Professor Greg Hannon
Prof Greg Hannon is internationally recognised for his contributions to small RNA biology, cancer biology and mammalian genomics. He has a long history in the discovery of cancer genes and he has developed widely used tools and strategies for manipulation of gene expression in mammalian cells and animals. He has a long history of collaboration and technological innovation, which will continue in his role as the lead PI on the Grand Challenge. Describing the project, Greg said “It’s an enormous challenge. I liken it to putting a man on Mars. There’s nothing that violates the laws of physics but there’s so much technology you have to develop to do it.”
As a cancer survivor and the Lead Cancer Nurse at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge Elaine is very passionate about changing the face of cancer through both research and patient care. She sees her role as one of “championing the needs of our patients, to improve their experience of care and supporting our cancer teams in delivering the best outcomes through research and evidence. She is excited to be working with Carlos, Greg and the wider team in this “wonderful opportunity to represent my peers with cancer” and is looking forward to using her own experience to bring their findings to a wider public and patient audience.
Both before and after her diagnosis Lynn worked with Disaffected and Special Need teenagers. Following her recovery she now spends her time volunteering for cancer charities and experiencing and enjoying life. Lynn’s role within the Grand Challenge team is to provide the link to the patients and give a patient perspective as she says “having a greater understanding of cancer is very important for a patient’s wellbeing when facing such a life changing event.”
Professor Samuel Aparicio is the Nan & Lorraine Robertson Chair in Breast Cancer Research UBC, chair of the BC Cancer Agency Department of Breast and Molecular Oncology in Vancouver, Canada. He has conducted foundational work on methods for studying the evolution of human cancers using next-generation and single cell sequencing methods, and is also working to develop quantitative measures of clonal fitness in patients. His role in grand challenge is leader of the Canadian contribution to the Grand Challenge, focus on single cell genomics as an approach to fitness and cellular dynamics, quantitative methods and visualization. “We’re delighted to have one of our top research teams, led by Dr. Sam Aparicio, awarded this prestigious grant,” says Dr. Malcolm Moore, president of the BC Cancer Agency. “The funds will enable a truly international team to embark on critical breast cancer research, at a level never explored before.”
Professor Shankar Balasubramanian is the Herchel Smith Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Senior Group Leader at the Cambridge Institute in the University of Cambridge. He specialises in nucleic acids chemistry and is a co-inventor of Solexa-Illumina next generation sequencing and epigenetic sequencing. His primary contribution to the Grand Challenge will be on the detection and analysis of nucleic acids.
Dario Bressan graduated in Molecular Biology and Neurobiology from the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, Italy, in 2008. He then moved to the USA, where he obtained a PhD from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY, working with Dr Greg Hannon. Since 2014, Dario has been a research associate at the CRUK Cambridge Institute. His role in the Grand Challenge will be to integrate different types of cellular analysis with 3D imaging in order to produce coherent maps of tumours, and visualise them in an interactive way.
Bernd Bodenmiller is ERC Assistant Professor at the University of Zürich. His group developed highly multiplexed tissue imaging by mass cytometry and algorithms for downstream data analyses. In the Grand Challenge these methods will be used to generate at subcellular resolution three dimensional profiles of protein distribution and signaling activity.
Ed Boyden is Professor of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the MIT Media Lab and the MIT McGovern Institute. His group develops tools, such as optogenetics and expansion microscopy, for analysing and repairing complex biological systems such as the brain, and applies them systematically to understand and repair these systems. His role in the Grand Challenge is to develop optimized forms of expansion microscopy multiplexed analysis of cancer. Prof. Boyden said “Our group at MIT is excited to optimize and deploy our radical new technology, expansion microscopy, to further the ground-truth analysis of cancer. Hopefully by mapping the building blocks of cancer, new treatments and cures will be possible.”
Carlos Caldas is Professor of Cancer Medicine at the University of Cambridge and directs the Breast Cancer Functional Genomics Laboratory at the CRUK Cambridge Institute. He is the Director of the Breast Cancer Programme at the CRUK Cambridge Cancer Centre. His laboratory is focused on characterizing the clonal and cellular heterogeneity of breast cancers and how this affects response to therapy and outcomes, on creating explant models that mimic this heterogeneity and their use for drug testing, and on developing tools to monitor the evolution of breast cancers in space and time. Carlos’s main contribution to the Grand Challenge will be analysing the unique sample sets accrued in these studies as the primary targets for building 3D tumour maps and how this information will be used as a clinical biomarker.
Dr Owen Harris is a designer, programmer, artist and writer. He teaches Game Design in DIT and regularly speaks all over Ireland and Europe. He is a founder of Imirt, an organisation set up to improve the quality and visibility of Irish games, and runs the local community game design event dubLUDO. For the Grand Challenge Owen heads the Virtual Reality team. Owen said “My team are building a virtual reality cancer lab. Scientists from across the globe can enter the lab together to explore and research the disease. This is a brand new way to view cancer.”
Johanna Joyce was recruited to the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland in 2016. The Joyce lab investigates the tumour microenvironment of primary cancers and metastatic disease, and in determining the critical influence that non-cancerous immune and stromal cells have on tumour progression and therapeutic response. Prof Joyce will focus on addressing these important questions in breast cancer as part of the IMAXT Grand Challenge team.
Professor Simon Tavaré is a Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. His research interests include computational biology, statistics and inference for stochastic processes, particularly approximate Bayesian computation. Since 2013 he has been Director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, where his research group focuses on statistical bioinformatics and cancer evolution. Simon will lead the statistical analysis aspects of the Grand Challenge project.
Nicholas Walton is a research astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge. He is interested in understanding the formation and evolution of our Milky Way and the hunt for planets outside of our solar system. Within the Grand Challenge team he is responsible for developing the advanced image analysis techniques to segment, align and initially characterise the cells and structures in the IMAXT raw image data. Nic said “At the Institute of Astronomy, we routinely analyse images from the world’s largest telescopes. We use these to unravel the birth, life and death of planets, stars and galaxies. Now we’ll be using these same analysis techniques, applied to images from sophisticated microscopes, to increase our understanding of the life and death of cells and tumours, working with our CRUK colleagues to solve their grandest challenge.”
Xiaowei Zhuang is the David B. Arnold Professor of Science at Harvard University and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Her lab develops advanced imaging technologies, in particular single-molecule and super-resolution imaging methods, and applies these methods to biological studies. As a member of the Grand Challenge Team, she will use MERFISH, a single-cell transcriptome imaging method developed in her lab, to help produce the three-dimensional cell atlas of breast tumours and their host environments. Xiaowei said “I look forward to working with the IMAXT team and using MERFISH, the single-cell transcriptome-imaging method that we developed, to help generate the 3D cell atlases of tumors.”