Susan M. Lea, D.Phil., F.Med.Sci.

Susan M. Lea, D.Phil., F.Med.Sci.
Chief
Senior Investigator

Susan Lea is an internationally renowned structural biologist who has pioneered the use of mixed structural methods to study host-pathogen interactions and other medically important molecular pathways. Her laboratory uses and develops cutting-edge structural methods including cryo-electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography to define molecular mechanisms involved in health and disease states.

Areas of Expertise

1) structural biology, 2) bacterial pathogenesis, 3) immune regulation and evasion, 4) protein secretion, 5) cryo-electron microscopy, 6) X-ray crystallography

Contact Info

Susan M. Lea, D.Phil., F.Med.Sci.
Center for Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute
Building 538, Room 142
Frederick, MD 21702
Ph: 301-846-5016
susan.lea@nih.gov

My research seeks to use structural information to understand molecular mechanisms involved in human health and disease states.

Projects focus on different biological systems ranging from bacterial pathogenesis systems to systems involved in human cell division. A  common theme is how large, multiprotein, often membrane-crossing, complexes are assembled.

The studies of bacterial pathogenesis often examine large membrane-spanning complexes involved in bacterial protein/toxin secretion or bacterial movement. Research on human systems includes studies of serum-resident protein cascades involved in immune responses and coagulation, how centrosomes assemble during mitosis and how a variety of integral membrane proteins function in protein and membrane maturation, as transporters or cellular receptors. The systems we study are challenging, and we use multiple biophysical methods to address the questions we pose – this often leads us into methods development (both software and experimental) to allow us to obtain the answers we seek.

NIH Scientific Focus Areas:
Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Structural Biology
  1. Deme JC, Johnson S, Vickery O, Aron A, Monkhouse H, Griffiths T, James RH, Berks BC, Coulton JW, Stansfeld PJ, Lea SM.
    Nat Microbiol. 5(12): 1553-1564, 2020. [ Journal Article ]
  2. Johnson S, Fong YH, Deme JC, Furlong EJ, Kuhlen L, Lea SM.
    Nat Microbiol. 5(7): 966-975, 2020. [ Journal Article ]
  3. Kuhlen L, Johnson S, Zeitler A, Bäurle S, Deme JC, Caesar JJE, Debo R, Fisher J, Wagner S, Lea SM.
    Nat Commun. 11(1): 1296, 2020. [ Journal Article ]
  4. Lauber F, Deme JC, Lea SM, Berks BC.
    Nature. 564(7734): 77-82, 2018. [ Journal Article ]
  5. Feng Z, Caballe A, Wainman A, Johnson S, Haensele AFM, Cottee MA, Conduit PT, Lea SM, Raff JW.
    Cell. 169(6): 1078-1089, 2017. [ Journal Article ]

Susan’s research career started with a Ph.D. in the Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics (1990-1993) at the University of Oxford with Prof. David Stuart F.R.S. using cutting-edge X-ray crystallography to study foot and mouth disease virus. In 1995 she established her independent group in the Department of Biochemistry, Oxford, with one of the first Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowships. At that time the group focused on structural and functional studies of human enteroviruses and their receptors, which commonly complement system molecules. In 1999 she was appointed to a tenured academic position (university lecturer) in the Department of Biochemistry, Oxford, and continued to grow a program increasingly focused on human complement system regulation and pathogen evasion. This led to an interest in bacterial pathogenesis systems which expanded when she moved her group to the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford, in 2000. She was appointed to the Chair in Microbiology in that Department in 2016. Susan was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) in 2015 and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2017.

Name Position
Joseph Caesar Ph.D. Special Volunteer
Justin Deme Ph.D. Staff Scientist
Steven Johnson Ph.D. Staff Scientist