Brain Cancer @ Leeds

Dr Heiko Wurdak – Group Leader

heikoContact Information

Dr Heiko Wurdak
Senior Translational Fellow
Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology
Wellcome Trust Brenner Building
St James’s University Hospital
LS9 7TF, Leeds
United Kingdom

tel: +44 (0) 113 343 8636


Dr Wurdak received training in biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetics during his undergraduate studies at the Technical University, Darmstadt, Germany. After completion of the Diploma in biology and an industrial internship (Maingen, Frankfurt, Germany), he joined the laboratory of Prof. Lukas Sommer at the ETH Zurich as a doctoral student. Dr Wurdak’s PhD work involved in vivo lineage tracing of neural stem cell populations, phenotypic analysis of tissues & stem cell derivatives in vivo, and cell signaling studies. He demonstrated that neural crest stem cell-specific ablation of TGFbeta signaling results in developmental malformations reminiscent of a congenital disease termed DiGeorge syndrome. Moreover, he found that TGFbeta signaling is implicated in eye and midbrain development, and in 2006, Dr Wurdak was awarded the ETH Zurich outstanding dissertation award.

Subsequently, Dr Wurdak became an EMBO (and subsequently AACR) postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Peter G. Schultz at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), La Jolla, USA. He studied small molecules that regulate the fate of somatic and tumour stem cells of the central nervous system. He gained comprehensive experience in interdisciplinary research identifying factors that cause differentiation of brain tumour stem cells and ES cells through large-scale genomic and chemical screens. He also elucidated the effects of a novel neurogenic small molecule (KHS101) on adult neurogenesis and neural stem cell fate.

Dr Wurdak started his independent academic career in January 2011 and received the MRC New Investigator grant in 2012, continuing his interests in brain tumour and stem cell biology.

Selected Publications

Guo Y., Partch C.L., Key J., Card P.B., Pashkov V., Patel A., Bruick R.K., Wurdak H., Gardner K.H. (2012). Regulating the ARNT/TACC3 Axis: Multiple Approaches to Manipulating Protein/Protein Interactions with Small Molecules. ACS Chem Biol. [Epub ahead of print].

Wurdak, H., Zhu S., Min K.H., Aimone L., Lairson L.L., Watson J., Chopiuk G., Demas J., Charette B., Halder R., Weerapana E., Cravatt B.F., Cline H.T., Peters E.C., Zhang J., Walker J.R., Wu C., Chang J., Tuntland T., Cho C.Y., Schultz PG. (2010). A small molecule accelerates neuronal differentiation in the adult rat. PNAS 107(51):22360 (times cited: 24; source: Scopus).

Wurdak, H., Zhu S., Romero A., Lorger M.., Watson J., Chiang C., Zhang J., Natu VS., Lairson L.L., Walker J.R., Trussell C.M., Harsh G.R., Vogel H., Felding-Habermann Orth A.P., Miraglia L.J., Rines D.R., Skirboll S.L., Schultz P.G. (2010) An RNAi Screen identifies TRRAP as a regulator of brain tumour-initiating cell differentiation. Cell Stem Cell 8;6(1):37-47(times cited: 28).

Zhu S., Wurdak H., Wang Y., Galkin A., Tao H., Li J., Lyssiotis CA, Yan F., Tu B.P, Miraglia L.J., Walker J.R., Sun F., Orth A.P., Schultz P.G., Wu X. (2009) A genomic screen identifies TYRO3 as a MITF regulator in melanoma. PNAS 106(40):17025-30 (times cited: 16).

Zhu S., Wurdak H., Wang J., Lyssiotis C.A., Peters E.C., Cho C.Y., Wu X., Schultz P.G. (2009) A small molecule primes embryonic stem cells for differentiation. Cell Stem Cell 4(5): 416-26 (times cited: 71).

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