Methicillin—resistant staphylococcus aureus or MRSA
Dr Andrew Holding is a Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences at the University of York where he leads a research lab. His research team investigates how the messages carried by the estrogen receptor are altered in tumours to drive the growth of breast cancer.
Andrew studied chemistry at the University of Oxford before he went on to apply these skills to investigate how life works at a molecular level. During his PhD at the University of Cambridge, he focused on how nature makes the antibiotics we use to treat antibiotic-resistant infections including MRSA. In 2009, he moved to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology as a Career Development Fellow; here he investigated how the machinery within cells interacts to enable basic processes including the replication of DNA. Then in 2013, Andrew moved to the Cambridge Institute where he built on these experiences to lead the experimental team of the Markowetz Lab with a focus on characterising the molecular interactions that drive cancer. His work was supported by a Turing Fellowship at the Alan Turing Institute to apply deep-learning strategies to model the biological systems he studies. These models will predict new therapies that bypass resistance and minimise side effects in patients.
Andrew moved to the University of York in 2019 and currently holds a joint appointment as a Senior Research Associate at Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Institute and as a Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge.
CRUK Cambridge Institute
Andrew's research programme combines cutting-edge experimental and computational biology methods to understand how estrogen receptor signalling changes between healthy tissue and cancer, and how it changes again when resistance to therapy occurs. It is through our understanding of these changes that our team aims to identify novel opportunities to treat resistance in cancer.
The estrogen receptor is one of several nuclear receptors that play a key role in the progression and treatment of several forms of cancer, including leukemia, breast and prostate cancer. Our focus is breast cancer, where in 70% of cases it is the estrogen receptor that drives the growth and proliferation of the tumour and is a key target for the drug Tamoxifen. Unfortunately, in 10-40% of patients, resistance to these therapies occur. It is therefore urgent to find new ways to improve patient survival.
We aim to achieve this goal by understanding the bigger picture of the changes that lead to therapy resistance. Through the characterisation of the biological systems that nuclear receptors are part of, and how these systems change during the progression of cancer, our work provides the networks of interactions that are the context needed to understand how resistance arises. This context will enable the future development of new therapies to bypass or prevent resistance. The technologies Andrew has pioneered in meeting these goals have already been applied by other research groups around the world.
Onstage at the Bloomsbury Theatre
Andrew has worked on many science outreach and public engagement projects including founding, and for many years organising, Skeptics in the Pub in Cambridge, which holds monthly talks by various speakers with the aim of highlighting the application of critical thinking and scientific method. Notable speakers include popular non-fiction author Simon Singh, statistician David Spiegelhalter and historian Christopher Andrew.
His public engagement work has been supported by several organisation including the MRC; and he was successful in his application for a Catalyst Award from UnLtd and the HEFCE for Social Entrepreneurship to help fund his work. His project received further funding from a Wellcome Trust People Award to produce a range of podcasts that support his events.
In 2015 Andrew was awarded Cancer Research UK's inaugural 'Rising Star in Research Engagment' prize for his work.
Andrew has been a guest on the The Naked Scientists Q&A radio show as Dr Andy, answering the public's questions on science. Futher to this, he produced and hosted this own radio show The Science of Fiction on CamFM that aired on Sunday evenings that covered the science behind movies, books and TV shows. In 2014 it became a live show at the Cambridge Science Centre as part of the Festival of Ideas with a follow-up show on Cambdrige TV in 2016. He has also been involved in current news having been interviewed by BBC Radio 5 Live's 5 Live Drive and BBC Cambridgeshire on topical science stories.
He has worked with the BBC on several shows as part of a British Science Assocation Media Fellowship, including Horizon and The One Show and written for The Guardian's 'Comment is Free' section along with BlueSci magazine. In 2013 he presented his first show for the BBC World Service called ''What if ... we could all become Cyborgs', and more recently travelled to Versailles to recreate Ernest Beaux’s iconic perfume 'Soir de Paris'.
Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
University of Cambridge
Li Ka Shing Centre
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 769 500
E-mail: Andrew.Holding at cruk.cam.ac.uk