Researcher

Associate Professor Darren Saunders

My Expertise

Cancer, metabolism, biology, genomics, science policy, biochemistry.

Biography

Darren is a cancer biologist and Associate Professor in Medicine at UNSW, where he heads the Ubiquitin Signaling Lab - researching fundamental mechanisms of protein homeostasis and cell signalling in cancer and neurodegeneration. Darren undertook post-doctoral training at the Garvan Institute and University of British Columbia and has held fellowships from the US Dept. of Defense and Cancer Institute NSW. Darren is secretary of Science and...view more

Darren is a cancer biologist and Associate Professor in Medicine at UNSW, where he heads the Ubiquitin Signaling Lab - researching fundamental mechanisms of protein homeostasis and cell signalling in cancer and neurodegeneration. Darren undertook post-doctoral training at the Garvan Institute and University of British Columbia and has held fellowships from the US Dept. of Defense and Cancer Institute NSW. Darren is secretary of Science and Technology Australia and a regular commentator on television and radio,resident scientist on ABC TV’s The Drum.

Broad Research Areas: Cancer; Cell Biology and Gene Regulation; Biochemistry; Genetics - Genome Analysis; Biochemistry
    
Specific Research Keywords: Cancer; Molecular Oncology, Ubiquitin, Cancer Metabolism, Proteomics, Serpin, Proteosatsis, Neurodegeneration, Functional Genomics, High content imaging.
        

 


My Awards

  • Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science - Finalist (2018)
  • CommunityEngagement Award - UNSW (2017)
  • Worldwide Cancer Research Prize, Beatson Int’l Cancer Conference (2014)
  • Australian Leadership Award, ADC Future Forum (2012)
  • Excellence in Postgraduate Research Supervision Award, UNSW Postgraduate Council (2012)
  • Career Development Fellowship - Cancer Institute NSW (2010-2012).
  • Life Sciences Research Award – NSW Office of Science and Medical Research (2010-2012)
  • International Partnership Initiative Travel Award - Stem Cell Network Canada (2010).

My Research Activities

Our research is focused on proteostasis and metabolic reprogramming in cancer and neurodegeneration, integrating various platforms (including proteomics, genomics, and metabolomics) to better understand genotype-phenotype relationships. I have a long-standing interest in protein homeostasis (proteostasis), publishing numerous manuscripts providing mechanistic insights into serpin biology and the Ubiquitin-proteasome system, with more recent work aimed at characterising novel mutations involved in protein misfolding and Ub systems in various disease states. I developed a novel platform for screening protein-protein interactions in situ, and novel proteomics approaches to systematically identify E3 Ub ligase substrates and for exploring interactome diversity in cell signalling. We use a number of models systems including patient-derived iPS cells, patient derived tumour xenografts and transgenic models of cancer and neurodegeneration. I am also collaborating to develop creative technology-based approaches to visualizing and communicating complex data, using music to explore the intersection between genetics and environment.


My Engagement

  • Darren ventures where few scientists dare to tread – he takes evidence-based science, makes it accessible to a general audience and, importantly takes it to where unengaged or vulnerable audiences are already seeking health advice. Darren counters the stereotype of the detached or hyper-rational scientist that has helped create the emerging post-fact culture and a dangerous decline in public trust in science.
  • Darren employs a deliberate strategy to show the human side of science, to educate and engage without judgement, inviting audiences to understand the motivation of scientists and share in the both the frustrations and successes of being a scientist. To not only show the outcomes of research - but the motivation of scientists, the process of doing science, and how new findings and technology are important to our everyday lives. This builds empathy and trust with the public, countering the emerging threat of “alternative facts” and helping people make better decisions about health and technology.
  • Television: As Resident Scientist and regular panel member on ABC TV’s The Drum, Darren has been a trailblazer. He has shown that scientists can make valuable contributions to broader discussions on current affairs, giving science a stronger presence in society. Importantly, Darren uses a scientific approach in this context, deploying evidence and critical analysis to topics ranging from diversity and equity, politics, domestic violence, foreign affairs, and masculinity. Regular expert guest on ABC News 24, Channel 7 News,The Project- discussing new cancer drug breakthroughs, cancer risk, alternative medicine, etc.
  • Radio: ABC radio Nightlife- fortnightly national radio slot discussing the biggest science stories of the week, with a focus on putting the science into everyday context. Frequent interviews and expert commentary on ABC (Radio National, regional and metro).
  • Print/online: Regular op-eds and science briefs for ABC Onlineand The Conversation, and has written for New Scientist, Women’s Weekly, Daily Telegraph, NZ Herald, QantasLink inflight magazine, and Men’s Style Australia.
  • Community: As part of an ongoing philanthropic relationship with Ridley Agriproducts, I developed and presented Cancer in the Community- a national public education campaign on cancer risk and research, travelling to regional and rural centres around Australia, reaching hundreds of cancer patients and their families. Regular speaker atfundraising and corporate events anddirect community engagement via events such as Cancer Pathfinders, and That’ll Learn You– where comedians and scientists team up to debate in front of a live audience. Also include this as a volunteer contribution in your experience summary.
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Contact

+61 2 93852494