Andrea Cerase (Team Lead)
Andrea grew up in Procida, a little island in the bay of Naples, Italy. He studied Molecular Biology at the University of Naples Federico II and worked at the Italian National Cancer Institute for his thesis. He received his MSc degree in Molecular Biology (summa cum laude) in 2002. Subsequently, he joined Prof. Maurizio D’Esposito’s group at Institute of Genetics and Biophysics (IGB-National Council of Research, CNR), Naples, studying the role of chromatin and DNA modifications in cancer - and this was the time when his interest in epigenetics began. He decided to stay in D’Esposito’s lab to do his PhD, focusing on the epigenetic mechanism of SPRY3 gene silencing in humans.
As a part of his Doctoral training, Andrea came to Prof. Neil Brockdorff’s lab at the Imperial College London in 2006 as a visiting graduate student. Here he became interested in X inactivation and decided to choose this topic for his postdoc. After having his viva and receiving his PhD degree, Andrea joined the Brockdorff lab at the University of Oxford. Andrea studied the epigenetics of X chromosome inactivation, focusing on understanding how Xist mediates gene silencing. In particular, he was interested in the interplay between Xist and Polycomb Repressive Complexes. He proved that Xist and PRC2 do not interact directly, moving the balance of the much-debated Xist-mediated PRC2 recruitment model toward an indirect recruitment one. Building on this, he set up a genome-wide RNAi screen to identify novel factors involved in X chromosome inactivation and run a set of screens. Based on his pioneering system, the lab has identified important regulators of X inactivation. At the end of 2013, Andrea decided to move on with his career and returned to Italy. Back home, Andrea joined Prof. Phil Avner’s group at the EMBL-Rome as an EMBL-fellow to study the initiation phase of mouse X inactivation, particularly the role of chromatin remodelers in Xist and Tsix regulation.
In 2018 Andrea started his-own laboratory at the Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London and in 2022 he moved to the department of Biology at the University of Pisa. His primary research focuses are epigenetics, X chromosome inactivation and lncRNAs. The Cerase Lab is currently working in X Chromosome inactivation (XCI) and XCI reversal using cell and animal models. The lab is also interested in X-linked neurodevelopmental disorders such as Rett and CDKL5 syndromes. The long-term lab plan is to study the epigenetic basis of brain development in health and disease with a particular focus on the role of lncRNAs and chromatin architecture.
He is actively involved in science divulgation since his time at the University of Oxford and he regularly writes for several magazines. He is acting as an editor for many journals and as a referee for Italian, UK and international body of funding and several journals. He is an associate fellow of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA).
Irene Perotti (PhD student)
Irene graduated from the University of Pisa in 2022 with MSc degree in Molecular Biology. For her master studies, she focused on generating and characterizing loss of function mutants of genes involved in Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD) in the teleost zebrafish, exploiting the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique. She is currently working as a PhD student in the Cerase lab within the University of Pisa. Her PhD research is focused on X-chromosome inactivation (XCI) and XCI reversal using cell and animal models. In particular the aim of her project is to better understand the molecular mechanism and the main factors regulating the manteinance of X chromosome inactivation through the study Xist granules dynamics roles in the long-term maintenance of XCI. Irene is also working on a screening of chemical compounds for the selective reactivation of two X-linked genes involved in CDKL5 syndrome and Rett syndrome.
Beatrice Ghio (paid internship)
Beatrice studied molecular biology at the University of Rome 'Tor Vergata'.
She is currently working on the reactivation of the X chromosome through the validation of drug efficacy in cellular models.
Dr Giuseppe Trigiante obtained his Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry at the University of Rome and then his Ph.D. in Biophysical Chemistry from Stanford University with a thesis on the enveloped viral fusion process. After a period at the prestigious Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in London, working on newly discovered p53-dependent oncogenes, he moved on to the private sector to product development for two UK pharmaceutical companies. He focussed on a new concept photodynamic therapy (PDT) drug for cancer treatment. He joined the Cerase lab in September 2020 to work on the identification and characterization of novel lncRNAs involved in neurodegenerative diseases.
Alex Neil Young (Research Assistant)Alex completed his Bachelor in Science (Major in Zoology) from James Cook University (Australia) in 2012. Subsequently, Alex worked at the EMBL as a research assistant in Prof. Avner’s lab, under the supervision of Andrea Cerase. Alex is now a research assistant in the Cerase lab at QMUL.
Justyna Beata Skonieczna (Undergraduate Student)Justyna graduated with BSc in Neurobiology at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. For her Bachelor dissertation, she researched the effect of the ketogenic diet on kindling-induced seizures in Wistar rats in the Department of Neuroanatomy at the Faculty of Biology of Jagiellonian University. She undertook work placement in the Laboratory of Epileptogenesis in the Nencki Institute in Warsaw during her degree. In 2020 she graduated with MSc of Neurobiology and Translational Medicine at the Queen Mary University of London. Her dissertation focused on the role of long non-coding RNAs in neurodegenerative disorders focusing on Alzheimer’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. She is now working as a visiting graduate student in the Cerase lab within the Genomics and Child Health Centre at Blizard Institute, participating in a project focused on the functional analysis of novel long non-coding RNAs role in the brain.
Federica Capraro (PhD student)Federica studied Biotechnologies in her undergraduate degree and then specialised in Neurobiology in her MSc, both at the University of Trento in Italy. After graduation, she moved to London to join Professor Jernej Ule’s lab at The Francis Crick Institute and UCL as part of a 6-month Erasmus+ traineeship. She then stayed in the lab as a research assistant. She worked on RNA-RNA and RNA-proteins interaction. In particular, she investigated proteins such as TDP-43, a protein involved in the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. She is now a PhD student in the BBSRC LIDo programme and is undertaking her second rotation in the Cerase lab. She focuses on the dynamics of granules formed by the long noncoding RNA Xist during X chromosome inactivation and on the interaction of the RNA with nuclear matrix proteins.
Durvalina Fortes-Morais (Postgraduate intern)Durvalina has a background in psychology. She received her BSc in psychology at the University of Gama Filho (Brazil) and her MSc in psychology at the Birkbeck College (UK). She also has an MSc in Neuroscience from the institute of psychiatry at King’s College London (UK). Durvalina completed a 6-month internship in the lab, intending to train herself for future work in experimental neuroscience.
Adbul Alsaleh (BSc student)Abdul is from Siria. He decided to go to the UK for his Universities studies and in 2017 he joined Queen Mary University of London. Abdul is a third-year student in Medical Genetics. Abdul worked on a project studying the role of chromatin remodelers in X chromosome inactivation.
Mariam Hafidh Abbas (BSc student)Mariam Hafidh Abbas is from Iraq. She started her journey at On-campus Foundation Program and, upon completion. Maria joined Queen Mary in 2017, where she was given the Science and Engineering Excellence Award. She is currently in her final year studying Medical Genetics. Mariam is currently looking for novel lncRNAs involved in brain development and function.
Lydia Nel (MSc student in bioinformatics)Lydia Zoe Valentina Nel, is a master student in bioinformatics. She worked on a project studying the role of chromatin remodelers in X chromosome inactivation.
Adrianna Dobrowska (MSc student )
Adrianna graduated from Queen Mary University of London in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Medical Genetics. She undertook her undergraduate research project with Dr Andrea Cerase focusing on development of a 3D digital map of co-expression of MeCP2 and CDKL5 proteins. In 2022, she graduated from Imperial College London with a Masters in Genes, Drugs, Stem Cells – Novel Therapies where she completed her Master’s thesis with Dr Charis Pericleous. During her research project she explored endogenous triggers of endothelial senescence and inflammation in antiphospholipid syndrome. She is currently working as a research technician at the Blizard Institute, part of Queen Mary University of London.
Cynthia Lundgren (MSc student )
Cynthia graduated from Queen Mary University of London in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Medical Genetics. She undertook her undergraduate research project with Dr Andrea Cerase focusing on development of a 3D digital map of co-expression of MeCP2 and CDKL5 proteins.
Miurna Ciubotar (MSc student )
Miruna graduated from Queen Mary University of London in 2022 with a BSc. in Neuroscience, receiving the Tilly Tansey for academic excellence. She spent her last year of undergraduate at the Centre of Genomics and Child Health at the Blizard Institute as part of Barts and the London School for Medicine and Dentistry, working on the molecular characterization of long non-coding RNA in regulating neurodevelopment. Within this project at the Cerase lab she optimised neuronal differentiation protocols and analysed cellular cultures for spatiotemporal gene expression patterns to identify the potential involvement of Tug1 in neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism or Rett Syndrome. She also contributed to X-chromosome inactivation projects by conducting bacterial cloning experiments.