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Double success for Wellcome Trust funding

3 May 2016

Drs Lois Luk and Yuhsuan Tsai
Drs Lois Luk and Yuhsuan Tsai

Dr Louis Luk and Dr Yuhsuan Tsai have both been successful in winning funding for Wellcome Trust Seed Awards in Science. Both of these projects are multidisciplinary research that draws on tools from organic chemistry, protein chemistry, cell biology and chemical biology.

The research project led by Dr Luk is, Dihydrofolate reductase interactome: an unrecognised network that can control DNA synthesis and cell replication. The aims are to characterise the 'interactome' of dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), a well-validated anticancer drug target participating in the biosynthesis of DNA building blocks. Although therapeutics targeting DHFR are available for cancer treatment, resistance against them is frequently found. To combat against this issue, protein-binding networks that controls DNA synthesis will be investigated.

Dr Luk said: “We anticipate that this project will reveal novel drug targets that can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Consequently this work will advance our knowledge of this drug target, which is crucial for future drug development."

Dr Tsai will lead the project Chemical biology tools for protein O-GlcNAc modification. The research will characterise a specific type of protein modification – O-GlcNAcylation. This modification adds a sugar moiety onto the protein and is essential for many biological processes, including development of the embryo. Dysregulation of this modification is associated with diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, but it is not clear how this modification is regulated on different proteins.

Image of Interactome
Photo Credit Andrew Garrow

Dr Tsai and his group will develop new tools to study O-GlcNAcylation on different proteins. Dr Tsai commented: "We anticipate that the developed tools will facilitate studying O-GlcNAcylation in live cells. This will allow us to unravel the cellular functions of O-GlcNAcylation and validate this protein modification as diagnostic markers for different diseases."

The Wellcome Trust is a non-government funding agency that aims to fuel research to improve human and animal health. The Wellcome Trust Seed Awards that Dr Luk and Dr Tsai have received are mainly for newly independent researchers to explore ideas beyond their comfort zones.

These two Wellcome Trust grants for the School of Chemistry will lead to ground-breaking research, and highlight the commitment of the School to develop multidisciplinary biomedical chemical-based research.

Learn more about Dr Luk’s and Dr Tsai’s research.

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