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The Team


Happy Halloween from the Downs lab!

Jessica Downs

Jessica worked in the Buratowski lab at Harvard Medical School before moving to the Gurdon Institute at Cambridge University to do her PhD. This was followed by postdoctoral research training in Professor Steve Jackson's lab. She started her own lab in the Biochemistry Department in Cambridge University after being awarded the Jenner Fellowship from the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine. The lab moved to the Genome Damage and Stability Centre at Sussex University followed by another move to the ICR in 2016.

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-6600-849X

Pedro Zuazua-Villar

Pedro did his PhD at the University of Oviedo in Spain, followed by a postdoc in Sheffield before joining the Downs lab. His favourite time of the year is Christmas when he can wear fancy jumpers and go to parties with Secret Santa gifts. He is well known for having the tidiest bench in the lab. In 2023, he was awarded (by his lab-mates) a certificate for successfully completing a training course in bioinformatic analysis. He will be framing this and adding it to the collection of post-it notes that surround his bench.

Karen Lane

Karen (she/her) completed her undergraduate BSc degree in Pharmacology and an MSc in Biomedical Science at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She graduated from the Centre for Chromosome Biology in Galway with a PhD in Biochemistry in 2017. Karen started as a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Downs's lab in 2018, where she uses cell biology and biochemistry techniques to identify novel therapeutics in SWI/SNF-mutant cancers. 

ORCID ID: 0000-0003-0560-1502

Susana Sousa

Susana completed her BSc degree in Applied Biology at the University of Minho, and her MSc degree in Oncology at the University of Porto, both in Portugal. She then obtained her PhD in Cancer Sciences at The University of Manchester. In January 2019, she joined Professor Downs’s lab at the ICR and is investigating the therapeutic potential of drugs targeting naturally occurring DNA secondary structures in SWI/SNF mutated cancers.

Alison Harrod

Alison obtained her BSc in Biomedical Science at the University of Sheffield. She then completed her MSc degree in Molecular Medicine and her PhD in the Department of Surgery and Cancer at the Imperial College London. In April 2019, she joined Professor Downs’s team at the ICR and her research is focusing on chromatin modifiers in cancer and analysis of omics datasets.

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-3977-2791

Nawa Amin

Noa is a Welcome Trust Clinical Research Fellow at the ICR and a Medical Oncology doctor at The Royal Marsden Hospital, NHS Foundation Trust. Noa is conducting her research in ARID1A deficient gynaecological cancers in the epigenetics and genome stability team in Professor Downs’s laboratory and is also a member of the gynaecological Cancers team led by reader in Women’s cancers, Dr Susana Banerjee. Noa was awarded a distinction and the association of Physicians prize for her undergraduate research during her medical degree, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, has MSc degrees in the molecular biology and pathology of viruses and in medical oncology, and is a member of the Royal College of Physicians.

Katie Begg

After an undergraduate degree at the University of Leeds and a masters at the University of Bristol, Katie obtained her PhD from King’s College London in 2021. For her PhD research, she studied radiotherapy responses in head and neck cancer. Katie joined the Downs lab in 2021 as a CRUK RadNET funded postdoc to investigate the role of chromatin remodellers in radiotherapy response and immune signalling. 

ORCID ID: 0000-0001-7711-0652

Lillian Wu

Lillian completed her BSc degree in Molecular Biology at University College London (UCL). She joined the team for her PhD in 2021, where she is investigating the interaction landscape and cellular dynamics of the SWI/SNF chromatin re-modelling complexes using multi-omic approaches. 

ORCID ID: 0000-0003-3178-1770

Hanna Braun

Hanna obtained her BSc degree in Biotechnology and her MSc degree in Molecular and Applied Biotechnology from the RWTH Aachen University, Germany. She then pursued her PhD in Molecular Biology at the IMB Mainz, Germany, and gained additional experience during a research stay at the CSI Singapore. In 2023, Hanna joined Professor Downs’s lab, where she focuses on synthetically lethal interactions of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodelling complex.

ORCID ID: 0000-0003-3438-5490

Nagham Ghaddar

Nagham obtained both her BSc and MSc degrees in Genomics and Health at the Lebanese University in Lebanon. She obtained her PhD in Health Biology - Developmental and Molecular Biology at the Centre of Cancer Research of Marseille, France. In March 2023, Nagham joined Professor Downs's lab at the ICR, where she is investigating the synthetically lethal interactors of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodelling complex.

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-8949-6553

Eetu Holtta

Eetu completed his MSci Biomedical Sciences & Pharmacology degree at the University of Aberdeen in 2023, which included a year-long work placement at GSK. He joined the Downs lab in 2023 as an MRC iCASE-funded PhD student and is partnered with AstraZeneca to research how specific DNA damage repair inhibitors could be used to treat cancers with mutations in the SWI/SNF chromatin remodelling complexes.

ORCID ID: 0009-0000-9127-1508

Ayoub El Azoui

Ayoub joined Professor Downs' lab in February 2024 as part of an apprenticeship scheme funded by the Wellcome Trust and delivered by Tiro. Here, he will focus on viability of cells lacking SWI/SNF following treatment with therapeutic agents, under the mentorship of Dr Pedro Zuazua-Villar.

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