Group Members

Senior Post-Doctoral Research Associates

Dr. Leticia Torres
I graduated from University of Mar del Plata in 2004 and remained there for my PhD in Biological Sciences, graduating in 2009. For the last ten years I have worked in the characterization and improvement of bacterial enzymes, including glycosyltransferases, glycosylases, amidases, esterases and other hydrolases. My PhD focused on understanding the modularity of proteins involved in sucrose metabolism of bacteria. Particularly, my research in Agrobacterium tumefaciens unraveled a new metabolic pathway leading to the biosynthesis of a sugar osmolyte. I became specially interested in protein engineering during my PhD and in 2010, joined the Severo Ochoa Centre for Molecular Biology in Madrid, Spain, where in collaboration with Antibiotics S.A. (a Spanish biotechnology company), I worked on the cryoactivation of a thermostable penicillin-acylase from Thermus thermophilus using rational and directed evolution techniques. I joined the Pinheiro group to work in the development of an HNA episome in April 2014.
Dr. Christopher Cozens
After my undergraduate BSc in Molecular Biology at the University of St Andrews I moved to Phil Holliger’s lab at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, where I stayed for 7 years as PhD and postdoc. My PhD work focused on expanding the substrate spectra of DNA polymerases for RNA and XNA synthesis. As a postdoc I continued engineering polymerases as well as developing methods for SELEX using XNAs and carrying out aptamer selections.

In October 2015 I joined to the Pinheiro lab to take on a new range of XNAs and polymerases.

Post-doctoral Research Associates

Dr. Antje Krueger
tRNA Synthetases
 I studied Nutrition Science at the University of Potsdam and the German Institute of Human Nutrition, Germany, and graduated in 2008.
Fascinated by the impact of metabolism on all aspects of cellular regulation, I then joined the lab of Markus Ralser at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany, where I undertook a PhD in natural sciences, graduating in 2014. My PhD work focussed on the influence of metabolism on gene and protein expression during the oxidative stress response.
My deep interest in protein translation and the genetic code, led me to the Pinheiro group at the University College London in May 2014, where I develop new in vitro selection methods facilitating the directed evolution of amino-acyl-tRNA synthetases with reassigned amino acid specificity.
Eszter Csibra
Dr. Eszter Csibra
I studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, graduating in Pathology in 2009. Following this, I remained in Cambridge to pursue interests in RNA biology and virology by undertaking a PhD in the Department of Pathology under the supervision of Dr Ian Brierley. My thesis focused on the analysis of translational recoding mechanisms in viral gene expression.
I joined the Pinheiro laboratory in November 2014, to expand my RNA world into that of orthogonal genetic systems based on XNAs.

Research Assistants

Mr. Warren Hazelton
Ms. Ana Riesco
TNAepisome, invivoXNA

Post-graduate Students

Mr. Pedro Tizei
 I studied Biological Sciences at the University of São Paulo (USP, Brazil), working on research projects in Enzyme Biochemistry and Developmental Biology during my undergraduate degree. That was followed by a Masters in Genetics and Molecular Biology at University of Campinas (Unicamp, Brazil), in which I developed a project on the genetics of yeast strains used in industrial bioethanol production from sugarcane. During the Masters I became interested in Synthetic Biology and Directed Evolution and decided to join the Pinheiro group for my PhD. I am currently working on establishing microcin synthases as a platform for the directed evolution of novel bioactive compounds, sponsored by a fellowship from the Brazilian government (CAPES foundation).
Ms. Yan Kay Ho
tRNA Synthetases
 I studied Natural Sciences at University College London (UCL, 2010-2014), focusing on Genetics, Evolution and Development. My Masters project, with Prof. Mark Thomas, was to develop a method for identifying signatures of natural selection in human evolution through gene-protein interaction networks. Currently, I am a first year PhD student on the BBSRC LIDo programme, having joined the Pinheiro Lab at UCL in June 2015.
Mr. Ewan Coates
 I obtained my undergraduate degree in chemistry from the Unviersity of Edinburgh (2012). As part of my undergraduate studies, I spent one year working as a synthetic organic chemist placement student for AstraZeneca, working on diabetes and cancer drug discovery projects. My masters project at the University of Edinburgh involved characterising a cytochrome P450 enzyme from Campylobacter jejuni with Dr Simon Daff. After being accepted onto a Wellcome Trust funded doctoral training program at the ISMB, I undertook two collaborative rotation projects with Professor Charles Marson and Dr Vitor Pinheiro. These rotations lead me to start my current PhD project exploring the use of synthetic biology to evolve post-translationally modified peptides to produce novel antimicrobial compounds.
Mr. Alberto Aparicio de Narvaez
Visiting PhD student from UCL STS
Hugo Vilanueva
Mr. Hugo Villanueva
Collaboration with Dr. Renos Savva
 I am French and did my undergraduate at the university of Edinburgh getting a degree in biotechnology and working on the Synthetic Yeast 2.0 project, specifically on the SCRaMbLE technology. During my masters in Systems and Synthetic Biology, I continued working on the Synthetic Yeast Project and SCRaMbLE doc using on creating libraries of three fluorescent proteins and testing yeast terminator strength via flow cytometry. I continued my interests in synthetic biology at the Renos Savva lab and the Vitor Pinheiro lab focusing on phage-based biotechnology.

Undergraduate Students

Mr. Andras Sandor UCL BIOLM030 student
Mr. Yi Fan UCL BIOCM010 student



Mr. Samuel Alberman Summer volunteer
Ms. Paola Handal Marquez Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation Scholarship
Ms. Chinyere Ihuegbu MRes Biosciences – Membrane channels (collaboration with Prof. Kaila Srai)
Mr. Enrique de Zamacona Meza MRes Synthetic Biology
Ms. Pinelopi-Eleftheria Stamou MRes Synthetic Biology
Mr. Daniel de la Torre UCL BIOC3002 student
Ms. Barbara Steijl BBK iGEM, Research assistant
Ms. Havva Yalinca LiDO BBSRC rotation PhD student
 Dr. Marleen Renders Visiting Post-doc (Herdewijn Group – KUL/Belgium)
 Ms. Mei Teh UCL BIOC3002 student
 Ms. Li Cheah UCL BIOC3002 student
 Ms. Bethan Wolfenden LiDO BBSRC rotation PhD student
 Mr. Joel Sabaniego Nunes ERASMUS exchange student
Mr. Thomas Murthi MRes Synthetic Biology student
Ms. Luba Prout XNA nanotechnology, BBK iGEM
Mr. Edoardo Gianni Biochemical Society Summer Vacation Studentship
 Ms. Ana Riesco Summer volunteer
 Mr. Paul Rutten Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation Scholarship
 Ms. Laure Canarelli Biochemical Society Summer Vacation Studentship