Our Research centres on tissue homeostasis with a particular focus on the Hippo pathway and its role in driving tumour and regenerative niches. We have a special interest in how cells sense stimuli at the plasmamembrane and how these cellular responses are transduced to cellular function and memory. We have shown a direct link between both caveolae and clathrin mediated endocytosis and the Hippo pathway, and how distinct mechanical stimuli, such as shear stress and hydrostatic pressure is sensed via these plasmamembrane domains. We strive to provide fundamental insights into the Hippo pathway, and how plasmamembrane domains are integrated into different cellular processes and across cell types. We use interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches, including collaborations with physicists and clinicians. To gain new insights, we take advantage of a range of cellular and in vivo model systems, as well as new imaging modalities and ‘omics’ approaches. Currently, we have ongoing projects on the Hippo pathway’s role in the immune system, biophysical profiling, mechanotransduction, including response to Hydrostatic Pressure and resistance to therapeutics. In addition, we are identifying small molecule modulators of the Hippo pathway and seek to understand how the Hippo pathway drives developmental processes. We have ongoing projects on stratification of Pleural Mesothelioma, as well on Prostate Cancer.
Overall, we believe that understanding fundamental regulation at the molecular level is necessary to fully explore the therapeutic possibilities of targeting this pathway.
I did my MSc in Aarhus, Denmark carrying out research on the serotonin transporter. I then moved to Cambridge to pursue a PhD with Dr Ben Nichols at the MRC- Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the Cell Biology division. Through a Lundbeck foundation Post Doctoral Fellowship I stayed on to maximise the output of my PhD findings. After a six-year stint in Cambridge, via a Post Doctoral Fellowship from the Danish Science Foundation I moved to San Diego to work with Professor Kun-Liang Guan. While there I studied the cellular signalling pathway called the Hippo Pathway. In Nov 2015 I was recruited to the University of Edinburgh Centre for Inflammation Research on a Chancellor’s Fellowship to set up a new lab. I am now a Senior Lecturer.
Current memberships: Biochemical Society and ASCB
I am pleased that our team is diverse, international and that all are great team citizens. Through our shared interest in discovery based inter disciplinary Science, we seek to address fundamental biological questions. We strive to be challenged and to make important discoveries, but also seek to have fun along the way.
Susanna Riley – PhD student (2019 -)
Originally from rural West England, I completed a BA (Hons) in Cell and Systems Biology at the University of Oxford in 2017 before moving to the University of Edinburgh for an MSc by Research in Biomedical Sciences. I then began the Wellcome Trust PhD programme in Tissue Repair. My research in the Gram Hansen lab focusses on the role of the Hippo pathway in embryonic development and regeneration using the zebrafish.
After completing my undergraduate studies at Trinity College Dublin, I came to Scotland where I obtained my MSc in Bioinformatics at the University of Glasgow. I stayed on in Glasgow, subsequently carrying out my PhD in Professor Andrew Biankin’s group, exploring the potential in targeting tumour metabolism in pancreatic cancer. As part of the Gram Hansen lab, my research is centred on disentangling the role of the Hippo pathway in the formation and progression of malignant pleural mesothelioma.
I have a BSc honours in Biochemistry and hold masters in Biochemistry (University of Edinburgh) and Bioinformatics and System Biology (University of Manchester). As part of the MRC Precision Medicine DTP my PhD project in the Gram Hansen lab focuses on investigating the role of cancer mutations using a novel omics technique called proteogenomics, with the aim of stratifying diagnosis and treatments for mesothelioma patients.
In my PhD project I am investigating the Hippo pathway in Malignant Mesothelioma. For that I use advanced imaging techniques in the lab of Prof Gail McConnell at the University of Strathclyde. Before I moved to Scotland, I finished my Master’s degree in Physics at the University of Potsdam.
Dr Omar M. Salem – MSc (2018), PhD student (2018-2021), and Post Doc 2022
“Born and raised in Egypt, I moved to the UK to continue my undergraduate studies. I received a First Class BSc (Hons) in Cell Biology from the University of Stirling. I later joined the University of Edinburgh for a MSc by Research in Biomedical Sciences. My PhD project (2018-2021) at the Gram Hansen lab was focused on studying the Hippo pathway regulation of Prostate Cancer development, progression and metastasis. He also worked on the Hippo pathway as a therapeutic target.”
Dr Salem went onto work as a Researcher at Artios, Cambridge UK
Dr Jiwon Park – PhD student (2017 – 2021)
“My research focused on the role of mechanotransduction signals in relation to the Hippo pathway. I completed my undergraduate degree in BSc (Hons) Biomedical sciences (Pharmacology) at the University of Edinburgh in 2017. After graduating, I started on the MRC-funded Precision Medicine Doctoral Training Programme in the Gram Hansen Lab. “
Dr Park then moved onto becoming a Patent attorney at Marks & Clerk.
Dr Valentina Rausch – PhD Student (2016 – 2019)
Alumni of the Gram Hansen Lab, revealed the interaction between the Hippo pathway and caveolae. Dr Rausch was the first PhD student in the lab, and handed her thesis in after 3 years and 18 days! Then moved onto an academic Post Doc.
The body is constantly making new cells. If they are healthy and regulated properly, these cells replace old dead cells so the body can grow and repair organs that have been damaged. However, if this is uncontrolled too many cells could be made, leading to tumour formation.
In recent years a group of related proteins known as the ‘Hippo Pathway’ has been identified as a regulator of this cell proliferation. Hippo pathway proteins such as YAP and TAZ respond to diverse changes in the cell’s environment with alterations in the rate of cell proliferation, activation of the immune system, and generation of new cell types, amongst others.
How these proteins are regulated and how they perform their functions is the subject of our research, with our focus ranging from molecular to whole body processes. This includes the study of cancer, regeneration, and inflammation using imaging of cells grown in the lab and zebrafish, genetic editing, biochemistry, and gene expression analyses. This all helps towards our eventual aim of identifying targets for more effective cancer treatments with fewer side effects.
Cellular proliferation and differentiation must be tightly regulated to maintain tissue mass and homeostasis. If this regulation is lost cellular overgrowth and cancer occurs. However, proliferation and differentiation need to be under dynamic control for developmental and regenerative process. In recent years the Hippo pathway has been elucidated as a potent regulator in these processes, where it functions as a nexus and signal integrator of diverse cellular signals. The core components of the Hippo pathway comprise a regulatory serine–threonine kinase module and a transcriptional module. Yes-associated protein (YAP) and transcriptional co-activator with PDZ-binding motif (TAZ) are the major downstream effectors in this transcriptional module where they shuttle to the nucleus. There, they predominantly bind to, and regulate the activity of, the TEAD family of transcription factors. These transcription factors promote the expression of a range of genes, including those involved in stem cell proliferation and differentiation, immune system activation, and the extracellular matrix.
Recently, the understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of the Hippo pathway has become a major focus, especially in cancer biology and regenerative medicine. A wealth of cellular regulators has been identified, but how the dynamic subcellular regulation of the core players occurs is not well understood and we seek to answer this fundamental process. We also seek to understand the role of the Hippo pathway in biological processes important for human health with a focus on regeneration, inflammation and cancer.
We are a collaborative and interdisciplinary lab, that utilises live imaging in both mammalian cell culture and the zebrafish in combination with genome editing, biochemistry, label-free holographic imaging and gene expression analyses to address these questions.
Happy to discuss current projects, possible projects that you might be interested, are your entire own ideas and share our (hopefully) soon to be published papers. We have three research publications under review, so it is a good time to join us! Feel free to reach out to team members to discuss how the lab works! Also please see additional information here from UoE etc…. For the right candidate, we are excited to help develop your career.
Please allow for time to discuss and develop your project before the deadline.
These types of personal fellowships are excellent ways to transition towards independence, and we would be excited to facilitate and develop your research to obtain this goal with you.
Currently we have no funded positions available.
We will likely have an opening for a cancer project, that will open around May 2023, with an expected start date in September 2023. Please reach out by email, if interested, and include your CV and state why you want to join us, and we will let you know when this position might open.
We usually have projects available.
However, we advertise annually competitive awarded PhD positions. If you are motivated and and think you are competitive for PhD programs, please reach out, so we can discuss how to proceed. Internally funded PhD studentships are available for students. The application to these scholarships generally opens between Oct – Dec (sometimes also in the Spring).
In addition, institutional shortlisting for the Carnegie Trust to take place in late Jan. Here you need to be en route for (or already have obtained) a first Class Honours from a Scottish university. Please see the Carnegie Trust for further information, as well as this competitive opening.
There are international funding such as Boehringer Ingelheim, with multiple deadlines during the year. Your country of origin, or where you reside might also have PhD Fellowship.
Projects centres likely around the Hippo pathway, caveolae, mechano transductions cancer, cell size regulation, macrophages, development and regeneration and/or zebrafish. We aim for that all PhD students, upon completion of their studies, should come out with a first authored publication. Do feel free to contact me in advance if you would like to undertake your PhD research with us. We are also interested in supporting self-funded PhD students if your interest align with ours and we think we would be a good fit.
Please also feel free to reach out to current members to find out how it is to work in the lab. Team members email addresses can be found under “The Team“.
We are committed to maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for everyone, regardless of race, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, socio-economic status, or disability. We will continuously strive to attain equity in research by promoting a respectful lab environment and being transparent in our work.
We believe that open, honest communication, professionalism in science, and a diverse workforce allows us to create new ideas and excel academically.