Birmingham researcher awarded Wellcome Investigator Award in Science

Dr Aga Gambus

Dr Aga Gambus, a Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, has been awarded a Wellcome Investigator Award in Science of £1.5 million to investigate the process of DNA replication machinery disassembly at the final stages of genome duplication.  

DNA replication is truly one of the most fundamental biological processes in life. Every dividing cell needs to duplicate its genetic information before dividing into two cells. This process of genetic material duplication is called DNA replication and it has been studied ever since Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA 65 years ago. Surprisingly, despite over a half a decade of research, we do not know much how this process finishes and how it is all wrapped up.

Over the last six years the Gambus group has showed how the machinery duplicating DNA is pulled apart in a very regulated manner once it has fulfilled its job at the end of DNA replication. The group also found out that it is so important to remove all these machineries from duplicated DNA and that cells came up with two different ways to complete this task.

This research provided the first ideas as to what happens when the process of genome duplication is finalised. The group have discovered all these mechanisms in a simpler model system that allowed for easy manipulation of the processes.

This Wellcome Investigator Award will allow the group to find out if these processes work in a similar manner in human cells. Moreover, it will allow the group to discover what happens if they stop replication machinery unloading – will the cells be able to complete genome duplication? Will they see many mistakes happening? Can this drive mutagenesis and cancer development? 

Dr Gambus comments: "I am delighted to be awarded the Wellcome Investigator Award. It will allow my lab to do exciting work that will discover lots of new facts about our genome duplication.

"I am delighted on a personal side to be able to keep working with my team – we do have fun together. Doing science can be stressful and hard work but is also immensely exciting and fun and now we have money to continue our work for the next 5 years.

Finally, having the stability of Wellcome funding will allow me also to allocate more time to support and organise more activities aiming to widen equality and diversity and encourage young generations (especially girls) to take on careers in science."

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