Simon Cook - Group Leader
Contact by email
1983-1986 B.Sc. Biochemistry, University of London (RHC)
1987-1991 Ph.D. Dept of Biochemistry, University of Glasgow
1991-1997 ONYX Pharmaceuticals, CA, USA
1997-present The Babraham Institute
2000-2006 CRUK Senior Cancer Research Fellow
Simon became interested in Signal Transduction during his Biochemistry degree at Royal Holloway College, University of London. He did his PhD in Michael Wakelam’s laboratory at the University of Glasgow, studying signalling by Phospholipase-C and -D. A chance meeting over a beer (several beers actually) at a conference led to his move in 1991 to Post-Doc with Frank McCormick at ONYX Pharmaceuticals in the San Francisco Bay Area where he studied the then emerging RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK1/2 pathway.
After his Post-Doc Simon stayed on at ONYX as a Staff Scientist, member of the RAS Group Steering Committee and Project Manager for the Inflammation Project. In 1997 he took a Group Leader post at the Babraham Institute. From 2000-2006 he held a CRUK Senior Cancer Research Fellowship and is currently a Group Leader in the Signalling Programme. He also coordinates Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation activities within the Institute. His hobbies include birdwatching, walking, reading, music, cinema and undermining the system from within.
Kathy Balmanno: Research Assistant
Kathy comes from Sarf London and spent 7 years at the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton before moving to the Cancer Research Unit at The University of Newcastle Upon Tyne. During this time she completed a part time degree in Cell and Molecular Biology and an MPhil by research, working on various aspects of anti-cancer drug development. Kathy joined the Cook laboratory in 1997 as its founder member! She has worked on a range of projects and is interested in how nutritional cues integrate with growth factor signalling pathways to control cell survival and cell proliferation. Kathy’s outside interests include jogging, reading, music and film.
Becky Gilley: Snr Post-Doc (BBSRC)
Becky Gilley (nee Ley) also comes from ‘‘south of the river’ but did her degree in Molecular Biology amongst the dark satanic mills at the University of Manchester. From there she moved back 'darn sarf' to Reading and did a PhD in Molecular Virology. She did her first post-doc at the Institute of Child Health, Great Ormond Street working on chromosome translocations, leukaemogenesis and T cell biology. She has worked in Simon’s group since 2002 making important contributions to understanding the role of ERK1/2 and ERK5 pathways in regulating gene expression, cell proliferation and cell survival. In addition, she provides core support in retroviral and letiviral expression systems and serves on the Institute Biological Safety Committee. Her favourite colour is Pink'
Anne Blockeel – PhD student (BBSRC/AZ)
Anne grew up in Sheffield and did her first degree at the University of Oxford. She then worked at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Sussex where she discovered her love of cell signalling (for which she is currently receiving counselling). Still failing to escape ‘the South’, she is now embarking on an AstraZeneca/BBSRC CASE PhD Studentship in the Cook laboratory. In her spare time she likes to read and occasionally dabbles in art (specializing in disproportioned honey bees). She has done fencing in the past (the one with sharp pointy things, not the one with planks of wood) and is now learning archery – enemies and PhD supervisors beware!
Pamela Lochhead – Senior Post-Doc (AICR)
Pam’s interest in Signal Transduction started with her PhD in the MRC PPU, University of Dundee with Calum Sutherland studying insulin regulation of gene expression. She then moved to the Beatson Intitute for Cancer Research in Glasgow where she defined the activation mechanism of DYRKs and characterised somatic mutations in the ROCK protein kinases, with Vaughn Cleghon and Mike Olson. Keen to pursue her interest in signal transduction and cancer she was lured into the Signalling & Cell Fate ISP at the Babraham Institute, and is now investigating the role of ERK5 in cancer, whilst retaining an interest in DYRKs. Pam is enjoying the science, Simon’s tolerance of Scottish people and the climate, but misses the fine cuisine of her homeland! Outside work Pam enjoys spending time with her young daughter, cycling, cooking and embracing English culture.
Matthew Sale – PhD student (BBSRC)
Matt grew up in Southampton and studied Biochemistry at the University of Oxford. During his degree he developed an interest in cell signalling and cancer, and despite thoroughly enjoying his Masters research project in epigenetics, Matt decided to pursue a PhD in this field. Fortunately for him, the friendly folk at the Babraham Institute concurred that he should be let loose in the Cook laboratory for the next four years (we had to fill the bench space or lose it). Matt's interests include travelling, calligraphy, playing sport and taxidermy. In keeping with the latter he also follows the fortunes of Southampton FC.
Jayeta Saxena - PhD Student
Jayeta did her undergraduate studies in Biochemistry at University of Delhi, before moving to UCL for a masters in Molecular Medicine where she developed an interest in cancer while studying glioblastomas for my thesis project. She then worked at UCL Cancer Institute, researching about cancer metabolism in leukemias. Jayeta is currently studying the RAS-RAF-MEK1/2-ERK1/2 signalling pathway to understand the mechanisms of underpinning acquired resistance to cancer chemotherapy. Her outside interests include reading, travelling, classical music, movies (love Bollywood films) and sleeping (she practices this as a hobby).
Pilar Caro - Post-Doc
Pilar is originally from Albacete (Spain) and moved to Madrid for her studies. She obtained a Bachelor in Biology from the Complutense University in Madrid, where she also did her Masters and PhD degrees in Professor Barja’s laboratory. There, she focused on deciphering the role that different dietary components, methionine in particular, plays in oxidative stress and ageing in mammals. In 2009 Pilar started her postdoctoral training in the field of cancer biology, at Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School, within Dr Nika Danial’s laboratory, where she worked on a project aimed at dissecting the differences in the metabolic profile of Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) subtypes. Moving back to Europe, she joined the Cook lab in 2012 at the Babraham Institute where she aims to combine her experience in cancer metabolism with our expertise in signal transduction to unravel the mechanisms of resistance to MEK inhibitors in cancer.
Nicola Darling - PhD Student
Nicola was born in St Albans and grew up in Wokingham, well spent her childhood in Wokingham, she didn't really grow up. She studied Natural Sciences, Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge where she enjoyed research work into the Antarctic metagenome, bacterial signalling networks and a Masters research project in G protein signalling. Nicola has refused to leave the Cambridge bubble and has pursued her interests in cell signalling by becoming a cookie monster at The Babraham Institute. Nicola’s interests include playing football, badminton and rowing, in addition to creating a cacophony on the violin. In the past, she played ice hockey and was lucky enough to trek in Nepal to have afternoon tea with a yeti at the Mount Everest base camp.
Hannah Johnson - Post-Doc
Hannah entered into science due to a fascination with mass spectrometry techniques and how they can be used to gain quantitative insight into cellular signalling. During her PhD in Professor Simon Gaskell’s lab at the University of Manchester she developed methodologies for the absolute quantification of phosphorylation stoichiometry. From there, to put her love of mass spectrometry to the test, she worked as a post-doc in the lab of Forest White at MIT where she applied mass spectrometric methodologies to understand the effects of deregulated receptor tyrosine kinases on tyrosine phosphorylation signalling in human glioblastoma. Hannah hopes to further develop her skill set in the Cook lab by aiming to understand how cancer cells become resistant to small molecule inhibitors to receptor tyrosine kinases such as FGFR. Hannah’s outside interests include embroidery, reading, and movies.
Alumni – where are they now and what are they doing?
Former PhD students
Claire Weston: Graduated in 2000
Moved on to Post-Doc with Roger Davis at HHMI, UMASS, Worcester. Now re-located to San Diego.
Claire Chalmers: Graduated 2001
Took a position with GSK at Stevenage. Now re-located to Bath.
Sarah Molton: Graduated 2002
Moved to Post-Doc with Martin McMahon at UCSF Cancer Centre. Now Business Development Manager for Cancer Research Technology based in London and Glasgow.
Ruth Densham: Graduated 2004
After a Post-Doc with Michael Olson at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, Glasgow Ruth moved to Post-Doc with Jo Morris at KCL, Guy's Hospital.
Katherine Ewings: Graduated 2006
Moved to Post-Doc with Kevin Ryan at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, Glasgow. Currently Senior Scientist in Functional Pharmacology at Cancer Research Technology, London.
Nikki March: Graduated 2006
Currently a Post-Doc with Doug Winton at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute.
Rebecca Arkell: Graduated 2008
After a brief Post-Doc with Alison Lloyd at the Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, UCL Rebecca has taken a post as R & D Policy Officer with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, London.
Ceri Wiggins: Graduated 2009
Moved to a Post-Doc position with Steve Ley and Gitta Stockinger at the NIMR, Mill Hill, London
Victoria Knights: Graduated 2009.
Moved to a Scientist post in Functional Pharmacology with Cancer Research Technology, London
Former Post-Docs & Research Assistants
Moved into Drug Discovery, taking a position a position as a Team Leader in Lead Generation, Cancer & Infection Group, AstraZeneca, Alderley Edge. Recently joined the Novartis Institute for BioMedical Research, Massachusetts, USA as a Research Investigator in Oncology Biotherapeutics
Moved into Drug Discovery, taking a position at BioFocus. Is currently Principal Scientist with BioFocus Discovery Ltd, Saffron Walden.
Still missing in action. Last seen heading for New Zealand. Report of appearance as Elf No 6 in LOTR movies proved to be bogus. Tracy where are you?
Moved to set up cell-based assays at Astex Therapeutics. Is currently Senior Research Associate at Astex Therapeutics, Cambridge Science Park.
Re-located to the USA. Now returned to Cambridge area and working at PPD Development, Granta Park, Cambridge.
Moved to work in the Inflammation group at Novartis, Horsham. Now re-located to New Zealand.
After much debate decided to stick with science rather than become a professional guitar hero/rock god. Presently at GlaxoSmithKline as a Senior Scientist, in the Oncology section of their Biopharmaceuticals Discovery Team in Stevenage.
Re-trained as a teacher and now living and teaching in the Cambridge area. The education of your children is in safe hands!
Moved to take up a post-doc post with Christine Watson in the Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge. Took her entire shoe collection with her in three packing cases.
Moved to take up a core post in Bioinformatics at the Babraham Institute. He remains an honourable member of the Cook laboratory and is still close enough for us to taunt him!
Updated 4 April, 2013