Sherif El-Khamisy, director of the Center for Genomics at Zewail City of Science and Technology, became the first Egyptian and Arab to win a prize fellowship at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, a UK medical research charity which supports young researchers. He beat a total of 164 nominees to be one of the four fellows who will receive £200,000 to further his research.
El-Khamisy and his team are working on repairing DNA breakage and the impact this can have on human health. “Our programme will utilise a combination of cellular and whole animal approaches to unravel the mechanisms by which breaks in one strand of DNA – the most abundant DNA lesion in cells – are repaired and determine the impact of loss of these mechanisms on tissue viability,” he explains. “This work will expand our knowledge of DNA repair and translate it into tangible ideas and new treatment paradigms for cancer and degenerative disorders.”
Using the research fund, El-Khamisy will maintain his current lab at the University of Sussex while also running a new one at the University of Sheffield. “The Sussex lab work will focus primarily on the drug discovery aspects of our work – very exciting leas are already in the pipeline,” he says. The new lab at Sheffield will focus on molecular, cellular and whole animal approaches – particularly zebra fish – to study the mechanisms involved in DINA breakage and repair.
“Both labs will feed and interact with the Genome Center at Zewail City, focusing on Egypt-related problems – primarily living with cancer,” he adds. Ultimately, El-Khamisy hopes his research can produce new treatments which would improve patient quality-of-life, particularly at old age.
“Besides the research financial award and recognition, [the fellowship] puts us on the map of top quality scientists and allows us to be part of a prestigious network of people who meet routinely to collaborate and discuss science. It is all about the network,” says El-Khamisy. “I am thrilled that the award now goes to an Egyptian scientist and hope that our research will open new frontiers in medicine, particularly in the field of genome stability”