The Academy of Finland awarded Postdoctoral researcher fellowships to Megan Chastney, James Conway and Toni Grönroos

    Megan Chastney, James Conway and Toni Grönroos have received the highly competitive three year Postdoctoral researcher fellowship funding from Academy of Finland, the Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment. This year the Research Council particularly had emphasised the planned international research cooperation and mobility in addition to the high scientific quality of the research plan and the competence of the applicant. All funded applications had received a rating of either 6 or 5 and approximately 15% of the applications were funded.

    Megan Chastney studies co-ordination of signalling, adhesion and the cytoskeleton by scaffold protein SHANK3 at Prof. Johanna Ivaska lab. She will investigate SHANK3 and its biological role in coordinating distinct signalling networks in human cancer. Her goal is to generate a road map of SHANK3-regulated signalling networks and their clinical relevance in cancer opening new targets for therapeutic interventions.

    – I am delighted to be given the opportunity to study the role of SHANK3 in controlling cellular behavior in cancer, and to explore its therapeutic potential. Through gaining a better understanding of how SHANK3 coordinates various signaling pathways, we hope to identify new avenues for targeting cancer, she says.

    James Conway is investigating the impact of integrin phosphorylation dynamics on cancer progression in the lab of Prof. Johanna Ivaska. He aims to shed light on a druggable regulatory network essential for cancer cell dissemination in breast cancer, with far reaching implications for other cancer types. He will use advanced microscopy- and proteomics-based screening approaches, in parallel with three-dimensional assays and animal models to tease out the role of post-translational modification of integrins on cancer progression.

    – I am super excited for the opportunity to progress our work on cancer dissemination and to further implicate integrin phosphorylation in this process. The more we can understand about the progression from a non-invasive primary tumour to metastatic disease, the better we can target this switch in the clinic, says James.

    Toni Grönroos studies Type 1 Diabetes at Prof. Riitta Lahesmaa’s Molecular Systems Immunology group. He will study changes in immune cells during the early stages of Type 1 Diabetes development. His goal is to validate further Type 1 Diabetes specific changes that could potentially be used to predict, diagnose and monitor the disease.

    – I am very happy about this award! Our study aims at understanding molecular mechanisms of Type 1 Diabetes disease development. Identification of early changes in immune response in children who later develop Type 1 Diabetes provides means for early detection of disease process and basis for designing strategies for timely treatment and even prevention of this devastating disease, says Toni.