A team of researchers led by Crick group leaders Dinis Calado and Ed Tate has won the 2019 Sir David Cooksey Prize in Translation for their work on developing drugs to target currently untreatable cancers.
The team’s project has emerged from the Crick’s university secondment scheme; Ed Tate is a chemist from Imperial College London with a satellite group at the Crick and Dinis Calado leads the Crick’s Immunity and Cancer Laboratory. Over the past four years, the team (Ed Tate, Dinis Calado, PhD student Gregor Lueg and research associate Monica Faronato) has been studying pathways discovered in the Tate lab which support B cell lymphoma growth, and developing a novel method to block the pathways.
Together with support from the platforms and facilities at the Crick, the team found that blocking this pathway can kill cancerous cells driven by the gene MYC. MYC plays a role in a number of untreatable cancers and there are currently no MYC-targeting drugs available. The team have progressed their discovery, developing a spin-out and gaining private investment.
"The research that ultimately led to this award originated with researchers at one of the Crick's legacy institutes, and it is very satisfying to see the research come back full circle to the Crick over 15 years later," said Ed Tate on receiving the award. "It's a tribute to open collaboration between the Crick and the partner universities, and to the many people who helped us to reach this important turning point in our work."
"Our results are the consequence of multiple factors: a superb multidisciplinary collaboration, a brilliant team, and amazing academic, science technology platform and translation support," agreed Dinis Calado. "Everything has been firmly embedded in the Crick ethos to pursue discovery without boundaries."
In presenting the award Sir David Cooksey said, “This is an example of the exciting novel applications discovered at the Crick which shows the benefits of both multidisciplinary collaboration and of our partnerships with Imperial, King’s and UCL.
“It demonstrates that the Crick approach to translation, placing emphasis on promoting an openness to translation across the wider institute and providing easy access to expertise and mechanisms to convert discoveries to applications, is bearing fruit.”
The winning team receive £10,000 for their research in addition to a £2,000 cash prize. The prize is a way to encourage and recognise early and mid-career researchers and teams, and to provide recognition of their achievements to support their career development. It also aims to increase awareness of translation at the Crick and recognise role models who can inspire colleagues through their work.
The runner-up team, led by MRI specialist Ana Da Silva Gomes and group leader Dominique Bonnet, is developing a method for imaging bone marrow tissue that allows scientists and clinicians to track the progression of leukaemia using existing MRI machines. The technique has already shown potential as a diagnostic tool and could work alongside – and potentially replace – invasive bone marrow punctures, the current standard method for tracking leukaemia’s growth. They have built a strong multidisciplinary team (Ana Da Silva Gomes, Wei Xing, Diana Passaro, Bernard Siow, Dominique Bonnet, Jamie Cavenagh and Khawaja Shahabuddin) and established a small clinical study with Bart’s Hospital to progress the project.
Veronique Birault, Director of Translation at the Crick, said, “We had four nominations of fantastic quality, all of whom are role models for others who wish to embark upon translational science”.
2019 Crick Translation Fellowships were awarded to the winners and runners up, along with the two nominated teams:
HERON (Mihaly Kollo, Joost de Folter and Romeo Racz)
Mihaly Kollo and Romeo Racz are postdocs in Andreas Schaefer’s group at the Crick and have developed an AI-driven search engine for scientific publications. Instead of generating a list of results, HERON generates a map of scientific research based on the search terms. The graphical interface lets users quickly examine the chemical, biology and physical materials and methods reported for each experiment. It will allow users to instantly compare papers, rather than having to sift through hundreds of individual papers.
Sebastijan Hobor, Charlie Swanton, Crispin Hiley, Marcin Skrzypski, Jasper Van der Aart and Aleksandra Markovets
Through an open science collaboration with researchers at AstraZeneca, a team in Charlie Swanton’s lab at the Crick are working backwards from a well-known lung cancer treatment. By examining tumours’ genetic make-up, along with how well they respond to the treatment, the researchers are able to see how the number of chromosomes in the cancerous cells determines how they will respond to treatment. The work could eventually mean that we will be able to predict how successful cancer treatment will be, and make better informed treatment decisions.