Symposium for Biological and Life Sciences 2022

Magdalene College, Cambridge
November 25th, 2022

Welcome to SymBLS!

SymBLS22 is a life science symposium organised by and for life science postgraduates at the University of Cambridge. We are bringing together the postgraduate community from all departments of the university to meet, exchange ideas and hear from top researchers.

Our theme this year is “Overcoming Challenges in Science”. This means presenting our research not as it most often is at conferences - polished, linear and simplified - but how we all know science is in reality - messy, constantly evolving and with many unexpected results. Specifically, we are asking speakers to present a project they have worked on, but highlighting one major setback in the course of the work and how it was overcome, eventually leading to success.

This year's speakers:

Professor Robin Franklin FRS

Professor Franklin is a Principal Investigator at Altos Labs Cambridge Institute of Science, having previously been Professor of Stem Cell Medicine at the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute at the University of Cambridge. His laboratory has made many pioneering discoveries on the mechanisms by which adult CNS progenitors replace lost oligodendrocytes.

He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was the 2017 recipient of the Barancik International Prize for Research Innovation and the 2021 recipient of the King Faisal Prize for Medicine.

Dr Sophie Trefely

Sophie Trefely is a group leader at the Babraham Institute.

Her research investigates how nutrients affect the sub-cellular distribution of metabolites and their cellular functions. She has pioneered methods for metabolite analysis in sub-cellular compartments including the nucleus. A major focus is to understand metabolic regulation in the nucleus and how it supports specific epigenetic states.

She completed her PhD training at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Australia and her post-doctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania, USA. She started her lab at the Babraham institute in January 2022.

Dr Marcel Gehrung

Marcel is co-founder and CEO of Cyted, a company working on transformative technology for the early detection of cancer. He holds a PhD in Machine Learning in Healthcare from the University of Cambridge.

Marcel was named on the Forbes 30 under 30 list, won the Alexander Fleming Prize from the Gates Foundation for his contribution to global public health and the Prix Galien Award for the best medical technology with Cyted’s core product, a novel test for the early detection of cancer in the oesophagus

Dr Sjors Scheres FRS

Dr Scheres is a group leader at the MRC LMB in Cambridge.

His research focuses on the development of image processing methods to determine protein structures from cryo-EM images, using the open-source computer program RELION. This program is used to solve protein structures in many cryo-EM labs worldwide.

In 2021 Dr Scheres was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society, and in 2022 was awarded the Leeuwenhoek Medal for outstanding contribution to microbiology.

Dr Luana Ferrara

Luana is a biochemist with 10 years of experience in protein engineering. Following her Master’s degree in functional genomics, Luana was a Marie Curie- Sklodowska fellow at the University of St Andrews where she obtained her Ph.D in biochemistry. She joined Qkine, a Cambridge-based manufacturer of high-quality, animal-free growth factors and cytokines, in 2017 to help expand the portfolio of products.

As the R&D manager, Luana is responsible for leading the research and development team while ensuring that product development processes meet the company’s quality standards.

Dr Euan Stronach

Euan is a GSK Senior Fellow and retains an honorary Senior Lectureship at Imperial College, London.

He received a fellowship to establish the Molecular Therapy Lab within the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre, where his work on chemoresistance led to early phase clinical trials.

In 2015 he moved to GSK where he now works in Genomic Sciences as a Scientific Director and Head of Oncology Discovery Technologies focusing on a broad portfolio of projects applying gene editing, omics and computational technologies to the GSK Oncology pipeline.

Professor David Gems

David is Professor of Biogerontology at the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing, of which he is a founder member and Research Director.

He has a BSc in Biochemistry from Sussex University and a Ph.D. in Genetics from Glasgow University. He was a postdoc at Imperial College, and the University of Missouri-Columbia, USA before founding his own research group at UCL in 1997 as a Royal Society University Research Fellow.

The aims of his research are to understand the causes of ageing, and identify general principles of pathophysiology for late-life diseases.

Dr David Brown, FRSM FRSC

Dr Brown is co-founder and Chair of the Board of Healx Ltd, a fast-growing Cambridge University spinout company which uses Machine Learning to find treatments for children with rare diseases. He was also co-founder of the antibody company Crescendo Biologics. He was listed in the Maserati 100 UK Innovators/ Entrepreneurs list for 2019.

Whilst at Pfizer he was named co-inventor on the patent for Viagra, and for 8 years he led the team which developed Viagra through to proof of clinical efficacy for treatment of male erectile dysfunction.

While at Roche in Switzerland, he was a Director of the company and, as Global Head of Drug Discovery, he had responsibility for productivity of over 2000 scientists at Roche’s five research sites in the USA, Europe and Asia.

Thea Fennell

Thea is a PhD student at the MRC LMB. She will be presenting her work on resolving cellular identity in single cell RNA-seq datasets.

Yizhou Yu

Yizhou is a PhD student at the MRC Toxicology Unit. He will be presenting his work on metabolic changes in Alzheimer's Disease and potential therapies based on inhibition of the PARP1 gene.

Pok-Man Ho

Pok-Man is a PhD student in Epidemiological and Mathematical Modelling in the Department of Biochemistry. He will be presenting his work on dealing with poorly curated large datasets, which can condense months of manual verification in to a week.

Jake Cross

Jake Cross is a PhD student at the Babraham Institute. He will present his work on Conjugation of ATG8 to Single Membranes (CASM), a non-canonical autophagy pathway he proposes as a novel, alternative pathway in the endolysosomal damage response.

Our Sponsors

Churchill College

Gonville and Caius College

Newnham College

Queens College

Trinity College