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After obtaining his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from the University of Cardiff, Rob joined the UCL Cancer Institute where he investigated how promoter proximal pausing of RNA polymerase II and polycomb-group proteins co-ordinate fruit fly development.

Rob moved to the MRC Toxicology Unit for his PhD and studied the post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression following DNA damage. During this time he identified a novel signalling mechanism that increased cancer cell migration following chemotherapy treatment and also identified a repurposed compound that blocked this adaptive cell response.

After his PhD Rob continued his post-doctoral studies in the Willis group, where he identified a novel chemical toxicophore, which is present in many chemotherapeutic agents, that inadvertently inhibited mitochondria function. Characterisation of this toxic chemical structure will aid future safe drug design while also demonstrating how these compounds could be used to selectivity target cancers that are more dependent on aerobic respiration.


Research interests:

During his PhD, Rob developed a keen interest in how cells respond or adapt to toxic chemicals and how these adaptative responses can be hijacked by cancer cells to enable them to survive in the presence of common chemotherapeutics.

Rob is currently studying the role RNA binding proteins (RBPs) play in the cellular response to stress and RNA damage.



Key publications: 

Stoneley, M., Harvey, R. F., Mulroney, T. E., Mordue, R., Jukes-Jones, R., Cain, K., Lilley, K. S., Sawarkar, R., Willis, A. E. (2022). Unresolved stalled ribosome complexes restrict cell-cycle progression after genotoxic stress. Molecular Cell. 82 (8), 1557-1572. e7.

Z. A. Stephenson, R. F. Harvey, K. R. Pryde, S. Mistry, R. Hardy, R. Serreli, I. Chung, T. E. H. Allen, M. Stoneley, M. Macfarlane, P. Fischer, J. Hirst, B. Kellam, A. E. Willis, Identification of a novel toxicophore in anti-cancer chemotherapeutics that targets mitochondrial respiratory complex I. eLife. 9, 1–31 (2020).

R. F. Harvey, T. A. A. Pöyry, M. Stoneley, A. E. Willis, Signaling from mTOR to eIF2α mediates cell migration in response to the chemotherapeutic doxorubicin. Science Signaling. 6, eaaw6763 (2019).

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Investigator Scientist

Contact Details

MRC Toxicology Unit
Gleeson Building
Tennis Court Road


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