Site Logo

Hello, you are using an old browser that's unsafe and no longer supported. Please consider updating your browser to a newer version, or downloading a modern browser.

2022 Sontag Award Recipient

"It is an extraordinary honor to be a Sontag DSA awardee. This award will allow our lab to pursue the type of high-risk, high-reward research that simply would not be otherwise possible. I am also particularly excited about becoming a part of the Sontag community. The opportunity to interact with scientists and clinicians from diverse backgrounds, all thinking about how to tackle the greatest challenges in brain cancer, is one of the unique and most exciting parts of this award. These types of cross-disciplinary interactions are undoubtedly what will enable the greatest innovation and advances in new treatments for brain cancer patients".

About DSA-Funded Research

Proteins are the molecular workhorses of the human body, responsible for everything from signaling of neurons in our brains to controlling when and how our cells divide. However, many of these functions require not just a single protein, but a protein complex that must be precisely assembled like a Lego model. In most cancer cells, including primary brain tumors, this assembly process becomes dysregulated due to imbalances in the relative expression of protein subunits. It’s as if instead of having one red brick for every yellow brick, a cancer cell has three extra red bricks beyond what is needed. These excess proteins behave like cellular junk, and their accumulation can be toxic. As a result, cancer cells are uniquely reliant on quality control pathways that discard these excess proteins for their survival. The factors required for degradation of these supernumerary subunits therefore represent novel chemotherapeutic targets. The goal of our research is to identify and characterize the factors required for recognition and degradation of excess protein subunits in the human brain. To do this we will use an interdisciplinary approach that combines genetics, structural biology, and biochemistry. Understanding the role of these quality control factors in healthy cells will allow us to generate tools to test their effects in brain cancer cell lines, which we expect to be particularly susceptible to inhibitors of these pathways. This research therefore has the potential to open a new avenue for treatment of brain cancers.

Current Appointment(s)
  • Assistant Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering, Caltech
  • Investigator, Heritage Medical Research Institute
  • Yale University, New Haven, CT, B.S., Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
  • Yale University, New Haven, CT, M.S., Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
  • Cambridge University, United Kingdom, Ph.D., Molecular Biology
  • Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular
    Biology, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Postdoctural Fellowship, Molecular Biology