Edinburgh Cancer Research

Gerard Brien joins the Institute of Genetics and Cancer as a new principal investigator

Dr Gerard Brien, a childhood cancer researcher and an international leader in the field of chromatin biology, joins the Institute of Genetics and Cancer.

Dr Gerard Brien
Dr Gerard Brien, Institute of Genetics and Cancer, University of Edinburgh.

We are delighted to be welcoming Gerard Brien and his laboratory to the Institute. Gerard is moving to Edinburgh from Trinity College Dublin to establish the Chromatin Biochemistry and Epigenetics research group. The lab are expert in childhood cancers and the biochemical mechanisms regulating chromatin structure and function, with a keen interest in developing new therapeutic approaches tackling cancers caused by altered chromatin regulation.

Dr Brien obtained his PhD at the Genetics Department of Trinity College Dublin in 2015 working on chromatin biochemistry and Polycomb biology (Polycomb-group proteins are a family of protein complexes that regulate chromatin structure and function). He subsequently secured an EMBO Long-Term Fellowship and a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship to perform postdoctoral research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the United States. He returned to Europe in 2018 as a recipient of an Irish Cancer Society Biomedical Research Fellowship and a Science Foundation Ireland Starting Investigator research grant.

Gerard’s research, with several seminal contributions to our understanding of chromatin regulatory complexes (e.g. Brien GL et al Nat Struct Mol Biol,Genes Dev, Cancer Cell, Elife, Nat Rev Cancer, Nature Genetics), has already had significant impact with follow-up work across multiple laboratories and disciplines. His long term research vision aims to translate discoveries on the fundamental mechanisms of chromatin regulation to understanding disease mechanisms in childhood cancers.

Currently his lab’s activities focus on (i) Understanding how chromatin regulation is altered in genetically-defined childhood cancers, including subtypes of sarcoma, leukemia and glioma; (ii) Understanding how key chromatin regulatory complexes including Polycomb group and SWI/SNF complexes support oncogenic gene expression in these diseases; (iii) Translating discoveries in these regards towards the development of rational, mechanistically anchored disease therapeutics.

Work in Dr Brien’s laboratory is supported by grants from the Worldwide Cancer Research charity and the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI; as part of the guarantee scheme following a successful Starting Grant application to the European Research Council). 

When he’s not in the lab, Gerard enjoys anything that's outdoors and active - hiking, running, biking and swimming are all favourites.

I am very excited to be part of the University of Edinburgh community. The Institute of Genetics and Cancer is a cutting edge scientific institution with state of the art research facilities and a well-established international reputation as leaders in cancer and genetics research. I am particularly thrilled about strong translational and cross-disciplinary culture linking basic science and clinical practice which, over the years, has brought significant positive changes in clinical practice worldwide. I hope that our lab can strengthen ongoing research activities in the Institute. Our ambition is to be leaders in studies investigating the role of chromatin structure and transcriptional regulation in disease biology, and to contribute to the development of better treatments across a range of diseases, including cancer. We look forward to new collaborations and research opportunities made possible by our move to Edinburgh.

Dr Gerard BrienThe University of Edinburgh

Related links

Dr Gerard Brien group website: https://www.ed.ac.uk/cancer-centre/research/brien-group