Crick scientists secure EU funding for DNA replication ‘flipbook’

Alessandro Costa

Crick group leader Alessandro Costa has been awarded a €2 million Consolidator grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to study the molecular machinery inside our cells that controls DNA replication.

Every time a cell divides, it has to copy all of its DNA and split it equally into two new cells. The process is complicated and small mistakes can lead to DNA damage, that can sow the seeds of cancer if they’re not properly repaired.

Alessandro’s team want to study exactly how the cell’s machinery replicates DNA so that they can start to understand what happens when the process goes wrong.

To do this, they are using sophisticated cryo-electron microscopes, to freeze and image the molecular machinery during different stages of genome replication, building up a picture of the whole process.   

“By stitching all of our high-resolution images together, we’ll be able to create a DNA replication ‘flipbook’ that will give us unprecedented insights into the mechanisms of genome replication,” says Alessandro.

Alessandro hopes that the project will provide the scientific community with a framework to better understand DNA replication, so that they can figure out which cancer-causing mutations arise from problems with the cell’s machinery.

"I’m thrilled that our work has received the acknowledgement and support of the ERC,” says Alessandro. “I am also grateful to my lab members - they should feel proud of their achievements and current progress on this exciting project.”

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