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Professor Anna Philpott

107-Philpott-2017Professor Anna Philpott

Proneural transcription factors


Laboratory: Hutchison/MRC Research Centre, Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

Departmental Affiliation: Department of Oncology


Anna Philpott graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA degree in Natural Sciences in 1988 and a PhD in Molecular Cell Biology in 1991.  She held post-doctoral fellowships at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Centre in 1992, moving to the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School in 1993. 

She returned to the University of Cambridge in 1998 to a Lectureship in the Department of Oncology, where she is currently Professor of Cancer and Developmental Biology and Deputy Head of Department.


Rosetrees Trust, Medical Research Council, Neuroblastoma UK, Cancer Research UK


(A) Neurons generated by transcription factor-mediated forward programming. (B) Neurons stained purple in a developing Xenopus frog embryo. (C) Confetti coloured labelling of pancreatic ducts.



We aim to characterise mechanisms that co-ordinate cell cycling with stem cell maintenance and differentiation during development, homeostasis and disease.  In particular, we have uncovered a conserved regulatory mechanism where cdk-dependent phosphorylation of multiple proneural proteins promotes maintenance of progenitor/stem status, while dephosphorylation drives differentiation. 

Our future aims are three-fold: we will further characterise the molecular mechanisms that link cell cycling and differentiation: We will use this understanding to develop methods potentiating the directed differentiation of proneural protein-regulated tissues, including neurons and pancreatic islets: We will also investigate perturbation of the balance between stem-ness/progenitor maintenance and differentiation that is a frequent hallmark of multiple cancers, focussing on molecular regulation of proliferation and differentiation in neuroblastoma, glioblastoma and insulinoma, with the aim of developing new therapeutic strategies.


850 Philpott group 2 1ratio 

Group Members

Roberta Azzarelli, Daniel Marcos Corchado, John Davies, Sebastien Gillotin, Laura Hardwick, Aoibheann McNally, Lydia Parkinson, Magdalena Sznurkowska 

Current Opportunities

We currently have the following graduate opportunities in the lab:


Plain English

Controlling the balance between division of cells and the process of differentiation, whereby cells stop dividing and adopt their specialised function, is critical both in development and in adult tissues that must maintain and repair themselves. Moreover, in many cancers and in particular cancers of children, this balance is disrupted. We are investigating the role of a class of proteins, the proneural factors, in controlling cell division and differentiation, and how their activity is controlled by chemical modification in response to their cellular environment. We are: - Studying how chemical modification of proneural proteins controls cell division versus differentiation in the nervous system, pancreas and gut. - Investigating how proneural proteins work to turn on different genes to either promote cell division or arrest it, depending on the environment the cells are in. - Developing treatments for the childhood cancer neuroblastoma by changing the chemical modification of proneural proteins using new drugs. In the longer term, our understanding of the control of this crucial class of proteins, the proneurals, will help us to turn stem cells into useful tissues such as nerve and pancreas, as well as aid us in rational development of new therapies for cancers where proneural protein activity has been disrupted.


Key Publications