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Wellcome Trust PhD Student Cohort 2016

Fay_Johanna name

Academic and Work Experience Prior to Sept 2016 Programme Start: I have a BSc in ‘Biomedical Engineering’ and a MSc. in ‘Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine’ from the University of Applied Sciences Technikum in Vienna, Austria. 

PhD Programme – Year 1 – MRes and Project Rotations: I did my first rotation at Guy’s Campus in the immunology department, working on the development of haematopoietic stem cells from induced pluripotent stem cells with Dr Pierre Guermonprez. We were comparing different feeder cells that were engineered to express growth factors known to facilitate commitment to the haematopoietic line. It was a brilliant rotation that helped me to understand immunology much better than before. My second rotation was at the Rayne Institute in St. Thomas with Dr Michelle Ma and Professor Phil Blower where I worked on a peptide that could anchor a radiolabel to the outside of a cell. This work was incredibly interesting, because it allowed me to work with methods that were completely new to me. My third rotation was at Guy’s Campus again, trying to develop a promoter that is specifically activated in muscle cancer cells. The novelty of this project, and working on a cancer related topic were very interesting. I have benefited from rotations a lot, and they allowed me to shape my PhD project in a way that would have been impossible before. 

Fay_Johanna cells

PhD Programme – Years 2 to 4 – Doctoral Studies: Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS) is a soft tissue cancer that predominantly affects children under 10 years of age. At the time of diagnosis, in about 30% of cases the cancer has already spread and for these patients, common therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy have a low success rate and poor prognosis. In this project, we aim to develop a gene therapy approach to target these cancer cells. ARMS cells express a protein called PAX3-FOXO1 that is not found in any other cell type, and so we aim to generate a molecule that is only activated by this specific protein. Once activated, the molecule will cause the cancer cells to die. To this end, we are using a molecule that we already know is activated by PAX3-FOXO1, but also other proteins. We aim to identify the parts that are only activated by PAX3-FOXO1 and remove parts that respond to the other proteins, to make a molecule that is exclusively activated by PAX3-FOXO1 and so will only target ARMS cells for death. This will hopefully underpin development of a new therapy for ARMS.

Congratulations to Johanna Prueller for receiving the: 

  • Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Award for the student scoring the highest Biomedical and Translational Science MRes degree mark and continuing to a PhD in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine.  November 2017.

Johanna Prueller ORCID webpage

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