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PhD Jana Alonso

Postdoctoral Researcher 


February 2015-June 2018

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We are a young research group focused in offering a comprehensive view of Caspase function through several research programs (see below). If you think you can help us to achieve our goal, do not hesitate to contact us

Current members


Luis Alberto Baena-Lopez

Associate Professor and Group leader

I am a Drosophila geneticist and developmental biologist interested in uncovering the molecular details of essential developmental processes as well as the origin of multiple diseases.

I was fortunate to gain a wide perspective of developmental biology under the supervision of Professor Antonio García-Bellido at the C.B.M.S.O (Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa) during my Dphil. I moved then to London where I expanded my technical and conceptual knowledge aided by the stimulating supervision of Professor Jean-Paul Vincent. Currently, I am an Associate Professor at the University of Oxford and my research group is interested in uncovering the function and regulation of the apoptosis drivers referred to as caspases in non-apoptotic cellular scenarios. In recent years, my research group has developed pioneering genetic tools to investigate this fundamental biological question and discovered novel physiological and pathological cellular contexts in which caspases are highly relevant for the implementation of basic cellular functions such as signaling regulation, cell proliferation, and cell differentiation. These findings have provided a better understanding of the basic caspase-related biologicals tasks and in the future, they could facilitate the development of safer and more efficient caspase-based therapies against specific types of cancer, neurological disorders, and metabolic diseases.


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Franz Wendler

CRUK Postdoctoral Researcher

My interest lies in protein/membrane trafficking pathways involved in cellular and organismal development and pathologies. During my extensive scientific globetrotter life I met yeast, Drosophila, mammalian cells, as well as scientists in a variety of amazing places including Austria, the UK, France, and the US, covering various topics including multi-drug resistance in yeast (Prof. Hogenauer), the biogenesis of secretory granules in mammalian neuroendocrine cells (Sharon Tooze), the secretion of Wingless and Hedgehog morphogens in wing precursors and the neuromuscular junction of Drosophila (in the labs of JP Vincent, Pascal Therond, and Vivian Budnik, respectively). Intrigued by the findings of extracellular Hedgehog carriers I went back to mammalian tissue culture and studied the role of extracellular vesicles as vehicles in cancer cell/microenvironment communication and discovered my l’amour with Lemur Tail Kinases (LMTKs; Georgios Giamas’ lab). The association of these trafficking regulators with apoptosis finally caused my curiosity for the two-faced role of caspases in cell death and survival resulting in the elation to have had the opportunity to join Alberto’s group in 2019.


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Claire Hill

DTP (BBSRC) DPhil Student 

After completing my undergraduate Masters degree in Biochemistry at Queen's University Belfast, I moved to Oxford University to complete a PhD (Interdisciplinary Bioscience) at the Oxford DTP. I am now a final year PhD student working between the Baena-Lopez lab in the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology and Prof. Dave Carter's lab in Oxford Brookes. We are studying extracellular vesicle mediated cell communication and non-apoptotic caspase functions in these processes. My motivation for carrying out this work is to better understand these key cell communication mechanisms; only then is it possible to determine how these pathways are disrupted upon the onset of disease.


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Elisabeth Dellar

DTP (BBSRC) DPhil Student

I graduated with an undergraduate Masters in Molecular Biology from the University of Sheffield, during which I worked on several neurodegenerative diseases, firstly at Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), and then in industry at Eli Lilly in Surrey.  In 2016 I joined the Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Programme where I am co-supervised by Alberto, and Dave Carter at Oxford Brookes University. I study the role of extracellular vesicles in intercellular communication, focusing on their HRNA cargo. I am especially interested in how this form of communication may be altered under conditions of cellular stress, and the relevance that this has in ageing, and related pathological processes such as neurodegeneration. Outside of the lab, I enjoy climbing hills, boardgames, and painting watercolours. 


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Derek C. Xu

NIH-OXCAM DPhil Student

The son of two biology professors, I grew up in Knoxville, TN, and originally had little intention of following his parents’ footsteps. However, after a few research experiences in the lab, I came to appreciate the scientific process and thrill of discovery. I graduated from Princeton University with a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology and a Certificate in Neuroscience, where I worked in Professor Elizabeth Gavis’s lab, studying the regulation of dendrite morphogenesis in Drosophila dendritic arborization neurons. During my undergrad, I participated in a research study abroad here at the University of Oxford, where I learned about the NIH-OxCam Scholarship program that I am now a part of. I joined the Baena-Lopez lab due to my interest in the novelty of non-apoptotic caspase functions. Under the co-mentorship of Dr. Kenneth Yamada at the NIH, I study non-apoptotic caspase functions in relation to tumor growth. Outside of science, I like to dabble in creative fiction and screenplay. Unable to escape my past as part of the Varsity Lightweight Men’s Rowing Team at Princeton, I sometimes continue to subject myself to the painful sport that is rowing.


+44 (0) 1865 618652


Li Wang

Self-funded DPhil Student

As an undergraduate student, I got my first scientific training in a project related to cancer therapy targeting cell cycle and apoptosis regulation. After I got my Bachelor’s degree in China Agricultural University, I continued with my academic training in the Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. During that time, I mainly focused on lymphatic vessel dependent melanoma metastasis (year1) and lysosome related trafficking pathways (year 2 and 3).
Caspases are well-known for their apoptotic regulation for years. When applying for my PhD, I was attracted by the project which emphasized the novel non-apoptotic roles of caspases in proliferation, differentiation and metastasis. All of these new features of caspases can shed new lights on therapies, which currently focuses more on the apoptotic regulation by caspases.


+44 (0) 1865 618652

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