Professor Manfred Auer - Group leader
In his lab Manfred Auer links basic research and applied science by developing and running new miniaturized target,
compound and technology platforms comprising all steps from design, theoretical and experimental target analysis,
high throughput chemical synthesis and screening, to quantitative mechanistic studies of compound action
in cells and model organisms. These integrated projects result in small molecular and peptidomimetic tool
compounds and chemical probes used to validate proteins as drug targets and in hit and lead compounds progressed
into drug discovery in industrial collaborations.
Manfred is responsible for the Biochemical Techniques
course in Biochemistry Honours for which also acts as a member of the Exam Board. He also teaches in the
following courses: Structure and Function of Proteins (Year 3), Biotechnology Honours (Year 4), Next Generation
Drug Discovery” Distance Learning PG Programme, MSc Protein Structure Determination, MSc Commercial Aspects
of Drug Discovery. At the University of Salzburg, Austria, he teaches a 15 lectures comprising course in
“Current Trends in Drug Discovery, Assays and Screening” as Adjunct Professor.
Dr Nhan Pham
Dr Nhan T Pham - Postdoctorial researcher and Lab manager
Nahn is responsible for management of equipment and laboratories as well as all screening platforms utilised
in the Auer lab. Biophysical characterisation of protein targets. Screening small molecule compounds/libraries
against proteins. Performing fluorescence imaging, phenotypic screening, single molecule and ensemble averaging
Dr Steven Shave
Dr Steven Shave - Postdoctorial researcher
Steven comes from a computational background and entered the field of drug discovery during his Ph.D specialising
in virtual screening techniques and HPC/parallel computing. His work involves the development of new software
and algorithms for virtual screening and their application to validated drug targets. The interdisciplinary
crossover between computing, biology and chemistry requires close alignment with chemists and biologists
within the Auer group. Since joining the Auer group, focus has shifted to the support of combinatorial chemistry
and screening efforts with both structure and ligand-based virtual screening techniques along with the development
of a systematic approach to the disruption of protein-protein interfaces using peptidomimetics.
Dr David Evans
Dr David Evans - Postdoctorial researcher
In 2004, David obtained an MEng in Electronic and Photonic Engineering with a final specialization in biophotonics
and in 2009 a PhD at the Life Science / Physical Science Interface, at the School of Physics and Astronomy
at the University of Leeds. His primary research during the PhD was the development of electronic-bio-hybrid
devices. The research involved fabrication, patterning and electronic detection of biological molecules on
nanostructured surfaces with minimum crosstalk and without loss of biological function. Following this period,
he moved to Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, where he worked on single molecule FRET including the design
and fabrication of microfluidic devices for single molecule FRET measurements, fabrication of zero mode waveguides
and the development of photothermal imaging and correlative AFM and fluorescence techniques which add an
extra dimension to the analysis of biomaterial surfaces. In October 2011 he moved to a position in SESMOS
Ltd, a startup company based at the University of Edinburgh. His primary role was the development of a biosensor
system based on a thin film bulk acoustic resonator (FBAR), including the development of improved hardware,
a complete control software package and surface functionalization processes. In 2013, he moved to a position
in the Auer lab, where his primary role has been the design and development of a custom built single molecule
TCSPC microscope and single molecule fluorescence assays. He has also been heavily involved in software development
for many other projects.
Dr Joanna Koszela
Dr Joanna Koszela - Postdoctorial researcher
Joanna started her adventure with ubiquitination - a regulatory modification of proteins which controls virtually
all cellular processes - during a Masters project on p53 neddylation with Dimitris Xirodimas at the Wellcome
Trust Centre for Gene Expression and Regulation in Dundee, UK. She obtained her Masters diploma in Biosciences
at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon in France. She then joined a 4-year Wellcome Trust PhD Programme
in Cell Biology at the University of Edinburgh, UK in Mike Tyers’ and Manfred Auer’s groups, where she had
been developing new methods for identification of ubiquitination modulators. Currently a postdoc in Manfred
Auer’s lab, she is a co-inventor of a novel in-vitro assay technology, UPS-CONA, and a co-author of a patent
application. With a strong background in cell and molecular biology and increasing interest in systems biology
approaches, Joanna’s future research plans include unravelling the molecular details of polyubiquitin chain
formation and exploring specificity in the ubiquitination system with an ultimate goal to identify key players
contributing to development of cancer, neurodegeneration and other diseases.
Dr Stefan Mann
Dr Stefan Mann - Postdoctorial researcher
Stefan started as a biochemist at the Biozentrum in Basel, Switzerland and obtained his MSc in biotechnology
at the École Supérieure de Biotechnologie de Strasbourg in France. He continued with a 4-year Marie Curie
funded Phd in molecular microbiology with the research group of Professor Tracy Palmer at the John Innes
Centre in Norwich. The subject of his PhD studies was the role the TAT (Twin Arginine) secretion system plays
in the virulence of phytopathogenic Streptomycetes bacteria. This was followed by a postdoctoral position
in epigenetics researching the influence of non-digestible carbohydrates on promoter methylation levels of
colorectal cancer marker genes. He then joined the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology in Edinburgh as
a liaison between cell biology and drug discovery. He currently is working as a postdoctoral researcher in
Professor Auer’s group where his role primary role encompasses all aspects of molecular biology as well as
the development and application of phage display based methods for drug discovery.
Nicholas Fethers - PhD student
Nick studied his Bachelor’s degree at the Keele University in Medicinal Chemistry and Biochemitry before finishing
a Master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Science and Medicinal Chemistry at Loughborough University. He currently
studies WD40 domains and their interactions at the University of Edinburgh in the Auer lab. His work includes
the collection and curation of data on human WD40 domain containing proteins, the expression and purification
of WD40 domains, screening of small molecules against target proteins using label free affinity techniques,
the synthesis of chemical tools, and the synthesis and screening of fluorescently labelled peptides against
Irene Pérez Pi
Irene Pérez Pi - PhD student
Irene was born in Pamplona, in the north of Spain. She did her undergraduate in chemistry at University of Navarra.
After completing her master’s degree in IQS in Barcelona focusing on the dehydrogenation of pyrido-pyrimidines,
she worked as an analytic chemist for the research and development in the application of additives for artificial
sausage casings. Subsequently she went with an international internship to London to work on the synthesis
and biophysical characterization of peptides. Currently Irene is finishing her PhD in the Auer group in University
of Edinburgh, focusing on her interest in alpha-synuclein, a protein whose aggregation is involved in Parkinson’s
disease, and the development of novel chemical tools, fluorescent assays and inhibitors of the process.
Ian Spink - PhD student
Ian completed his undergraduate Master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh in Medicinal and Biological Chemistry.
He completed his Masters project under the supervision of Prof. Paul Barlow, studying methods of protein
production, purification, bio-conjugation and protein NMR. Ian is currently studying for his PhD focussing
on the proteins involved in the ubiquitin proteasome system, particularly the autoimmune disease associated
protein UbE2L3. The main focus is on fragment based screening techniques using 19F NMR methods to identify
small molecule and peptidomimetic inhibitors of this pathologically relevant disease pathway.
Antonia Peter - Project student
Antonia was born in Krems in Austria and moved to Vienna after secondary school for a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology
and Genetics, which she finished in July 2015. She did the research work for her thesis at the Veterinary
University of Vienna, analysing gene expression of the cereulide synthetase of different Bacillus cereus
strains. In the course of her Master’s degree in Molecular Medicine she completed several internships at
the Medical University of Vienna, the General Hospital of Vienna, and the Austrian Institute of Technology.
Antonia has joined our group in January for her Master’s project and will stay in Edinburgh until the end
of July. Until then she will work on finding a binder for the Ska1 microtubule-binding domain and evaluating
this protein as a novel target in cancer therapy.
Emily Robson - Project student
Emily is a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, studying for a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry.
She is currently working on her Honours project with Stefan Mann in the Auer Lab using Phage-CONA technology
as a tool for drug discovery. In 2016 she completed an eight-week summer internship at Edinburgh Napier University
through the Equate Scotland organisation, which aims to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM fields.
As part of her internship she worked with Salmonella to investigate a potentially antimicrobial protease
that could be used to fight Salmonella infections. After graduation, she plans on pursuing a PhD in a field
related to human health, such as cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, or antimicrobial drug development, with
the aim to follow a career in medical research.
Cecilia Ayala - Project student
Cecilia Ayala is an MSc Biotechnology student at the University of Edinburgh. She holds a Bachelor in Biological
Pharmaceutical Chemistry by the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The research work for her thesis
was on the N-glycosylation on a renal ion channel. Moreover, she has participated in several internships
in the areas of molecular biology, cell biology, genomics applied to the study of different diseases. Currently,
she is doing her dissertation project in the Auer group using Phage-CONA technology to identify peptides
binding to ovotransferrines which have the potential to treat infectious diseases. After completing her master’s
degree Cecilia plants to study a PhD in medical research.
Chia-Yin Ho – Project student
Chia-Yin was born in Taiwan. She did her undergraduate in Life Science at National Cheng Kung University. And
then she completed her master’s degree in Molecular Medicine at the same university, focusing on a project
of the interaction of influenza viral proteins with host cells by analyzing its protein-protein interaction
and viral function. After finishing her project, Chia-Yin did her work as a research assistant in China Medical
University on a thesis of the function of ubiquitination on influenza viral proteins. Currently, Chia-Yin
did her second master’s degree in Drug Discovery at the University of Edinburgh, and she will work on the
project of comparison of wild-type and GFP-fused E2 proteins by purifying proteins and using several in vitro
Yan-Kai Chen – Project student
Yan-Kai obtained his Master’s degree at National Yung-Ming University in Taiwan. He completed research work for
his Master’s thesis, focusing on the mechanism of Amyloid Beta peptide aggregation by molecular dynamics
simulation. After finishing his studies in Taiwan, he worked as a R&D assistant at Taiwan Centers for Disease
Control (TCDC), analysing statistical data of communicable diseases and establishing disease prevention policies.
Subsequently, he was employed as an engineer by a microarray manufacturer responsible for probe design and
data analysis. He is currently studying for a Master’s degree in Bioinformatics at the University of Edinburgh
and performing a cheminfomatic project predicting physiochemical properties using machine learning techniques.
Adam Gaffney – Project student
Adam Gaffney completed his undergraduate Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical science with a focus on pharmacology from the National
University of Ireland, Galway. For his undergraduate thesis, he examined aberrant inflammasome activation within
monocytes of chronic kidney disease patients. He is currently completing a Masters degree in Drug Discovery
and Translational Biology here, at the University of Edinburgh. For his Masters Thesis, he is attempting to
develop and optimise a novel on-bead assay utilising the CONA technology available in the Auer lab for the
assessment of ubiquitin free chain formation.