Meet the Genomics team
Professor Ley Sander
Medical Director at Epilepsy Society
Ley Sander is Professor of Neurology, Head of the Department of Clinical and Experimental Epilepsy at UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, Consultant Neurologist at UCLH National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and Medical Director at Epilepsy Society.
Professor Sanjay Sisodiya
Director of Genomics at Epilepsy Society
Sanjay Sisodiya is Professor of Neurology at UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology and Honorary Consultant Neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and Director of Genomics at Epilepsy Society.
Dr Simona Balestrini
Dr Simona Balestrini is the Muir Maxwell Trust Research Fellow at Epilepsy Society and Honorary Clinical Associate Professor at UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology. She is about to begin a three year project using a pioneering technique to look at the activity of the brain in people with epilepsy.
Dr Wendy Jones
Wendy Jones is a Consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children where she jointly runs the dysmorphology service as well as the Developmental Epilepsy Genomics clinic with Neurology and Neurodisability colleagues. As an honorary Consultant Geneticist at UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology and Epilepsy Society's Chalfont Centre she reviews individuals and their families in the Epilepsy Genomics Clinic and carries out genetic counselling.
Dr Saima Nayab
Genomics Programme Director
Saima is the Genomics Programme Director at Epilepsy Society. Saima completed her BSc Honours degree in Biotechnology in medicine and obtained her PhD in Cell Biology from UCL in 2006. She has extensive lab based research experience working as a postdoctoral scientist in academia as well as in the Biotech industry. She completed her MBA from Open University in 2014, whilst working full time as a field application scientist and Head of Technical Services department, and specialised in technology transfer, commercialisation of research and knowledge management.
Prior to joining Epilepsy Society in 2017, Saima spent four years at the National Institute of Health Research as a Senior Programme Manager where she carried out commissioning, due diligence, contracting, and monitoring of a large portfolio of collaborative research projects funded by Department of Health and Social Care. She is currently responsible for the overall operations of genomics research department, including budget and project management, research collaborations and reporting progress to Research Committees and Trustee Board, under the supervision of Professor Sisodiya. Saima also provides scientific support to the fundraising and marketing teams.
Natascha studied Anatomy, Histology and Neuroscience at the University of Sydney, Australia and completed a master’s degree in Neuroscience at King’s College London.
She joined Professor Sisodiya’s laboratory in 2015. Her responsibilities include participant recruitment and testing, such us Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), 3D-Photography, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation with Electromyography (TMS-EMG) and with Electroencephalography (TMS-EEG). She supports various projects of the research group, including international collaborations, such as GEL’s 100,000 Genomes Project. Further, she has overseen the data management for these projects and has worked on designing the group’s new deep phenotyping database.
Dr Helena Martins
Helena studied Mathematics and obtained her master degree in Automation and Systems Engineering at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil. During the course of her MSc she developed an interest in computational Biology. In 2018, Helena received her PhD from the University of Grenoble Alpes, in France. As a result of her research, she developed a new statistical method to identify genes under selection in populations with admixed individuals. In her current role as a Bioinformatician Helena is applying computational and statistical methods to analyse complex genomics data in order to understand the genetic architecture of different types of epilepsies.
Dr Laura Hernandez
Laura joined Professor Sanjay Sisodiya’s group in 2014, after having completed her PhD in Genetics from University of Salamanca, Spain. She helped the team in setting up the Epilepsy Society Research centre lab to perform Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), genotyping and a range of other molecular biology techniques. She routinely sequences DNA of patients seen at Chalfont and analyses NGS data in order to discover mutations, which might be a cause of epilepsy. She is involved in the screening of candidate genes in epilepsy, discovery of de novo variants in trios, analysis of whole genome of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) patients, genotyping of patients who respond to the Ketogenic Diet and study of whole exome of Dravet patients among others.
Laura has worked on a number of research projects involving collaborators from all over the world, such as GEL’s 100K Genome Project, and has published her research findings in peer-reviewed journals.
Dr Katri Silvennoinen
Clinical Research Associate
Katri completed her medical training in Helsinki, Finland, where she is also undertaking specialist training in neurology. She is currently working as a Clinical Research Associate and studying towards a PhD under the supervision of Professor Sisodiya. Her project involves using transcranial magnetic stimulation, a means of non-invasive brain stimulation, to study changes in the excitability of the brain in genetic epilepsies. The aim of this research study is to identify useful markers for diagnosing and treating genetic epilepsies.
Dr Diego Jiménez-Jiménez
Dr Diego Jiménez-Jiménez graduated with a first-class degree in Medicine from “Universidad Central del Ecuador” in 2009. He worked in Neurosurgery from the Teaching Hospital Ambato and received a prestigious scholarship from the Ecuadorian government in 2011. Following completion of MSc in epilepsy with a distinction, Diego was awarded a PhD in clinical Neurosciences both from Kings College London (KCL) in 2012 and 2016, respectively. The title of his PhD thesis was "The pathophysiology of seizure onset in human focal epilepsy and its relevance to epilepsy surgery".
Whilst working as a research fellow at KCL and King’s College Hospital (KCH) until 2018, Diego gained valuable experience in recording and analysis of scalp electroencephalography (EEG), stereo EEG, invasive presurgical assessment, invasive and non-invasive brain stimulation and intracranial EEG recordings simultaneous with micro electrodes. Diego was appointed as a representative of Young Epilepsy Section (YES) of the International League Epilepsy (ILAE) of Ecuador and leads the educational task force for YES-ILAE for whole of latin America. In his current role as a research fellow reporting to Professor Sisodiya and Dr Balestrini, Diego is applying non-invasive brain stimulation using TMS-EEG in order to study the cortical excitability of the brain in patients with genetic epilepsies.
Dr Krithika Sundararaman
Krithika completed her PhD in human genetics from Indian Statistical Institute, India in 2009. Prior to joining Professor Sisodiya’s genomics team as a research associate in 2015, she worked at the University of Toronto for 3 years. Her research focussed on the identification of type 2 diabetes genetic risk factors in an admixed group, by employing genome-wide association and admixture mapping approaches.
Her current role involves analysis of next generation sequencing data to identify credible candidate genes responsible for different forms of epilepsy. She routinely performs screening of interesting genes; identifying denovo variants in trios; analysing whole-exomes of singletons, with different phenotypes, to identify the causative gene; analysing as a cohort, exomes of cases with similar phenotypes, including eyelid myoclonia with absences (EMA), Dravet syndrome (DS), frontal lobe epilepsy (FLE), inflammatory epilepsy (IE) etc., to find shared variants or burdened genes, if any, in the group; analysing whole-genomes of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) patient and others. Krithika is also working on international consortia, including Epi25, EpiPGX, and GEL’s 100,000 Genomes Project, which involves collaborators from all over the world.