Project to investigate genetic roots of resistance to anti-cancer therapy agents

The mechanisms that cause cancers to respond poorly to therapy are to be investigated in a project that commemorates and honours the work of an eminent Leicester geneticist.

The research by PhD student Danae Georghiou is the inaugural project funded by the University’s Pritchard PhD Prize, established in honour of the founding professor of the Department of Genetics, Professor Bob Pritchard. The Department has honoured his contribution with a PhD studentship following his death in 2015.

Former colleagues and students of Professor Pritchard are also commemorating him through a new book titled The Life of Professor Robert Hugh Pritchard: The Rise of Genetics at Leicester that gathers memories about his scientific and personal life. His early, crucial contributions to decipher the gene structure and mechanism of recombination in fungi, and those in bacterial physiology and the cell cycle in bacteria and eukaryotes, are briefly summarised.

The topic of the first project supported by the Pritchard PhD Prize investigates why many cancers respond poorly to anti-cancer therapeutic agents or develop resistance over time. Currently, the mechanisms by which resistance to chemotherapy drugs or radiotherapy occur are very poorly understood, hindering the development of better therapeutic strategies that significantly improve patient outcomes.

Danae Georghiou said: “It’s a great honour for me to be awarded with the Departmental studentship named after the founder, Professor Bob Pritchard, who defined the character of the Department of Genetics as a collegial and supportive environment to work and undertake research.

“My drive to study biological sciences at the undergraduate, postgraduate and research level stems from my strong interests in how life functions. In particular, my MSc project in the Department of Genetics motivated me to pursue a research career in using model systems to study cancer cell genetics and cell biology. The opportunity to continue my research interests through the Pritchard PhD Scholarship provides an excellent opportunity for me to achieve this ambition.”

The Life of Professor Robert Hugh Pritchard: The Rise of Genetics at Leicester by Professor Arieh Zaritsky, a former PhD student with Bob, was published on 29 December by World Scientific Publishing and includes contributions from Sir Hans Kornberg, who founded Biochemistry at Leicester, previous Heads of the Department of Genetics Professor Barry Holland and Professor Annette Cashmore, DNA fingerprinting pioneer Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, and Emeritus Reader Dr Peter Meacock who also was a PhD student of Bob Pritchard.