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Hannah Baillie

DPhil, Department of Chemistry

Discovery and mechanistic elucidation of small molecule inducers of myeloblast differentiation for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

My current focus is on the design and synthesis, and subsequent biological testing, of molecules which aim to induce differentiation of immature ALL lymphoid cells.

How could your research ultimately benefit patients?

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common childhood cancer, is a disease which leads to the accumulation of lymphoid cells in the bone marrow. It is thought that the accumulation of lymphoid cells is, in part, caused by a block in normal differentiation of these cells. Conventional treatments for ALL typically aim to kill abnormal cells via chemotherapy however these treatments are often toxic and can cause long-lasting life-altering affects. In addition, there remains a subset of childhood ALL patients who are unresponsive to conventional treatments.  Inspired by a new wave of small molecule therapies for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) which function by causing AML myeloid cells to differentiate, and which have reduced toxicity when compared to conventional AML treatments, we aim to induce differentiation of immature ALL lymphoid cells. It is hypothesised that by applying the concept of differentiation therapy to ALL, we can develop novel therapies for ALL which have fewer toxic side effects than conventional treatments, and which can treat refractory ALL.

About Hannah

Prior to beginning my DPhil, I completed an MChem in Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry at the University of St Andrews. I completed my MChem project in the Florence Lab, working on the design and synthesis of novel, natural product inspired Trypanosoma brucei inhibitors.

As part of my integrated masters undergraduate degree, I also conducted an industrial placement at Merck, Sharpe and Dohme at the Francis Crick Institute in London where I was involved in the data driven and structure-based design, and synthesis, of novel chemical targets for diseases of aging.

Ultimately, I aim to work at the interface between chemistry and biology to improve the lives of, and outcomes for, patients. I intend to use my DPhil to further my learning and development in cancer science and chemical biology, and to gain the skills and experience needed to work in the field of medicinal chemistry following the completion of my postgraduate studies.