I started my scientific career by taking a double B.Sc. (Hons) in applied chemistry and applied mathematics at Dublin Institute of Technology and Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. While my initial intention was to just complete my degree and get a decent job in industry, my final year chemistry lab project sparked an irresistible interest in research and I subsequently took a Ph.D. in Pharmacognosy at Trinity College Dublin synthesising novel anti-cancer drugs for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
During my Ph.D. I developed some bioassays to examine the efficacy of the drugs I was making. However, the lab that I was working in at the time was focused mostly on chemistry and I found myself being a little frustrated that I couldn’t examine the biological efficacy in greater depth. Therefore, upon completion of my Ph.D I moved to Norway and the lab of Prof. Bjørn Tore Gjertsen where I was engaged to development preclinical models molecular imaging strategies for drug development in haematological malignancies.
Following my postdoc, I received a Trond Mohn Foundation starter grant (equivalent to an ERC starter grant) in 2009 to establish my own lab at the University of Bergen where my group is focused on development of novel preclinical models and imaging strategies to interrogate cancer biology and novel drug efficacy.
The main motivation of the group is the development and effective translation of novel therapies and imaging strategies for the treatment of cancer with limited therapeutic options.
SonoCURE funded through Norwegian Research Council, NIH and Western Health Board explores the application of Sonoporation in the treatment of Pancreatic Ductal AdenoCarcinoma (PDAC). PreLIM funded by the Norwegian cancer Society and H2020 (AML VACCiN) focuses on the development of novel preclinical models of leukaemia’s and lymphomas in the development of novel targeted and immune- therapies and exploration of microenvironmental factors critical to disease development and emergence of resistant clones. Finally, funded through Helse Vest and a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative training network (ISPIC) InoVa we are developing the application of image-guided surgery, whereby fluorescent dyes will target biomarkers on surgically amenable cancers, to aid their greater resection. We are planning studies in dogs in addition to start human trials.
Further research was dedicated to establish an in vitro drug-screening organoid platform and to profile the tumour microenvironment of high grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) patients using a mass cytometry panel to aid the identification of new biomarkers for personalized medicine.
Kleinmanns K et al. CD24-targeted intraoperative fluorescence image-guided surgery leads to improved cytoreduction of ovarian cancer in a preclinical orthotopic surgical model. EBioMedicine. 2020
Li L et al. SIRT1 activation by a c-MYC oncogenic network promotes the maintenance and drug resistance of human FLT3-ITD acute myeloid leukemia stem cells. Cell Stem Cell. 2014
Lee J et al. Implantable microenvironments to attract hematopoietic stem/cancer cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012