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Behind the Research: Andrew Deans

Dr. Deans (far right) with his lab

Name:  Associate Professor Andrew Deans

Institution: St Vincent’s Institute, Melbourne, Australia

Area of expertise: DNA repair, biochemistry and gene editing

My work:

I’ve spent the last 18 years trying to understand how Fanconi anemia proteins work together to fix damaged DNA. This work is essential to understand the underlying cause of FA, and why there are difference outcomes in patients with different gene mutations. In my lab we have used protein chemistry to understand (among other things) how FANCM recognizes DNA damage, how the Fanconi core complex assembles, and the critical role of ubiquitination (the process of adding the ubiquitin protein to other proteins) in clamping FANCD2 and FANCI onto damaged DNA. These functions of FA proteins are central to the sensitivity of FA patients to certain DNA damaging agents, but also how they will respond to new therapies such as gene editing.

My lab’s vision for the next five years is to apply what we have learned to develop molecules that can alter FA protein behavior. These could be used to treat cancer or alter gene editing outcomes. We are also excited to be part of an international team of researchers supported by FCF that aims to realize gene editing as a near-future therapy for individuals with FA. 

What motivates me to work on FA: 

As an eager young scientist I was originally motivated by the complexity of FA – there was so much that was unknown! Later, at FCF meetings, I was introduced to clinicians and so many families, who showed me that my work meant more than just scientific discovery. Now, while the science is still revealing new things every week, I always work to make a difference that can change lives.

When I’m not working, you could find me: 

With my wife and two beautiful boys. We love the outdoors of Australia, be it on a bushwalk in the outback, wildlife spotting in our local Gippsland, or a boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef. You all should visit!

Anything else you want FA families to know?

I admire you! Research never feels fast enough, but lab researchers are as keen as you are to find new knowledge, new treatments and new cures. You should also know that FCF has put FA at the front of the queue in so many areas of discovery.

Categories: Stories, Research

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