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CFH Early Career Fellow awarded Leukaemia Fellowship

Posted on 27 November 2020

The Department of Biology's Dr Katherine Bridge has just been awarded the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund Intermediate Fellowship for her research, one of only two recipients this year.

Prestigious and well-regarded within the haematology field, this provides four years of funding for her to launch her group within the York Biomedical Research Institute, in the Department of Biology at York. Katherine is currently a Centre for Future Health (CFH) fellow, and received the Kay Kendall award after moving with her young family to York in summer 2019, changing fields from solid cancers to haematology/haematological malignancies, and building an independent programme supported by the haematology research groups of Professor Ian Hitchcock and Dr Dave Kent.

Katherine's research focuses on proteins called hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs). As transcription factors, HIFs are responsible for changing the genes which a cell expresses, which in turn changes the cell’s behaviour. The mechanism by which HIFs are told which genes to express and when is poorly understood, but understanding this mechanism is critical: in certain contexts HIFs can drive the expression of genes which underlie a number of fatal diseases, including many types of cancer.

In other contexts, HIFs can be protective against these diseases. This project uses blood stem cells (HSCs) and blood cancers called myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) as model systems to discover these mechanisms. This knowledge will unlock the potential of reprogramming and driving a disease into HIFs which are preventing the very same disease, and holds the potential to reprogram these master regulators into forces for good.