Gernot leads the Walko Lab at the University of Bath, which carries out research into skin cancer. One of his PhD students, Jodie Bojko, is supported by a donor-funded scholarship. Here, he shares his goals, the importance of community and the great work your gifts help to achieve.
Tell us a bit about your research.
In my laboratory, our research is focusing on a type of skin cancer called cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC), which is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK and worldwide.
The reason why we’re particularly interested in this type of skin cancer is that it can be quite aggressive – if it’s detected too late and left untreated, it can grow into the deeper layers of the skin (this is called invasion), and from there cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body (known as metastasis).
My team is investigating the roles of two powerful oncoproteins called YAP and TAZ in the invasion and metastasis of cSCC. YAP and TAZ work in the nucleus of cancer cells, where they drive the expression of genes that enable cancer cells to grow uncontrolled and also to survive in other body sites upon metastasis.
What brought you to Bath and when did you join the University?
I joined the University in spring 2018. Bath is one of the top ten UK universities, and when I first came here to interview for the position of Lecturer in Cell Biology, I realised that there are many research groups within the Departments of Biology & Biochemistry and Pharmacy & Pharmacology with an interest in skin. This made Bath an attractive location for me to set up my own research group.
Name one thing that makes you feel proud to work for the University of Bath?
I love our great sense of community, which is particularly important as we navigate through the Covid-19 pandemic. I’m surrounded by wonderful colleagues, which makes working here very enjoyable.
What would you most like to achieve with your research?
We hope to better understand the roles of YAP and TAZ in invasion and metastasis of cSCC, and to identify the various proteins that they interact with in the nucleus of cancer cells to drive this. It could mean our research will help to inform new strategies to treat cSCC and related cancers.
What would you say to people considering making a gift to Bath?
Our cancer research activities would not be possible without the generous donations from our alumni! Within the Cancer Research at Bath network, of which I am a member, several research groups study various aspects of cancer in a highly interdisciplinary fashion. By joining with your fellow alumni and making a gift, you can help our cancer researchers and students to make the discoveries that one day could help defeat cancer.