Our interests are in lysosome biology and how diseases result from lysosomal dysfunction. Our research spans basic cell biology, disease mechanism and therapy. We have successfully developed drugs that are in clinical use.
Lysosomes are the recycling centres of the cell. They are also calcium signalling organelles that cross talk with other calcium stores, including the ER. Dysfunctional lysosomes frequently cause severe human diseases. We have a long-term interest in understanding and treating lysosomal storage diseases, a group of inherited metabolic diseases typically characterized by severe pathology in the brain. These diseases are caused by inherited mutations in genes that encode lysosomal enzymes, and non-enzymatic membrane and soluble lysosomal proteins. They occur at a collective frequency of 1:5000 live births, are the most common cause of childhood neurodegenerative disease and typically present in infancy or childhood, but adult-onset variants also occur.
The majority of these diseases lack specific disease modifying therapies. We have been studying a subgroup of these disorders (called glycosphingolipid storage disorders) for many years, including Gaucher, Fabry, Tay-Sachs, Sandhoff and GM1 gangliosidosis. In addition, we have a major interest in Niemann-Pick type C disease, which involves secondary storage of glycosphingolipids. The underlying disease mechanisms remain incompletely understood and new therapies are urgently needed.
We were involved in the pre-clinical development of the substrate reduction therapy drug miglustat, that is approved for both type 1 Gaucher disease and Niemann-Pick type C. We work closely with patient organisations, clinicians and the pharmaceutical industry.
Our current interests are in four main areas:
- Lysosomal storage disorders, pathogenesis and therapy
- The effects of lysosomal storage on the immune system
- Development of biomarkers for monitoring storage disease patients
- Lysosomal dysfunction in more common disease