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Computational models are becoming essential to understanding the molecular basis of the phenotypes we are most interesting understanding and manipulating in. My current work focuses on the origin of an observed hyper-Warburg effect (massive production of lactate) by head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma. This cancer is diagnosed in more than 500 000 people annually and causes death in nearly half within 5 years. Understanding the development of the aberrant metabolic phenotype presents an opportunity for early detection, which is associated with better prognosis, and possible drug target identification down the line. I am focused in implementing a context-specific genome-scale model using multi-omics data to determine the set of metabolic fluxes that might give rise the hyper-Warburg effect in this cancer.
I started my career in systems biology with an MSc in Stellenbosch in South Africa, where I worked on using iodoacetic acid in to experimentally determine metabolic flux control coefficients in cell cultures. This has culminated in a recent article applying this methodology to breast cancer cells (Kouril et al.). Afterwards, I did a PhD in Groningen in the Netherlands, where I used kinetic modelling alongside in vitro and in vivo experiments to understand inborn errors of metabolism, with a special focus on medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency. The first article from this work has recently become available (Odendaal, Jager et al.).