Charlotte Downes, mentee in the 2019 MedTech-Pharma program in SA (The University of Adelaide)

I am a second year PhD student in molecular and biological sciences, currently completing my doctorate at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and University of Adelaide. My research in the Leukaemia Research Group investigates high-risk subtypes of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), an aggressive blood cancer caused by the unregulated proliferation of white blood cells. Patients with fusion genes have been identified using whole genome sequencing and have been found to have an extremely poor prognosis. These fusion genes may be targetable by currently available inhibitors.

My project aims to characterise how the presence of certain high-risk gene fusions alters intracellular signalling networks and gene expression profiles to drive leukaemogenesis, and to investigate novel therapeutic targets and strategies. I have also generated resistance to a small molecule inhibitor in an ALL cell line and am currently investigating their mechanisms of resistance. Overall, this project aims to address the poorly characterised molecular and cellular biology of high-risk B-ALL and identify novel drug targets or efficacious therapeutic strategies that will support progression into clinical trials to improve patient outcomes in this high-risk patient cohort. After obtaining my PhD I would like to apply my skills in a career in the Biotech industry to contribute to innovation in the life sciences.

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