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Christiana Ruhrberg wins Judah Folkman Award

Congratulations to Professor Christiana Ruhrberg, who has won the 2018 Judah Folkman Award in Vascular Biology from the North American Vascular Biology Organization (NAVBO).

Christiana Ruhrberg studied Biology at the Justus Liebig University (Giessen, Germany), and obtained her first class Diploma/MSc degree in 1992. After taking on an MSc/research assistant position at the University of Sussex for two years to elucidate genetic changes in ovarian cancer, she moved to Imperial College London to work for another two years to study the genomic organisation of the gene-rich human ‘surfeit’ locus. She then carried out her PhD project in the laboratory of Fiona Watt at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (1994-97) where she identified and described the function of the envoplakin and periplakin genes. Her postdoctoral research in the laboratories of Robb Krumlauf at the National Institute for Medical Research in London (1997-1999) was funded by a MRC postdoctoral training fellowship and dedicated to studying the role of Hoxa1, Hoxb1 and Hoxb2 during hindbrain development. During her second postdoc with David Shima at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London (2000-2002), she was funded by a ICRF fellowship and worked on VEGF-A-mediated blood vessel branching.

Professor Ruhrberg joined the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology as Principal Research Fellow in 2003 and became Professor of Neuronal and Vascular Development at UCL in 2011. She is a Wellcome Trust Investigator and has recently also received the Cheryll Tickle Medal from the British Society for Developmental Biology (BSDB).

The Judah Folkman Award recognises outstanding contributions from mid-career vascular biologists. It is named after Dr Judah Folkman, an American scientist who founded the field of tumour angiogenesis research.

Professor Ruhrberg's research team seeks to determine how cells of the nervous and vascular systems interact during mammalian development and in disease, with the goal of identifying molecular targets for therapeutic intervention in vascular disease.

Professor Ruhrberg has pioneered the mouse hindbrain as a powerful new model to identify novel mechanisms that regulate blood vessel growth and blood vessel roles in neurodevelopment. Using the hindbrain model in conjunction with retinal studies, her collaborative research has demonstrated that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) forms gradients that guide blood vessel growth in developing organs and that macrophages act as bridge cells for vessel fusion during network formation. Her team further showed that neuropilin 1 (NRP1) has a dual role in VEGF and matrix signalling in retina vascularisation, and that VEGF signalling through NRP1 helps position neurons and their axons in the developing brain.

Professor Ruhrberg says, “Judah Folkman was a visionary with a contagious passion for medical research. His findings on tumour vascularisation have inspired a generation of vascular biologists, including myself. I am delighted to receive this award in his honour.”

Professor Ruhrberg will present the Folkman Award Lecture and receive the award at the 2018 Vascular Biology conference in Rhode Island, USA, on 17th October 2018. The lecture will be entitled "Molecular and cellular mechanisms of blood vessel growth." She will also present the Cheryll Tickle Lecture at the annual BSDB conference in Warwick, UK, on 18th April 2018.

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Professor Christiana Ruhrberg
UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
11-43 Bath Street
London EC1V 9EL

e-mail: c.ruhrberg[at]
Tel: 020 7608 4017
Fax: 020 7608 6810