Our Research centers 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 plasma membrane invaginations termed caveolae, as we have recently shown a direct link between caveolae and the Hippo pathway. We strive to provide fundamental insights into the Hippo pathway, caveolae and the biological processes that they regulate. 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, mechanotransduction, 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. Overall, we believe that understanding fundamental regulation at the molecular level is necessary to fully explore the therapeutic possibilities of targeting this pathway.
Meet the people behind the science.
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 I via a Post Doctoral Fellowship from the Danish Science Foundation 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 begin my independent career.
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, but also seek to have fun along the way.
Omar M. Salem – PhD student (2017-)
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 at the Gram Hansen lab is focused on studying the Hippo pathway regulation of Prostate Cancer development, progression and metastasis.
Jiwon Park – PhD student (2017 -)
My research focuses on the role of mechanotransduction signals in osteosarcoma 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.
Lisa Kölln – PhD student (2017-)
(Based at the University of Strathclyde, Prof. Gail McConnell lab)
“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.”
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. After completing this, I 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.
Dr Richard Cunningham – Post Doc (2019 –
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! Now academic Post Doc.
Siyang Jia – MSc Student (2018 -2019) And Intern 2019-2020 (Hopefully back for a PhD with us in September)
- DUNCAN MACLEAN (Honours student), moved on to continuing his Medicine Degree at the University of Edinburgh.
- TAMARA HUSSAIN (Honours student), moved onto to working at Charles River.
Cellular proliferation and differentiation needs to be tightly regulated to maintain tissue mass and homeostasis and if this regulation is lost cellular overgrowth and cancer occurs. In addition, this regulation also needs to be dynamically regulated throughout development and in regenerative processes. 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 predominantly bind to and regulate the activity of the TEAD family of transcription factors. YAP/TAZ therefore coordinates regulation of stem cell proliferation and differentiation, and correct regulations of YAP/TAZ is therefore essential to maintain tissue mass and homeostasis.
Recently, the understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of the Hippo pathway has become a major focus, especially in cancer biology and regenerative medicine. Understanding the chief biological output of the Hippo pathway centers on Yes-associated protein (YAP) and transcriptional coactivator with a PDZ-binding domain (TAZ), which are the prime mediators of the Hippo pathway. When they are active they shuttle to the nucleus and bind to and activate their cognate transcription factors. A wealth of cellular regulators have been identified, but how the dynamic subcellular regulation of the core players takes plays is not well understood and we seek to answer this fundamental process. In addition we will seek to understand the biological 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 utilize live cell and in vivo 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.
Prof. Gail McConnell https://www.strath.ac.uk/staff/mcconnellgailprof/
Dr. Pierre Bagnaninchi http://www.crm.ed.ac.uk/people/pierre-bagnaninchi
Prof Chris Ponting https://www.ed.ac.uk/profile/chris-ponting
Dr. Tamir Chandra https://www.ed.ac.uk/mrc-human-genetics-unit/research/chandra-group
Dr. Binzhi Qian https://www.ed.ac.uk/centre-reproductive-health/dr-binzhi-qian
Prof. Donald Salter https://www.ed.ac.uk/pathology/people/staff-students/donald-salter
Prof. Neil Carragher https://www.ed.ac.uk/cancer-centre/research/carragher-group
Dr. Andrew Sims https://www.ed.ac.uk/cancer-centre/research/sims-group
Present major funder
We are Always looking for motivated scientist with a strong track record to join us. We are always interested to support excellent candidates to pursue personal fellowships TO SUPPORT PROMISING RESEARCHERS TO PURSUE THEIR FUTURE INDEPENDENT CAREERS.
Some Postdoc Fellowships: EMBO Fellowships, Newton International Fellowships (Jan-April); Discovery Fellowships (March-May), Marie Curie Individual Fellowships (Open Apr-Sep), FEBS Long Term Fellowships (Opening in September) etc….
These types of personal fellowships are excellent ways towards independence, and we would be excited to facilitate and develop your research towards independence.
Currently we do not have any funded studentships available, however these come up now and then, so feel free to inquire. Internally funded PhD studentships are available for UK/EU students. The application to these scholarships generally opens between Oct – Dec (sometimes also in the Spring). We aim for that all PhD students, upon completion of their studies, should come out with a first authored publication. In addition, if you would like to carry out your PhD studies with us and have alternative means of funding, please do reach out. Do contact me in advance if you would like to undertake your PhD research with us. We are a very supportive lab!
Feel free to contact me for more info! 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“.