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Professor Anne Willis OBE is Director of the MRC Toxicology Unit and MRC Investigator for the Post-transcriptional control of gene expression following toxic injury Programme and the cross-Unit Fibre Toxicity Programme



Anne obtained a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of London while working in the Imperial Cancer Research Fund laboratories (now CRUK) on DNA repair with Dr Tomas Lindahl.  She then moved to Cambridge to work with Professor Richard Perham in the Department of Biochemistry, where she also held a Junior Research Fellowship and then a College Lectureship at Churchill College Cambridge.  Anne was appointed to her first independent position as a Lecturer in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Leicester, progressing to Reader in 2002 and Professor in 2004, from 2000-2005 she held a BBSRC Advanced Fellowship. In 2004, she was appointed Director of Cancer Research Nottingham and Chair of Cancer Cell Biology, where she was based in the School of Pharmacy.  From 2009-2013 Anne held a BBSRC Professorial Fellowship. In 2010 Anne became Director of the MRC Toxicology Unit.  Anne was appointed as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation in 2015, and in 2017 awarded an OBE for services to biomedical sciences and supporting the careers of women scientists.


Research Interests:

Anne’s research in the Unit is directed towards understanding the role of post-transcriptional control in response to toxic injury with a focus on RNA-binding proteins, regulatory RNA motifs and tRNAs. Through our mechanistic research we are developing predictive adverse outcome models that can be shared with our industrial partners. In particular we are working to understand the “off target” effects of new modalities such as therapeutic RNAs. Anne's research on therapeutic RNAs is funded by a Wellcome Trust LEAP grant and the MRC in conjunction with the MRC Nucleic Acid Therapy Accelerator as part of a £8 million pound award (led by Matthew Wood, University of Oxford) to investigate the delivery and safety of oligonucleotide-based therapies.  Anne's research is also funded by Cancer Research Technologies (as part of translational alliance with industry).



Key publications: 

Stoneley M, Harvey RF, Mulroney TE, Mordue R, Jukes-Jones R, Cain K, Lilley KS, Sawarkar R and Willis AE. Unresolved stalled ribosome complexes restrict cell-cycle progression after genotoxic stressMolecular Cell; 82 (8), 1557-1572. (2022).

Grosso S, Marini A, Gyuraszova K, Vande Voorde J, Sfakianos A, Garland GD, Rubio Tenor A, Mordue R, Chernova T, Morone N, Sereno M, Smith CP, Officer L, Farahmend P, Rooney C, Sumpton D, Das M, Ficken C, Guerra Martin M, Spriggs RV, Sun X, Bushell M, Sansom OJ, Murphy D, MacFarlane M, Le Quesne JPC and Willis AE. The pathogenesis of mesothelioma is driven by a dysregulated translatomeNature Communications; 12:4920. (2021).

Stephenson ZA, Harvey RF, Pryde KR, Mistry S, Hardy RE, Serreli R, Chung I, Allen TEH, Stoneley M, MacFarlane M, Fischer PM, Hirst J, Kellam B and Willis AE. Identification of a novel toxicophore in anti-cancer chemotherapeutics that target mitochondrial respiratory complex IeLife; 9: e55845. (2020).

Harvey RF, Pöyry TAA, Stoneley M and Willis AE. Signaling from mTOR to eIF2α mediates cell migration in response to the chemotherapeutic doxorubicinSci. Signal; 12 (612):eaaw6763. (2019).

Queiroz RML, Smith T, Villanueva E, Marti-Solano M, Monti M, Pizzinga M, Mirea DM, Ramakrishna M, Harvey RF, Dezi V, Thomas GH, Willis AE and Lilley KS. Comprehensive identification of RNA-protein interactions in any organism using orthogonal organic phase separation (OOPS).  Nat Biotechnol. 37(2):169-178. (2019).

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MRC Investigator

Contact Details

MRC Toxicology Unit
Gleeson Building
Tennis Court Road


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