilled in me a life-long fascination with the application of advanced technologies to study biological problems. During these years, I also got hooked on cell metabolism and signalling.
In pursuit of a project that combined these interests, I moved to Switzerland where I obtained a PhD in Biochemistry working on sirtuins, a class of nutrient-responsive protein deacetylases that had just been discovered. In 2006 I crossed the pond to join Harvard Medical School, where, as a postdoctoral fellow, I studied the role of metabolism in cancer cell stress responses and characterised first-in-class small molecule activators of the cancer-associated glycolytic enzyme PKM2. I returned to London in 2012, to start my lab at the NIMR.
About the lab
We are a multinational (UK, Germany, Portugal, Greece) team of scientists comprising of three postdoctoral fellows, two PhD students and a clinical fellow. The lab is using biochemistry, proteomics, metabolomics and animal models to investigate how metabolism contributes to cancer cell survival under stresses imposed by the tumour microenvironment (e.g. hypoxia) or by drugs, and to study metabolic heterogeneity in the context of normal tissue physiology and the tumour microenvironment.
We are also applying molecular modelling and protein engineering approaches to devise new ways for interfering with metabolism in vivo. Our lab is located within a truly multidisciplinary and vibrant scientific community and benefits from access to a broad range of state-of-the-art technological platforms. In April 2015, we will be joining the Francis Crick Institute, one of Europe’s largest centres for biomedical research.
About the project
Project 12: Most diseases, including cancer, are associated with profound metabolic changes at the cellular level. It is increasingly appreciated that tumour microenvironments contain several cell types with distinct metabolic characteristics that support cancer cells through poorly understood mechanisms. Although recent developments in analytical technologies have accelerated discoveries in the metabolic basis of cancer, there are no suitable experimental tools to study specific metabolic processes at the single-cell level. Consequently, little is know about the influence of metabolic heterogeneity within the tumour microenvironment on cancer development.
The specific project will make use of RNA biosensors in various mouse models of metabolic disease and cancer available in our lab, to study intercellular heterogeneity in the mammalian liver. Single-cell imaging of the biosensors in living mice will be performed using intravital microscopy. The student will also use complementary methods (NMR and mass spectrometry-based metabolomics, genetics, cell biology) to validate and characterise existing and newly-generated biosensors both in vivo and in cultured primary cells. In addition to covering an exciting new research area at the interface of RNA biology and metabolism, this project will provide important insights into the contribution of intercellular metabolic co-operation in liver disease.