Removing Cancer’s Immortality: Targeting Telomerase Protein-Protein Interactions

BEEKMAN_U21DTP

A feature of tumours is immortality. This is achieved by overriding our natural ageing process. Our DNA has repeating units on the end that protect our DNA code, like the plastic ends of shoelaces, called telomeres.

When cells grow and divide the DNA is incompletely copied, shortening the telomeres. As part of a normal ageing process, when the telomeres are shortened too far the DNA unravels, cells can no longer divide, and die. Cancer uses a complex of proteins called telomerase to add telomeres to the end of DNA, giving tumours immortality.

This project aims to use a new technique, developed in our lab, to design molecules which can control this protein complex. This chemical biology project will be interdisciplinary, involving training in the computational design and synthesis of peptides and small molecules, the analysis of compounds binding to proteins and their activity in cancer cells. Led by Dr Andrew Beekman and Professor Mark Searcey, there is an opportunity to learn medicinal chemistry, protein biophysics, cellular biology and structural biology, using facilities across the School of Pharmacy and Norwich Research Park. You will have, or expect to obtain a first class, 2(i) or equivalent Honours degree in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmacy or related area.

Informal enquiries are welcomed: Dr Andrew Beekman (a.beekman@uea.ac.uk) or Prof. Mark Searcey (m.searcey@uea.ac.uk).

References:
Beekman, O’Connell & Howell, Angew. Chem. 2017, 56, 10446

Beekman, Searcey et al., Chem. Sci. 2019, 10, 4502

Howell & Beekman, ChemRxiv 2020, https://doi.org/10.26434/chemrxiv.12525503.v1