31 May 2018

Talented CPR Researcher Wins This Year’s Danscatt Award

Today PhD Pablo Alcón from the Protein Structure and Function programme receives the Danscatt Award for best PhD thesis. The thesis was conducted under supervision of Professor Guillermo Montoya and uncovers how a new protein from the CRISPR-Cas family increases the chances of conducting gene modifications. 

Pablo Alcón

(Picture: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge)

Today PhD Pablo Alcon receives the award for best PhD thesis of the year from Danscatt at the annual meeting in Roskilde University.

Pablo Alcón has worked extensively with microscopic observations of the protein Cpf1, which is equipped with a sort of GPS function that can both locate and cleave specific DNA regions.

Pablo Alcón defended his PhD thesis, ’Structural Studies on Chromatin Recognition’, in June 2017, while the study was published in the scientific journal Nature. The study was conducted in close cooperation with Associate Professor Stefano Stella and Pablo’s supervisor, Professor Guillermo Montoya, who was the one who recommended Pablo for the Danscatt Award.

‘During his stay in our lab, Pablo developed a strong expertise in molecular structural biology and applied it to the study of our long-standing interest in chromatin biology and protein-DNA interactions. I believe that Pablo’s work in our group has reached the highest standards in the structural biology field and I am truly convinced that his hard work deserves to be recognised with the 2017 Danscatt PhD Award’, says Professor Guillermo Montoya.

Excelling Within the Field of X-ray Crystallography and CRISPR
Pablo’s molecular characterisation of the so-called CRISPR-Cpf1 R-loop complex was carried out using X-ray crystallography. The successful outcome of this extremely challenging project was rewarded with a wealth of information extracted from this high-resolution structure of a large protein-DNA-RNA complex, further supplemented by the biochemical analysis and mutational study. This work has obtained prolific recognition, leading to three scientific publications as well as broad attention from the general media.

“This recognition of my work means a lot to me. It is definitely a confidence booster. It is also important to say that Stefano and the rest of the Montoya Group played a crucial role in my findings and it has been a privilege to work with them and the state-of-the-art facilities at CPR”, says Pablo Alcón.

Animation showing the detailed three-dimensional structure of the Cpf1 enzyme

Pablo is now moving on with his career and will continue to use structural molecular biology to answer questions on chromatin recognition and DNA repair, now at the MRC-LMB in Cambridge (UK).

The Danscatt Award
The annual Danscatt PhD Award is given to an excellent young researcher, who has completed his or her PhD thesis within the past year. The thesis work must demonstrate science at a high international level, just as it must have been accomplished with the use of neutron or hard x-ray synchrotron/XFEL sources and/or the development of new methods for acquisition, processing or interpretation of scattering data from neutron or hard x-ray synchrotron/XFEL sources.

Read more about Montoya's group work here.

Contact information

Professor Guillermo Montoya
Email: guillermo.montoya@cpr.ku.dk
Phone: +45 35 33 06 63 / Mobile: +45 51 32 45 81