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This is one of six new Oxford-Celgene Fellowships, which give postdoctoral researchers exposure to the field of commercial drug discovery and development.

Ruxandra dafinca
I feel very lucky to have been awarded an Oxford-Celgene Fellowship and I am excited to start working on my project which will hopefully uncover new therapeutic targets involved in neuronal transport defects in ALS.
- Ruxandra Dafinca

The Oxford-Celgene Fellowship Programme was established in 2015 with the aim of stimulating new scientific discovery and translation and to facilitate skills and people transfer between researchers in academia and industry.

Oxford’s relationship with Celgene continues to grow year on year, with the new 2019 Fellowships taking the total of Oxford-Celgene Fellows to 22. The new Fellowships represent an additional investment of £3M into the University.

Ruxandra Dafinca models amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or motor neuron disease) in neurons obtained by differentiating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from patients. 

During her three-year research project she will collaborate with Celgene scientists, benefit from mentorship and training, and visit facilities at Celgene labs in the US and Spain.

Ruxandra is interested in a particular mutation found in ALS motor neurons. The protein TDP-43 is found in the wrong compartment of the cell in 97 per cent of ALS cases. She wants to understand what drives this change. Using microscopy and mouse models, she will investigate how transport both in and out of the nucleus, and across the cell, is generally different in patient cells compared to healthy neurons.

In year two of her project, Ruxandra hopes to use her understanding of how the protein is disregulated to begin screening for drugs that are able to restore normal function. She is excited about the potential of this work, which is based on good preliminary data.