Lister Institute Research Prize awarded to Dr Rob Klose

One of only 3 prestigious Lister Institute Research Prizes, which recognise outstanding young investigators in the UK, has been awarded to Dr Rob Klose, a researcher in the Biochemistry Department.

Dr Klose will use the funds provided to understand more about CpG islands, specialised but enigmatic regions of the genome found near gene promoters which are used to regulate gene expression.

Currently funded through a Research Career Development Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust, Dr Klose's research will benefit from this timely boost in funding. 'It's been really good for us because some of the work we've been doing on CpG islands based on my work with Wellcome Trust funding has led us down other avenues for which we don't have any direct funding,' he explains. 'We've developed a technique in the lab and we can now apply this money to that project.'

Dr Rob Klose

The technique is a promising one because it offers the possibility of specifically isolating intact CpG islands from cells – both the DNA and the proteins associated with it. This should enable researchers to characterise which proteins are associated with which CpG islands and dissect out the role of specific protein components. Up to now, it has not been possible to study these proteins in an unbiased way.

Such a novel handle on studying the function of CpG islands could give the field a new lease of life, says Dr Klose. The group has already started using the method to try and understand how CpG islands are evolutionarily conserved across different organisms.

In principle, they could apply this approach widely, for example looking at the sequence of changes in proteins associated with CpG islands that are critical during development. Changes at CpG islands also occur when a cell becomes cancerous, so the technique could be used to probe the changes between normal and diseased cells and understand the functional relevance of these.

Dr Klose is delighted with the prize, not just because of the additional work it will support in the lab. 'It's a bit of prestige,' he adds, 'because there are very few of these awards.' He is the first person in Oxford to have won the prize, adding it to his selection as an EMBO Young Investigator in 2010.

Lister was a surgeon who pioneered antiseptic surgical techniques. For twenty years, the Lister Institute Fellowships supported researchers in a broad range of biomedical fields. In 2003, the Lister Institute Research Prize was introduced in place of the fellowships. The intention is to provide young scientists with the opportunity to develop their research careers by offering five years of flexible support.

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