A focus of my research program is the molecular interactions that regulate the mitochondrial pathway to apoptotic cell death. This is defining how apoptosis is tightly controlled in healthy cells, and how it becomes dysregulated in disease. We aim to facilitate therapeutic target identification and rational design of compounds to directly manipulate the apoptotic pathway. Promoting apoptosis has applications for cancer therapy, while blocking cell death has potential as a treatment for ischaemia or degenerative diseases. This follows the paradigm that has resulted in the development of BH3 mimetic drugs, which are in clinical trials for the treatment of certain cancers.
My lab is also interested in the molecular control of mitophagy (mitochondrial quality control). Mitophagy is controlled by the E3 ubiquitin ligase Parkin, which is mutated in degenerative conditions including certain forms of Parkinson’s disease. It is also emerging as an important tumour suppressor.
We are investigating how Parkin interacts with the apoptosis machinery to co-ordinate mitochondrial quality control, how its activity influences the growth and survival of tumours, and whether this machinery represents a novel target for the treatment of cancer.
My lab’s research is focused on the powerhouses of cells, structures called mitochondria. Maintaining the integrity and function of mitochondria is essential for cells to survive and to grow. Mitochondria are also central to the process of cell death termed apoptosis.
Defective control of mitochondria can lead to many diseases including cancer and degenerative disorders. My research uses innovative approaches to better understand how mitochondria ensure cell survival and proliferation. This information is informing the development of new ways to treat a broad range of diseases including cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and stroke.