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Dr Gavin Brown

Formerly at Lancaster University

Gavin Brown

Research overview

My research expertise is in glycobiology, namely the study of the structure and function of molecules which contain carbohydrate moieties. My main research interest is in the structure and function of connective tissues, particularly the molecular organisation of the cornea which results in a transparency. I also have research interests in cartilage integrity (including arthritis), neurodegenerative disease (Parkinson's), cancer metastasis and the development of biosensor technologies to study molecular interactions.

Current Research

Projects available in my laboratory include:-

  • Structural analysis of glycosaminoglycans and method development
  • The role of the small protein dermatopontin in extracellular matrices
  • The corneal phenotype of dermatopontin-knockout mice
  • Analysis of cell surface glycosaminoglycans, particular in relation to carcinogenesis

Research Interests

My research interests focus on a class of molecules called proteoglycans that are key components on all cell surfaces and within extracellular matrices. Proteoglycans are composed of a protein chain to which is attached one or more negatively charged polysaccharides called glycosaminoglycans. These molecules are now known to have major roles in a variety of key biological processes involved in health and disease including tissue organisation, cell signalling, cell adhesion and host-pathogen interactions.

Much of my research concentrates on aspects of fundamental biochemistry of molecular structure and interaction that results in healthy matrix organisation in connective tissues such as cartilage, cornea and skin. Further, my work explores the biomedical implications of proteoglycan dysfunction or structural alteration and is designed to lead to a greater understanding of their involvement in a variety of disease processes including the development of osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis, the metastatic spread of cancer and corneal eye disease. Over twenty years my laboratory has built up considerable expertise in the structural analysis of glycosaminoglycans, particularly one called keratan sulphate.

Scientific achievements made by my research group include:

  • The structural characterisation keratan sulphate (a key polysaccharide component of some proteoglycans) from a variety of tissues including cartilage, brain, cornea and tumour cell surfaces.
  • The development of a structural profiling methodologies for analysing microgram quantities of keratan sulphates and other glycosaminoglycans.
  • The elucidation that highly metastatic ovarian tumour cells bear a distinctive form of keratan sulphate
  • Progress in understanding of how keratan sulphate is essential for matrix integrity in several tissue types
  • Progress in undertanding how dematopontin, a proteoglycan-binding matrix protein, contributes to collagen fibril organisation in cornea and tendon.

Funding for my research has come from a variety of sources including the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council, Arthritis Research UK, the Nuffield Foundation and North West Cancer Research.

Current Teaching

Currently I teach the following modules:-

  • BIOL111 Molecules of Life: structure of proteins, carbohydrates and nucleic acids
  • BIOL201 Biochemistry: glucose homeostasis
  • BIOL301 Cell Signalling: TGFbeta and cytokine signalling
  • BIOL437 Molecular Basis of Cancer: metastasis

In previous years I have taught topics within glycobiology, cancer biology, connective tissue biochemistry, immunology, protein biochemistry and analytical biochemistry.

I am also the Director of Studies of the one-year Pre-medical Studies Course (Cert HE).

Additional Information

I am a Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences within the Division of Biomedical and Life Sciences. I am also the Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medicine where my role is to lead the annual resource planning process and budget setting process, manage fauclty communications, monitor the effectiveness of the faculty staff development activities, develop external partnerships and chair the human resources committee.

For eight years I was the the University’s Dean of Undergraduate Studies where my role was to enhance the quality of undergraduate learning and teaching at the University. I contributed to strategy and policy development for undergraduate provision, oversaw quality assurance & enhancement and also ensured that operational matters were optimized and implemented consistently. I also acted as a champion for the recruitment of high-quality undergraduate students and the development of our portfolio of degree programmes. I worked closely with many colleagues within the university, including the Deputy VC, PVC Colleges and the Student Experience, PVC Research, Faculty Associate Deans for Teaching, the Students' Union, Heads of Departments, the Academic Standards and Quality Unit, the International Office, the UK Student Recruitment Office, the Facilities Division, Information Systems Services (Computing) and many others.

I have a keen interest in the use of technology to support learning and teaching and have been involved in a number of university projects in this area including the development of iLancaster (a mobile app for students), introduction of a new virtual learning environment and student portal, the enhancement of learning and teaching-related information provided to students and staff, the upgrade of IT facilities in all teaching spaces on campus and the creation of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).


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