A major figure in UK cancer research, Professor Axel Behrens joins The Institute of Cancer Research from the Francis Crick Institute. He will set up a new laboratory at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) as well as leading the Convergence Science Centre.
The Convergence Science Centre is a major strategic partnership between the ICR and Imperial College London. It will provide a paradigm-shift in cancer research by bringing together traditionally separate and distinct disciplines – such as biological, computational, physical, and engineering sciences – into collaborative, integrated research teams, that will shed light on unresolved problems in cancer biology and bring innovative treatments to cancer patients faster.
Professor Behrens completed his PhD in Austria and carried out his postdoctoral studies in Switzerland, before setting up a laboratory at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute (now part of the Francis Crick Institute) in 2001.
He is a well-known international expert in cancer stem cell biology. Recent standout publications from his group have shed new light on mechanisms of tumour progression in pancreatic cancer, and discovered a rare population of progenitor cells that can originate luminal breast cancers.
Professor Behrens has also built his credentials in convergence science – which brings together scientists from different disciplines to tackle research questions in new ways – by forging partnerships between biologists and scientists in other fields, including engineering, physics and mathematical modelling.
For example, working with physicists and computational scientists, Professor Behrens has pioneered 3D tumour imaging technology which provided fundamental new insights into how tumours develop.
Professor Axel Behrens said:
"I am extremely excited about joining the Cancer Research UK Convergence Science Centre. Multidisciplinary working is critical to finding innovative solutions to address the challenges we face in cancer research, diagnosis and treatment. Converging Imperial's outstanding technological capabilities in the physical sciences and engineering with the world-leading array of cancer biologists, translational researchers and clinicians at the ICR will not only accelerate progress but also lead us to new paradigms in patient care. I look forward to leading this groundbreaking partnership and driving collaboration between two such prestigious organisations."
Professor Paul Workman, the ICR's Chief Executive and Founding Director of the Centre, said:
"We are delighted to welcome Professor Behrens to the Cancer Research UK Convergence Science Centre, and to host his personal research laboratory here to the ICR. Axel brings an outstanding record of collaboration across different disciplines, including cell biology, physics, engineering and mathematical modelling. He also has the enthusiasm, scientific curiosity and desire to make a difference to patients that will inspire researchers in the Convergence Science Centre to develop new approaches to tackle some of the toughest challenges in cancer research and treatment."
Professor Nick Jennings, Vice Provost for Research and Enterprise at Imperial College London, said:
"Professor Behrens brings to this role a wealth of knowledge in cancer research alongside a strong understanding of the engineering and physical science fields. This complementary experience will be key to leading the CRUK Convergence Science Centre as a cross faculty initiative bringing together research disciplines and driving an innovative multi-disciplinary vision for the Centre."
Iain Foulkes PhD, Executive Director of Research & Innovation at Cancer Research UK, said:
"We are delighted that Professor Behrens has joined the Cancer Research UK Convergence Science Centre as Scientific Director. Professor Behrens will be central to shaping the Centre's future strategy and building a vibrant inter-organisational collaborative culture that will nurture a new generation of truly multidisciplinary cancer researchers."