Institute of Genetics and Cancer

IGC Langmuir Talent Development Fellowships in Cancer Research

A new fund has been launched by the Institute of Genetics and Cancer to support early career researchers in their journey to independence, thanks to a significant philanthropic donation from Hugh and Josseline Langmuir: September 2022

Ava Khamseh, Ailith Ewing and Robb Hollis
Ava Khamseh, Ailith Ewing and Robb Hollis

There can be hurdles in the career paths of even the most talented scientists. There is a particular pinch point when postdoctoral training in the group of a Principal Investigator comes to an end and individuals prepare to complete the publication of their work while readying themselves for the transition to independent research.

There can be a dearth of available funding opportunities at this critical career pinch point and we wish to avoid the loss of highly-skilled scientists.

To address this issue, the Institute of Genetics and Cancer will award up to eight Langmuir Talent Development Fellowships to clinical or non-clinical scientists working in cancer research.

These awards may provide budget for salary and/or project running costs for up to two years and awardees will receive mentoring and guidance in honing their leadership skills, developing their independent projects and building their publication portfolios. These fellowships will provide an opportunity to better prepare for independent funding applications to national or international funders.

The first three awards will support projects in data-driven cancer research and have been granted to Ava Khamseh, Ailith Ewing and Robb Hollis.

 If we want to retain talent and invest in the future cancer research community then we need to take action on pinch-point in career progression. We are delighted that we have been able to make steps towards making a difference in the journey to scientific independence; our congratulations to Ailith, Ava and Robb, and our sincere thanks to Hugh and Josseline Langmuir for their generous support.

Margaret Frame and Wendy BickmoreDirectors, Institute of Genetics and Cancer and MRC Human Genetics Unit

Ava Khamseh is a lecturer in Biomedical Artificial Intelligence whose work is split between computational and mathematical method development and wet-lab experiments on early oncogenesis.

Ava’s work designs experimental and computational models of early cancer to capture mutational and transcriptional trajectories over time at single-cell resolution, and to quantify how different driver mutation interactions lead to cooperation or competition amongst cells.

Through her fellowship, Ava will be able to recruit to grow her team and provide capacity to generate data to understand the molecular dynamics of cancer initiation. Publishing the output of this work will provide a basis for funding applications to further Ava’s line of hybrid wet and dry-lab research which is relatively unique in the field of biomedicine.

Acquiring wet-lab funding for a researcher who is known for mathematical method development is not an easy task. I hope the IGC Langmuir Talent Fellowship will provide me with the opportunity to show that such cross-disciplinary research is possible in practice and allow me to publish a proof-of-principle to convince funding bodies for future applications.”

Ava KhamsehLecturer, MRC Human Genetics Unit; Edinburgh Cancer Research; School of Informatics

Ailith Ewing is in the process of establishing her own research group which will develop and apply statistical and computational approaches to analysing large cancer datasets with a view to learning about tumour biology and exploring ways of translating their discoveries.  

Her research aims to use the order in which structural variants arise in the DNA of growing ovarian tumours as novel biomarkers to inform patient stratification, better predict response to treatment and ultimately improve outcomes for people living with ovarian cancer. 

Ailith’s fellowship will allow her research team to grow, enabling them to analyse DNA sequences from a large collection of ovarian tumour tissue from patients across Scotland. The team will develop the analytical methods necessary to demonstrate that data explaining the development of structural variants over time in tumours can categorise disease progression. 

I cannot overstate how much this opportunity will benefit my career progression. It will act as a springboard allowing me the financial breathing space to generate vital preliminary data necessary to demonstrate in future funding applications the merits and feasibility of this line of research. It will provide the resources to allow me to focus on putting our ideas into practice; I expect in the course of the fellowship that we will reveal exciting insights into tumour biology and help establish the research identity of my new group.

Ailith EwingChancellor’s Fellow, MRC Human Genetics Unit and Edinburgh Cancer Research

Research Fellow Robb Hollis’s work focusses on molecular characterisation of ovarian carcinomas to identify patient groups with distinct clinical behaviour and sensitivity to specific therapies.

High-grade serous ovarian cancer is the most common form of the disease, and while treatment is often effective at diagnosis, most patients develop resistance to chemotherapy over time.

Robb’s fellowship will support his work to analyse data from samples from carcinosarcoma patients – a more rare form of ovarian cancer with ‘built in’ resistance to chemotherapy - to better understand the biology behind chemoresistance and why this might develop in people living with high-grade serous ovarian cancer. Detailed knowledge of this process could potentially inform therapeutic opportunities to reverse chemoresistance and, crucially, improve outcomes for patients.

This is a critical first step in my transition from postdoctoral researcher to an independent investigator. I’m at a crucial stage in my career, and support for early career researchers like myself, who are looking toward building their own research teams, can be challenging to find. This fellowship is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that I can develop and deliver my own program of research, which is essential for securing future funding. 

Robb HollisResearch Fellow, Edinburgh Cancer Research

We are pleased to provide financial support for this important initiative to retain and develop IGC's outstanding researchers and are confident that this will contribute both to our understanding of the biology of cancer and ultimately to improving clinical outcomes.

Hugh and Josseline Langmuir