Dr Alexander Garvin


I joined the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology as a Lecturer in Cancer Biology in April 2023.

I obtained my undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology and the University of Surrey followed by a PhD in School of Pharmacy at University of Nottingham. I carried out my post-doctoral research in the School of Cancer Sciences (later Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences) at the University of Birmingham.

Research interests

SUMO Proteases

While in the lab of Jo Morris we identified several SUMO (Small Ubiquitin-like Proteases - SENPs) as important regulators of DNA Double Strand Break (DSB) repair. SUMO is a small ubiquitin-like protein that is covalently attached to proteins (SUMOylation). Attaching SUMO to proteins has important regulatory roles for their function. SUMOylation is important for most biological processes in eukaryotes. SUMOylation is a very transient modification due to a small family of proteases that clip SUMOs off proteins. These SENP enzymes therefore are critical for maintaining the proper balance of SUMOylation in a cell. We know relatively little about how SENPs are regulated, but mis-regulation of SENPs occurs in many human diseases – most notably cancer. We aim to better understand how SENPs function in cells to target them for disease treatment.


Role of unconjugated SUMOs in health and disease

One SUMO family member, SUMO4 does not become conjugated. I have shown for the first time that SUMO4 is functional as a free SUMO protein that regulates the activity of SENP1. As all SUMO family members can exist in both a free and conjugated state this opens the possibility that other SUMOs may have a conjugation independent role in the cell. Furthermore, the balance between the free/unconjugated pool of SUMO and the conjugate pool varies widely between different tissue types and disease states. We aim to better understand the biology of free SUMO4 protein, and how changes in the conjugation/deconjugation status of SUMO1-3 impact cell function.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://biologicalsciences.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • BSc (Hons) Molecular Biology
  • PhD

Professional memberships

  • Biochemical Society
  • EACR
  • Society of Experimental Biology
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>
    <li><a href="//phd.leeds.ac.uk/project/1921-disrupted-sumo-signalling-in-epithelial-cancers,-implications-for-genome-stability-and-response-to-therapy.">Disrupted SUMO signalling in epithelial cancers, implications for genome stability and response to therapy.</a></li>