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An expert in electron microscopy and crystallography to strengthen the structural biology programme


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Rafael Fernández Leiro is transferring from the Cambridge Laboratory of Molecular Biology (United Kingdom)

This is the second addition to this programme together with Iván Plaza Menacho

His research focuses on the structure and functioning of protein systems involved in DNA replication and repair

Rafael Fernández Leiro has joined the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) to head the Genome Integrity and Structural Biology Group within the renewed Structural Biology Programme. His work will focus on electron microscopy studies of protein systems involved in regulating DNA replication and repair processes.

Rafael Fernández Leiro“It is exciting to be able to work at the CNIO because the scientific level is very high and the opportunities for in-house collaboration are many and exciting,” says Fernández Leiro. “In addition, thanks to the centre’s efforts, we have the opportunity to perform leading structural biology at the CNIO that can compete with anyone.”

An expert in electron microscopy and crystallography, Fernández Leiro left Spain to go to Cambridge to continue his career at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Molecular Biology Laboratory. “The leading figures in crystallography and protein structure were there, the researchers that have driven this field,” he says. 

The techniques in which he has specialised – and that he will now apply at the CNIO – will enable us to observe protein systems in detail and how they interact with each other, as well as their involvement in various processes and/or diseases. 

“Electron microscopy takes pictures of this molecular machinery, practically at the atomic level, to understand how it works,” says Fernández-Leiro, who will join the centre in mid-September. “This enables us to know in which pathological processes they are involved and to look for ways to change their role.”

More specifically, his work focuses on studying the molecular complexes associated with DNA replication and repair, elements that are particularly difficult to observe given their dynamic nature. “Thanks to electron microscopy, we can obtain structural information about dynamic and flexible systems and find out how they operate and regulate,” explains this researcher from La Coruña. “My group is going to work on this and on the implications that these complexes have on the development of various diseases, such as cancer, in addition to the seeking new therapeutic targets.”

The group headed by Fernández Leiro toghether with Iván Plaza Menacho’s group will join forces to strengthen the CNIO Structural Biology Programme

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