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Cambridge-AZ PhD Students


2018 Cohort

Emily Talbot

Project Title: Peroxide-Cleavable Linkers for Antibody-Drug Conjugates
Supervisor:  Dr Svetlana Khoronenkova (University of Cambridge) & Dr Michael Perkinton (AstraZeneca)

I have just completed my PhD in Svetlana Khoronenkova’s group in the Department of Biochemistry. Broadly, my research interests lie in the crosstalk between genome instability and innate immunity, and elucidating mechanisms of poorly understood, rare diseases. Specifically, my PhD research has focused on how innate immune activation by self-DNA drives neuroinflammation by affecting the function of microglial cells, the immune cells of the central nervous system.  

2019 Cohort


Georgia Harris

Project Title: Multicomponent photoredox mediated synthesis of α-trialkyl-α-tertiary amines.
Supervisor: Professor Matthew Gaunt (University of Cambridge) &
Claudia deFusco (AstraZeneca)

Georgia is a final year PhD student in the Department of Chemistry, working in the group of Professor Matthew Gaunt. Over the course of my PhD, she has developed photoredox-mediated transformations for comlex amine synthesis. In addition to her lab-based research, she is an experienced and enthusiastic scientific communicator, as well as a passionate advocate for underrepresented groups in Chemistry.


Nicola Ashman 

Project Title: Peroxide-Cleavable Linkers for Antibody-Drug Conjugates
Supervisor: Professor David Spring (University of Cambridge) and Ryan Greenwood (AstraZeneca).

I am a fourth year student in Professor David Spring's group, whose PhD research has focused on generating new linkers for antibody-drug conjugates. Since then, my work has also involved applying this technology to small molecule prodrugs.

Paul Bacos

Project Title: Enantioselective Functionalisation of α-Amino Radicals 
Supervisor:Professor Robert Phipps (University of Cambridge) and Scott Boyd (AstraZeneca).

P. David Bacoș did his undergraduate studies at the University of Bristol, where he spent his final year project working on the total synthesis of prostanoids with Professor Varinder Aggarwal. After graduating in 2019, he started working with Professor Robert Phipps at the University of Cambridge on the development of asymmetric radical reactions.

Michelle Meng

Project Title: TRPV4-mediated colonic afferent activation is driven by mucosal ATP and glutamate
Supervisor: Dr David Bulmer (University of Cambridge) and Dr Fraser Welsh (AstraZeneca).

Michelle obtained her BSc in Biomedical Sciences from Imperial College London where in her final year she explored the role of MSK1 in inflammatory heat hyperalgesia. Then she completed an MSc in Pharmacology at the University of Oxford where she investigated the behavioural and transcriptional effects of prebiotics D-serine and D-alanine on anxiety. She joined the Bulmer Lab in 2019 where her project focuses on how TRPV4 stimulates colonic afferents in the gastrointestinal tract.  

Timothy Birkle

Project Title: Machine learning enables screening for neuroprotective treatments in primary neuron-glia cultures
Supervisor: Guy Brown (University of Cambridge) and Michael Perkinton (AstraZeneca).

Tim is a final year PhD student in Guy Brown’s lab in the Biochemistry Department and is affiliated with Christ’s College. Having focused on Neurobiology during his undergraduate degree and then Immunology as a Research Assistant, his PhD research has combined this experience and investigated the role of microglia, the resident innate immune cells of the brain, in neurodegenerative disease. Recently, this work has contributed to the understanding of microglial Syk (spleen tyrosine kinase) within inflammatory neuronal loss. 


 Ollie King

Project Title: Exploring the Therapeutic Potential of Protein PAMs of GABAA Receptors
Supervisor: Professor Matthew Gaunt (University of Cambridge) & Dr J.Henry Blackwell  (AstraZeneca)

Ollie is a PhD student at the Department of Pharmacology, investigating antibody-based therapies that target GABAA receptors and trying to improve their delivery to the central nervous system. The AstraZeneca-funded project has a focus for protein engineering, expression and characterisation as well as preclinical in vivo studies. Previously, Ollie studied Biochemistry at the University of Bristol and worked at GlaxoSmithKline as part of an industrial placement, where he used biophysical techniques to characterise protein-protein interactions for drug discovery.



Tomas Deingruber

Project Title: Structure-activity relationship studies of a hit against M. abscessus driven by phenotypic screening
Supervisor: Professor David Spring (University of Cambridge) and Tom Hunt (AstraZeneca).

Tomas is a final-year PhD student in the Spring Group at the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry in Cambridge. Before joining the group, he completed his masters project in the group of Professor Jason Chin at MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, focusing on synthesis of multi-functional unnatural amino acids. During his PhD, Tomas has worked on projects trying to address antimicrobial resistance, which included synthesis of peptide-drug conjugates and elaboration of a small-molecule screening hit against bacterial targets

2020 Cohort

 Fergal Hanna

Project Title: Polarisation Effects on H-Bonding Properties of Small Molecules
Supervisor: Dr Christopher Hunter (University of Cambridge) & Dr Markus Schade (AstraZeneca)

I attended school in Glossop and Manchester, before moving to Cambridge for my undergraduate where I graduated with an MSci in Natural Sciences. I did my Part III project in the laboratory of Chris Hunter before starting my PhD there. I also spent a summer internship as an AZ undergraduate intern in analytical and structural chemistry. My research focuses on cooperativity in different H-bonding systems due to polarisation effects on specific functional groups.


Mahri Park

Project Title: Bis-divinylpyrimidine (bisDVP) linkers for the generation of Fc-fusion compounds
Supervisor: Professor David Spring (University of Cambridge) and Anne-Chloe Nassoy (AstraZeneca).

Mahri is a third year PhD student in the Department of Chemistry, under the supervision of Professor David Spring. Her research focuses on the novel generation of Fc-fusion compounds for the half-life extension of therapeutic peptides. Her research interests also include antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). For the past year Mahri has been a visiting researcher at Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, where she conducts tissue culture and assesses the cytotoxicity of ADCs developed in the Spring group. 

Hannah Comfort

Project Title: Towards Inhibition of K-Ras using Helical Peptides 
Supervisor: Helen Mott (University of Cambridge) and Jefferson Revell and Sarah Ross (AstraZeneca).

Hannah is a third year Biochemistry PhD student in the Mott/Owen lab at the University of Cambridge. Her PhD is focused on developing peptide inhibitors of oncogenic K-Ras. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Nottingham, with a year in industry at AstraZeneca. During her undergraduate undertook research in a pharmacology lab where she developed an interest in Drug Discovery. Her PhD allows her to foster this interest whilst developing new skills in protein engineering.

Alyssa Crabb

Project Title: Elucidating the Molecular Mechanisms of TLR4 Activation by LPS 
Supervisor: Prof Nick Gay (University of Cambridge) and David Fisher (AstraZeneca).

I studied Biochemistry at the University of Oxford. My Part II thesis project was conducted in the laboratory of Prof Matt Higgins’ and involved attempts to refold members of the RIFIN family of proteins which allow P. falciparum to modulate the host immune system. I am a third-year PhD student in Prof Nick Gay’s lab at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge.

Yusra Abdelhamid

Project Title: Multicomponent alkene azidoarylation by anion-mediated dual catalysis
Supervisor: Professor Matthew Gaunt (University of Cambridge) and Dr Peter Lindsay-Scott (AstraZeneca).

Yusra is a third year PhD student in the Gaunt Group. Her PhD research has been focussed on the development of new methodologies for the synthesis of amines using photoredox chemistry. 

Sophie Willis

Project Title: Roles of ubiquitination and replication stress in cyclin E1 high cancers
Supervisor: Professor Heike Laman Gaunt (University of Cambridge) and Dr. Paul Waring (AstraZeneca).

Sophie completed her undergraduate degree in Genetics at the University of Leeds in 2016, including a year as an industrial placement student at MedImmune. Since graduating and alongside her PhD, she is a member of the Oncology Translational Pathology group at AstraZeneca, developing IHC and ISH assays to support pharmacodynamic assessments and patient selection strategies on a range of clinical projects. Her PhD project investigates the roles of ubiquitination and replication stress in cyclin E1 high breast & ovarian cancers.

2021 Cohort