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3D hydrogel co-culture of MCF10a normal breast cells (Red) with human mammary fibroblasts (Green)
3D hydrogel co-culture of MCF10a normal breast cells (Red) with human mammary fibroblasts (Green)

Research groups

Gillian Farnie


University Research Lecturer and Cellular Assays Group Leader


Gillian Farnie studied pharmacology at the University of Liverpool (UK) and did her PhD in molecular oncology at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK (2002).  She then had 6 years postdoctoral training in breast biology and breast cancer, developing novel 3D culture systems to grow human ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and investigating epidermal growth factor and Notch signalling.  During collaborations with Dr Rob Clarke she became interested in cancer stem cell (CSC) signalling and was awarded an esteemed 5-year Breast Cancer Now Scientific Fellowship (2008) to start her research group. 

Based at the Manchester Cancer Research Centre her research focused on the role of breast CSCs in the resistance to radio and chemotherapy, exploring FAK and Wnt signalling as well as metabolic and epigenetic targets.  Aligned with these studies her lab is also developing bespoke hydrogel models of breast progression in collaboration with Dr Cathy Merry and Prof Tony Howell.

Research Areas

The Cell Biology group will innovate and develop assays to validate in-cell efficacy of established and new probe families which include bromodomains, Nudix hydrolases, deaminase and DENN domains.  Each assay will be developed to address the unique biology of the target using molecular biology (inc CRISPR, RNAseq, ChIP, Mass Spectrocopy) and confocal microscopy (HTS/HCS). Further detailed investigations into the biological mechanism and disease target will be carried out both in-house and with academic and pharmaceutical industry collaborations.  By advancing SGC probes into cellular assays we aim to produce pre-clinical in vitro data to enable the translation of SGC probes into a disease area within the clinic. 

Gillian’s research interests include disease heterogeneity, multicellular and 3D disease models.

Group Members

Ling Felce (Postdoctoral Research Assistant) - The role of of the YEATS family 

Vickie Gamble (Research Assistant) - SGC cellular assays project

Carina Gileadi (Research Assistant) - SGC cellular assays project

Nadia Halidi ((Postdoctoral Research Assistant) - Developing multicellular and 3D disease models

Jenny Ashworth (Postdoctoral Research Assistant) - NC3Rs project - Bespoke human 3D breast models

Simon Timbrell (MD Student) - The role of Focal Adhesion Kinase in Invasive breast cancer and the tumour microenvironment

Liz Brown (DPhil Student) - The role of ACVR1 in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG


Dr Cathy Merry (University of Nottingham)

Prof Tony Howell (University of Manchester)

Miss Cliona Kirwan (University of Manchester)

Prof Louise Jones (Queen Marys University London)

Prof Udo Oppermann (University of Oxford)

Dr Sacha Howell (University of Manchester)

Key publications

Recent publications

More publications