06 November 2012
Luxi Zhang has received the $10,000 USD Castle Harlan Award for being the most outstanding early career PhD student at the Garvan Institute in 2012.
The award can be used for anything that might help career development, such as travel to overseas conferences or laboratories.
Castle Harlan Inc. is a US-based private equity firm that wishes to support the kind of medical research being undertaken at Garvan. The award was presented this morning by Mr Leonard Harlan (Chairman, Executive Committee of Castle Harlan).
A member of Garvan’s Signal Transduction Group headed by Professor Roger Daly, Luxi’s work focuses on protein kinases, which comprise the largest enzyme family.
The kinase family (also known as the kinome) represents a rich source of drug targets because dysregulation of kinases is a common cause of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and inflammation. However the majority of the kinome still remains poorly understood.
During Luxi’s PhD, she developed a kinase capture reagent capable of isolating significantly more kinases from cells than previously possible. This development has dramatically improved the identification and characterisation of kinases by mass spectrometry.
The oncogene known as Src has the potential to drive a normal cell to develop into a cancer cell, yet it can only do so by interacting with other kinases. Luxi is currently applying the kinase profiling method to identify the global impact of Src on the expressed kinome.
Over 70 per cent of the expressed kinome can be detected by Luxi's approach, and she has determined that approximately 100 kinases, or 20 per cent of the total kinome, respond to Src activation.
Importantly, many of the Src-regulated kinases that Luxi has identified are poorly understood. Further functional characterisation of these kinases will provide major insights into the mechanisms underlying Src-mediated cell transformation, and potentially identify new therapeutic targets or alternative treatment strategies for cancers expressing active Src.
Luxi intends to use the Castle Harlan Award to attend the 17th European Cancer Congress to be held in Amsterdam in September 2013, where she will present her research findings. This will also allow her to gain valuable feedback from experts in different fields of cancer research.
In addition, Luxi also plans to visit the laboratory of Matthias Mann in Germany, in order to gain experience in targeted mass spectrometry. This will greatly assist her in the final part of her PhD, and importantly, will allow Luxi to share this knowledge and experience with other Garvan scientists who are using mass spectrometry, including members of Garvan’s Cancer and Diabetes and Obesity Divisions.