Members

OUR TEAM

M. Madan Babu, PhD, FRSC

Member, Structural Biology Department

Endowed Chair in Biological Data Science

Director of the Center for Data Driven Discovery

madan.babu@stjude.org

Madan is interested in data science approaches to make biological discoveries and reveal fundamental principles of biological systems. He employs and develops computational and experimental methods to study biological systems at different scales of complexity: from systems at the atomic level (e.g., structures), to the network of interactions between molecules (e.g., protein interaction networks), to the level of an entire population (e.g., variation in the human population and cancer genomes). He envisions that his group’s research findings will help us better understand how mutations cause cancer and other diseases. This knowledge can be used in biotechnology, drug discovery, and personalized medicine.

Before joining St. Jude, Madan was a Programme Leader at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. His group joined the Center for Data Driven Discovery, and the Structural Biology Department at St. Jude in July 2020. Please see Research and About Madan for more details. 

Angie Williams

Executive Assistant

angie.williams@stjude.org

Angie Williams brings 35 years of experience in administration, event planning, and customer service. She has 13 years of cumulative experience at St. Jude.  She started her career as a clerk in 1982 at the Memphis Police Department. Angie joined St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 2002 in the Department of Diagnostic Imaging.  In her first eight years at St. Jude, she actively supported several doctors, including the Chair of Oncology and the Chair of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics.  For the next six years, Angie was Curriculum Manager and Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Academic and Student Services at Colorado Community College.  While in Colorado, she fine-tuned her skillset in planning large meetings and symposia. 

She returned to St. Jude in 2016 in a dual position in the Cancer Center and the Division of Molecular Oncology under EVP Charles Roberts, MD, Ph.D.  She moved to Structural Biology in 2018.

Ben Leslie, PhD

Director of Lab Operations

ben.leslie@stjude.org

Ben Leslie is a Chemical Biologist whose research include Organic Chemistry, Molecular/ Cell Biology and Biophysics. He is involved in structural and functional studies of GPCR targets that emerge from data driven drug discovery efforts. Additionally, he works on screening projects to discover functional motifs in disordered proteins. Ben earned a PhD in Organic Chemistry with Paul Hergenrother’s group at the University of Illinois where he specialized in Oncology Drug Discovery. 

He was a postdoc and later Research Specialist in Taekjip Ha’s Single Molecule Biophysics group.

Balaji Santhanam, PhD Principal Bioinformatics Research Scientist balaji.santhanam@stjude.org

Balaji’s primary research interest is in understanding protein-protein interactions in various key cellular regulatory pathways such as Ubiquitin systems, GPCR pathway, Transcription and Protein kinase signalling process. Specifically, how these interactions are altered in disease states such as cancer, infectious diseases and metabolic disorders and identifying key components of above regulatory pathways for therapeutic intervention strategies.

Balaji obtained his PhD from Molecular Biophysics Unit at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. Before joining St Jude, Balaji was leading bioinformatics collaborations across the divisions in MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK. 

Benjamin Lang, PhD

Senior Bioinformatics Research Scientist

benjamin.lang@stjude.org

Benjamin’s research is focussed on identifying features in intrinsically unstructured regions that can control the localisation of proteins within cells, and how these systems might be impaired in cancer and in genetic diseases. Benjamin trained in general and molecular biology in Münster, Zürich and Heidelberg before completing a PhD degree on the evolution of post-translational signalling systems at the MRC-LMB and the University of Cambridge.

Following postdoctoral EIPOD and Marie Skłodowska-Curie IF fellowships at EMBL Heidelberg and at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona, where he investigated protein linear motifs and protein–RNA interactions, he is currently a Senior Scientist in the group.

Cristina Guibao, PhD

Scientist

cristina.guibao@stjude.org

Cristina is a Biologist who has worked in the Structural Biology field for most of her career. She is involved in cell-based validation of targets that arise from data-driven discovery projects in the group. Cristina also performs functional validation of GPCR and other targets that emerge from our data mining efforts.

Cristina earned her B.S in biology from Rhodes College.

Preethi Badrinarayan, PhD

Bioinformatics Research Scientist

preethi.badrinarayan@stjude.org

The main focus of Preethi’s research is to study the activation mechanisms, allostery, and dynamics to understand the regulation of kinases in cancer and design target selective kinase drugs. She has joined as part of The Blue-Sky project “Seeing the Invisible in Protein Kinases” at St Jude. She will use inter-disciplinary approaches to characterize the distinct conformational states populated by kinases and to dissect the mechanisms of allosteric regulation and those underpinning oncogenic and drug-resistance mutations.

Before joining St Jude, Dr. Preethi Badrinarayan has received her independent Wellcome-Trust Early Career Grant and has been a principal investigator for the past five years.

Duccio Malinverni, PhD

Senior Bioinformatics Analyst

duccio.malinverni@stjude.org

Duccio’s research is focused on developing machine learning based approaches to design novel interacting proteins, study protein conformational heterogeneity and investigate the sequence-structure relationship in proteins. In his current work, he focuses on the design of orthogonal protein interactions, with particular interest on membrane receptors. He is also interested in how to use very large biological datasets to study conformational changes in protein kinases.

Duccio obtained his PhD in Physics at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Before joining St.Jude, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the MRC LMB in Cambridge UK, supported by a Swiss SNF fellowship.

Besian I. Sejdiu, PhD

Senior Bioinformatics Analyst

besian.sejdiu@stjude.org

Besian’s research focuses on developing and applying massively parallel in silico screening protocols to rapidly dock billions of commercially available compounds to target proteins in a pipeline designed to accelerate drug discovery and development. He is interested in recognizing druggable protein targets, identifying compound leads with promising therapeutic and pharmacokinetic profiles and move these molecules to proof-of-concept studies in preclinical disease models. He also works in building interactive user-friendly applications to allow for real-time exploratory analysis of scientific data.

Besian obtained his PhD in Biophysical Chemistry at the Centre for Molecular Simulation at the University of Calgary, where he applied multiscale methods to study the reciprocal interplay of membrane proteins with their surrounding lipid environment. He has a master’s degree in pharmacy from the University of Prishtina. 

Xiaohan Li, PhD

Investigator Scientist

xli@mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk

Xiaohan is currently an investigator scientist supported by a Marie-Curie individual fellowship. He is interested in understanding dynamics and cellular functions of intrinsically disordered proteins and regions using integrative structural, cellular and computational characterisations. His work will provide insight into our understanding of sequence-to-function paradigm for disordered proteins and regions.

Xiaohan got his PhD in biophysical chemistry from Yale University studying how the interaction between intrinsically disordered protein tau and tubulin contributes to tau’s function.

Maria Marti Solano, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

mmarti@mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk

Maria’s research is focused on understanding how membrane protein structural variation results in functional diversity. In her current work, she employs computational systems biology to explore how membrane protein structural, spatial and interindividual changes can result in differences in physiology and drug response. Maria did her PhD in Biomedicine at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona.

Before joining the group, she was a post-doctoral researcher at the Philipps University Marburg, Germany. She initially joined the MRC LMB supported by a FEBS Long-Term Postdoctoral Fellowship and is currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow.

Assaf Elazar, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

assaf.elazar@stjude.org

Assaf’s research project aims to uncover the sequence determinants driving reversible/(i)reversible higher-order assembly of Intrinsic Disordered Regions(IDRs) using an innovative targeted library generation framework, coupled with a high-throughput selection approach.

Assaf obtained his Ph.D. in protein design from the Weizmann Institute Of Science, where he worked on designing membrane proteins. He is currently an EMBO long-term fellow.

Manbir Sandhu, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

manbir.sandhu@stjude.org

Manbir is studying how genetic and post-transcriptional regulation of signaling proteins can illicit functional variation in their activity profiles. This research will shed light on how drug response is modulated in various target tissues due to the heterogeneous nature of gene expression and regulation.

Manbir received his PhD in Computational & Structural Biology from the City of Hope National Cancer Center in Los Angeles, CA before joining the Babu Group at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Daniel Estevez Prado, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

daniel.estevezprado@stjude.org

Daniel’s project aims to shed light on the biogenesis of polytopic membrane proteins such as G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs); how the emerging polypeptide inserts into the lipid bilayer, adapts a functional conformation and is eventually expressed at the cell’s surface. He employs an interdisciplinary computational approach investigating the structural, biophysical and genomic signatures associated with GPCR folding, function and misfolding.

Daniel received a Master’s degree in Molecular Biophysics from King’s College London and conducted research as a Postgraduate Research Fellow at the Yale School of Medicine before joining the group.

Alex Gunnarsson, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

alexander.gunnarsson@stjude.org

Alex is interested in how short linear motifs within protein intrinsic disorder allow cells to process complex information and to regulate cellular decision making. The aim of his research is to characterise how the motifs evolve and change over time and how this process enables functional adaptation through motif-mediated network rewiring.

Alex obtained a BA and MSci in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge working on super resolution image analysis and cryo-EM method development respectively. His work is funded by the MRC LMB.

Yonathan Goldtzvik, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

goldtzvik@mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk

Yonathan’s research aims to understand the extent of heterogeneity in the cellular machinery that is involved in the production and degradation of proteins. The aim of this project is to understand how variation in sequence and composition of molecular machines involved in these processes affects the regulation of proteins in the cell.

Yonathan obtained his PhD in Biophysics from the University of Maryland College Park where he worked on the biophysics of motor proteins. He is currently an EMBO long-term fellow.

Greg Słodkowicz, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

gslodko@mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk

Greg is an AstraZeneca-funded postdoc working on elucidating the role of alternative splicing in healthy tissue and in disease, focusing on prostate cancer. Originally trained as a computer scientist, Greg obtained an MSc in Systems Biology while in the group of Chris Workman at the Technical University of Denmark. He then completed a PhD in Molecular Evolution with Nick Goldman at EMBL-EBI, and continues to be interested in evolutionary aspects of the biological systems he studies.

Before joining Madan’s lab, Greg spent one year as a postdoc in the lab of Leo James at the LMB.

Franziska Marie Heydenreich, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

fheyden@stanford.edu

Franziska studies the role of single amino acids in GPCR signaling by combining full-sequence coverage mutagenesis, biophysics and data science approaches.

Franziska obtained her PhD at Paul Scherrer Institute/ETH Zurich with Dmitry Veprintsev before spending 1.5 years as a postdoc in the lab of Michel Bouvier at University of Montreal. She is currently funded by a global Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship combining work in the labs of Madan at the MRC LMB/St. Jude and Brian Kobilka at Stanford University.

Sarah Sherman

PhD Student

sarah.sherman@stjude.org

Sarah’s research focus is leveraging experimental and computational approaches for the functional characterization of intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) within proteins, specifically investigating how these regions can play a role in regulating subcellular localization. She is interested in extending these characterizations to investigate how the mutation of these elements impacts their functioning in diseases such as cancer.

Sarah has a B.S. in Biology and English from Northeastern University. Before joining the group, she worked as a research technician to drive the development of a protease-based diagnostic platform at Glympse Bio. She has also conducted research in Botswana on the diagnostic turn-around times of cervical cancer specimens under a Fulbright grant. In her free time, she enjoys reading and ballroom dance.

Hannes Harbrecht

PhD student

hannesh@mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk

Hannes studied Chemistry at Marburg, Oxford and M.I.T. before coming to Cambridge to work with Sir Alan Fersht as a visiting researcher. This experience proved formative for his interest in protein chemistry and genomics and, after completing his masters’ theses with David Baker at UW and William Jorgensen at Yale, led him to pursue his PhD with Madan in the Regulatory Genomics and Systems Biology group at the MRC LMB. Hannes’s work focuses on the development of machine learning methods for computational structural biology with a specific interest in high-dimensional statistics and Bayesian inference.