Maria João Pires

Karolinska Institute


Maria João Pires intends to pursue a scientific career on a research team that focuses on novel therapeutics and fundamental biology that can be applied on cancer. She is interested in cancer biology, therapeutics and the relationship between DNA damage and biology (e.g. cancer).

She comes from Portugal and has always studied in Lisbon. She obtained a BSc degree in Biology with expertise in Molecular Biology and Genetics from the University of Lisbon, where her enthusiasm for cancer research grew, so she later graduated from NOVA Medical School with a MSc in Biomedical Research specialising in Oncobiology. Her studies focused on the creation of a genome-editing tool using CRISPR-Cas9 for the functional characterisation of variants of unknown significance (VUS)  in familial breast cancer. In the last few years, there has been an increased detection of VUS without established clinical guidelines. These VUS can either be pathogenic or benign, but since their effect is unclear, functional assays need to be performed to categorise their mutational status. This project led to her presenting it on a poster. Throughout her studies she has gained experience in molecular and cancer biology and plans to continue her studies in this area of expertise to become more proficient.

To rise to the next level, Maria will carry out her doctoral studies at the Karolinska Institute under the supervision of Dr. Mikael Altun and Dr. Nicholas Valerie. The overall goal is to create molecular tools to address specific chemical and biological hypotheses, such as decoding biological mechanisms related to protein interactions, to understand how different anticancer therapies work, as well as to expedite the development of novel proof-of-concept PROTACs (proteolysis targeting chimera), which is an up-and-coming treatment strategy that employs targeted protein degradation (TPD) with bifunctional molecules to establish small molecule-based protein degraders.

To create a more generalized and sensitive biosensor, the project will focus on generating reporter systems for the hormone receptors and their downstream signalling elements, to unravel how different ligands, drugs or drug candidates work.