Professor Francis Barr
At the University of Oxford, Professor Francis Barr and his team are seeking to better understand cell growth and how this can go awry in cancer.
Each time a cell grows and divides to make a new copy of itself – a process known as mitosis – it goes through a tightly controlled sequence of events. These are designed to stop potentially cancer-causing mistakes from cropping up, such as a cell ending up with altered numbers of genes or even chromosomes, which are common features of the disease. Professor Barr is working to unpick the molecular nuts and bolts of these cell division processes and identify potential new treatment targets.
Using a number of sophisticated techniques in the lab, such as CRISPR gene editing and high-tech microscopy, Professor Barr’s team will unpick the fine details of cell division and unravel the structure and function of key molecules at play. More importantly, this work will identify how these usually tightly regulated events can go wrong in cancer. In doing so, Professor Barr hopes to highlight weaknesses in cancer cells that could be exploited with new drugs as a way to treat the disease in a more precise way.