Oncolive is a strategic multi-disciplinary collaboration between Alessandro Esposito (biophysicist expert in biochemical imaging technologies), Maria Alcolea (cell biologist expert in animal and organ culture models of carcinogenesis) and Philip Greulich (physicist expert in biophysical and computational modelling). OncoLive, funded by the CRUK in early 2019, will soon recruit two post-doctoral scientists.
Alessandro Esposito is recognized for his achievements in developing innovative biochemical imaging technologies (e.g., the first high-throughput and CMOS-based FLIMs and theoretical work on biochemical imaging). In 2009, Alessandro was awarded an EPSRC LSI fellowship, enabling him to establish a biophotonics laboratory within a uniquely inter-disciplinary environment. Alessandro has then established ultra-fast FLIM techniques, multiplexing biochemical platforms, and an optogenetic laboratory, including plasmids for expression of FRET sensors and optogenetic control of signaling. Alessandro’s most recent biological applications include the study of non-genetic heterogeneity in checkpoint maintenance, in the biochemical networks controlling apoptosis, and the ultrastructural characterization of DNA damage repair foci.
Maria Alcolea is a Cell Biologist who has focused on understanding the behaviour of stem and progenitor cells using the epithelium of the mouse oesophagus as a model. Using genetic labelling she has been able to track individual cells in vivo in order to define the basic rules underlying cell fate. By implementing this lineage tracing technique, her work has revealed how the cell behaviour is altered in response to tissue challenges like injury and early tumorigenesis. Maria has recently adapted 3D organ culture system, recapitulating the behaviour of epithelial cells in vitro. The peculiarity of this 3D system is that epithelial cells easily reconstruct the epithelial architecture in vitro, offering a more physiological model suited to study oesophageal tumorigenesis when compared to the traditional usage of 2D monolayer cultures. Maria currently holds a Wellcome Trust/Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellowship. Investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms governing this changes in epithelial cell dynamics, and the potential implications for early cancer development represent Maria’s main interests. Her current work presents a particular emphasis in understanding the potential contribution of surrounding neighbour cells in this process.
Philip Greulich‘s research is in mathematical modelling of biological systems. My current focus is on stochastic modelling of cell dynamics and interactions in multi-cellular environments. To understand the cellular dynamics (e.g. proliferation,differentiation, and mobility), I follow principles of statistical physics, analysing the collective behaviour of cells and resulting emergent phenomena such as pattern formation, ordering, and phase transitions. My approach is data-driven; by comparison of mathematical models and experimental data through Bayesian methods, I infer the underlying biological principles of multicellular systems in diseases, such as cell proliferation/differentiation in cancer.
Omid Siddiqui joined Esposito’s group in January 2020 as a post-doctoral scientist recruited by the CRUK-funded OncoLive initiative. Omid leads the development of light-sheet microscopy and imaging of organotypic cultures.
Omid says: “I thoroughly enjoyed my MSci Physics at Royal Holloway University of London. The fourth-year was particularly memorable as I got to quantify the size of forest fires using data from NASA’s Landsat satellites, demonstrated a novel way of creating a passive indoor positioning system using Wi-Fi, and made contributions to the quantum referenced platform which is used to define the Volt at the National Physical Laboratory. The underlying element to projects I had conducted up until then was sensing and detection and hence, I joined the Sensors Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) at the University of Cambridge. It’s here where I discovered my interest in optics and biotechnology. In the first year of the CDT programme, we worked as a team and spent the summer building an optical projection tomography microscope, which we then used to obtain three-dimensional images of organoids and C. elegans. Continuing the theme of optics and biotechnology, I embarked on a PhD journey in the Optofluidics, and Laser Analytics Lab (Cavendish Laboratory, and Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Cambridge), investigating the use of thermal and optical gradients in microfluidic environments to quantify binding kinetics of misfolded proteins. I then joined the Esposito Lab at the MRC Cancer Unit in early January of 2020 and am now very much immersed in the field of biochemistry and cancer biology. Using the bespoke lightsheet microscope that I am building, we will gain a better understanding of the decisions and interactions between normal and cancerous cells in organoids and three-dimensional cell cultures.”