Rafael Fernández Leiro (born in A Coruña in 1982) started his PhD from the University of A Coruña in 2006, where he was trained in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. During this time he moved to the Rocasolano Institute in Madrid (CSIC), where he learned protein crystallography with Dr. Julia Sanz Aparicio. After completing his PhD studies in 2011 he joined the lab of Dr. Meindert Lamers at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge where he broadened his expertise. In Cambridge, he worked in close collaboration with Dr. Sjors Scheres, strengthening his knowledge of cryo-Electron Microscopy (cryo-EM) and got involved in various aspects of method development. For the next 6 years, he extensively used cryo-EM and other structural and biochemical techniques to study DNA replication and repair machineries. This work culminated in the elucidation of the structures of the core of the bacterial replisome and the mismatch repair machinery in multiple functional states, providing new structural clues to understand the mechanisms of these important pathways for genome integrity and cancer.
In September 2017 he joined the Spanish National Cancer Research (CNIO) research centre in Madrid as a Junior Group Leader to strengthen the Structural Biology Program, contributing to the incorporation of high-resolution cryo-EM to the CNIO. His group focuses on the study of the function and biological implications of protein complexes responsible for DNA replication and repair and the role they play in disease using a combination of high-resolution cryo-EM, X-ray crystallography and biochemistry in an integrative approach.