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Christian Z.jpg

Christian Zierhut, PhD

Head of Laboratory

ORCID 0000-0003-3501-603X

Christian obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Vienna, where he studied meiotic DNA repair with Franz Klein.

  For his PhD, he worked with John Diffley at the CRUK Clare Hall Laboratories (now part of the Crick Institute). Here, Christian studied how DSBs are processed and activate the DNA damage response.

  Christian then did postdoctoral work with Hironori Funabiki at Rockefeller University. Here, he showed that chromatin is essential for the assembly of the nuclear envelope and the mitotic spindle. Subsequently, he showed that chromatin acts as a mark of self-DNA, preventing activation of self-sensing by cGAS.

  Christian joined the Cancer Biology Division of the ICR as a Team Leader in 2020.

Current members

Current members

Negar Afshar, PhD

Higher Scientific Officer

  Negar graduated with a BSc in Genetics from the Queen Mary University of London. She obtained her MSc from the University of Sussex, studying meiosis, at the Genome Damage and Stability Centre.

  For her PhD, she joined Professor Hiroshi Iwasaki’s lab at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, studying the molecular mechanism of mitotic homologous recombination (HR). More specifically analysing the relationship between Rad51 and HR auxiliary factors and identifying a novel motif of Rad51 that is responsible for interaction with multiple auxiliary factors.

  Negar joined the lab as a Higher Scientific Officer in 2021.

Lauren Davies

PhD Student

  Lauren obtained a BSc in Biochemistry from Queen Mary University of London. Following this she completed her MRes in Cancer Biology at Imperial College London where she worked as part of Professor Sibylle Mittnacht’s team at the UCL Cancer Institute looking at PARP inhibition in RB1 defective osteosarcoma. Lauren joined the lab as a PhD student in 2021.

Alexandra Kanellou, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

  Alexandra graduated with a BSc in Biology from the University of Patras, Greece, from where she also obtained her MSc in Fundamental Biological Sciences and her PhD.
  For her PhD she joined Professor Zoi Lygerou’s lab where she studied DNA replication licensing through the cell cycle of embryonic stem cells and cancer cells.
  Following her PhD she moved to London, at the Institute of Cancer Research, as a Postdoctoral Training Fellow where she joined Professor Wojciech Niedzwiedz’s lab, and identified and further characterized novel factors that are involved in the DNA replication fork protection pathway. Alexandra joined the lab as a Postdoctoral Fellow funded by Breast Cancer Now in December 2023.

Tomoya Kujirai, PhD

Visiting Scientist

   Tomoya graduated with a BSc, MSc, and Ph.D. from Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. For his Ph.D. he joined Professor Hitoshi Kurumizaka’s lab and studied the structure and function of the nucleosome containing a histone H3 variant, H3.Y.

    Following his Ph.D., he moved to The University of Tokyo with Prof. Kurumizaka, and studied mechanisms of chromatin transcription using cryo-electron microscopy. In addition, he studied the inactivation mechanism of cGAS by nucleosome in a collaboration with Hiro Funabiki (Rockefeller University) and Christian. Tomoya joined the lab as a visiting scientist in October 2023.

Vicente Lebrec, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

  Vicente obtained his undergraduate degree from the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, where he studied meiosis in the lab of Catherine Jessus.

  For his PhD, he joined Olivier Gavet’s group at the Gustave Roussy institute, where he studied the DNA damage response to replication stress. More specifically, he developed fluorescent reporters to monitor activation of the Chk1 pathway in live single cells and uncovered unexpected heterogeneity of Chk1 activity kinetics in cell populations exposed to replication stress.

Vicente joined the lab as a Postdoctoral Fellow in 2021.

Robert Pickering, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

  Robert graduated with a BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of Leeds. Following this, he obtained his MRes from Cardiff University working with Professor Helen White-Cooper on the transcriptional regulation of spermatogenesis.

  For his PhD, he joined Professor Philip Taylor’s group at Cardiff Universityinvestigating mechanisms regulating inflammation in tissue-resident macrophages.

 Following his PhD, he worked as a postdoctoral research associate with Professor Clare Bryant in her labs at the University of Cambridge and GlaxoSmithKline working on inflammasomes. Robert joined the lab as a RadNet Postdoctoral Fellow for a joint project with Pascal Meier, Jyoti Choudhary and Jon Pines in 2021.​

Vera Solntceva

PhD Student

  Vera obtained a BSc in Biochemistry from Imperial College London. Following this, she completed her MRes in Biomedical Research at Imperial College London. Here, she joined the groups of Jia Li and Alex McCarthy where she worked on the establishment of tumour-derived organoids and characterisation of an orphan immune receptor, respectively. Vera joined the lab as a PhD student in 2023. 

Federico Tidu, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

  Federico obtained a BSc in Biotechnology and a MSc in Industrial Biotechnology from the University of Rome Tor Vergata.

   For his PhD, he joined Jan Fric’s lab at the International Clinical Research Center (ICRC) in Brno, where he investigated innate immune signalling in mesenchymal stromal cells, with a focus on the role of Calcineurin-NFAT signaling during fungal infection.

Federico joined the lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2021.

Past members

Past members

Odysseus Grünert

MSc Student

  Odysseus obtained his BSc in Molecular Biology from the University of Vienna, where he worked with Joanna Loizou on investigating DNA repair components to harness microsatellite instability for cancer therapy. Odysseus joined the lab in October 2022 for his MSc Molecular Medicine thesis project. Following his time in our lab, Odysseus moved back to Vienna to finish his Master's studies.

Arjun Udupa

Master's student

  Arjun obtained his B.Sc. in Life Sciences and Biochemistry from St. Xavier's College in Mumbai, India. Then, he was selected for the Master's in Molecular Biosciences program at Universität Heidelberg. Here, he joined the groups of Marina Lusic and Britta Brügger where he worked on splicing and palmitoylation of proteins, respectively. Arjun joined us in January 2023 to work with Rob Pickering on the proteomics of innate immune responses. Following his time in our lab, Arjun moved back to Heidelberg to finish his Master's studies.

Alyssa Nicholls

MRes student

  Alyssa obtained a BSc in Biomedical Sciences from the University of York with a Year in Industry in the Translational Cancer Immunology laboratory at the Gene Center Munich. She worked in the lab in from April until September 2022 as part of her MRes in Cancer Biology at Imperial College London. After leaving our lab, Alyssa started a PhD at Cambridge University.

Freddy Flaherty

Summer Student

  Freddy is taking an MSci Biomedical Sciences degree at the University of Southampton. In his third-year research project he focussed on behavioural neuroscience using C. elegans. He joined the lab in July 2022 as a summer student to gain experience in molecular biology and cell biology techniques.

Zhang Qingyang

MRes student

  Qingyang obtained a BSc in Medical Biosciences from Imperial College London. During his undergraduate degree, he worked with Dr Ana Costa-Pereira to study the interleukin-6 signalling pathway in ovarian cancer. Qingyang joined the lab as a MRes student in 2021. He is currently working on his PhD thesis at the University of Oxford.

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