Scientific Founders

Prof. Sir Chris Dobson (in Memoriam)

FRS FMedSci, John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology at the University of Cambridge and Master of St John’s College, Cambridge

Remembering Sir Chris Dobson (1949-2019)
Professor Sir Chris Dobson was the John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology at the University of Cambridge and Master of St John’s College, Cambridge. He co-founded the Cambridge Centre for Misfolding Diseases and served as Vice-Chairman of the board of Wren. Professor Sir Chris Dobson was a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) and of the Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci), and a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. He was the recipient of many honours including the Royal Medal by the Royal Society (2009), the Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics (2014) and the Feltrinelli International Prize for Medicine (2014). In 2018, he was awarded a Knighthood by the Queen. He was one of the world’s leading scientists working at the interface of the physical and biological sciences. His work had led to the discovery of fundamental principles that determine the aberrant self-association of protein molecules, and the manner in which such behaviour can give rise to a multitude of human diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. He made very significant contributions to our fundamental understanding of how and why proteins are in most cases able to fold correctly to generate normal biological function, yet in certain circumstances misfold and drive a wide range of diseases. He developed entirely novel biophysical and biochemical approaches for this purpose, and he deployed these techniques to unravel the molecular basis of these highly complex processes.

Prof. Tuomas Knowles

Biophysics & Kinetics

Professor Knowles is a Founder and Head of Kinetics for Wren. He is a Professor of Physical Chemistry and Biophysics in the Department of Chemistry and at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. Professor Knowles is co-director of the Cambridge Centre for Protein Misfolding Diseases at the University of Cambridge. Professor Knowles has received several distinguished awards for his work including the Harrison Meldola Memorial Prize (2012) and the Corday-Morgan Prize (2017) awarded by The Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Raymond and Beverly Sackler International Prize in Biophysics (2017). Professor Knowles research focuses on applying physical approaches to study the self-assembly of protein molecules in the context of both biological function and malfunction.  His groundbreaking work on the chemical kinetics of protein misfolding and self-assembly, in particular, has transformed our understanding of the pathways that generate the aberrant forms of misfolded proteins believed to be the primary cause of disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Professor Knowles studied Biology at the University of Geneva, and Physics at ETH Zurich. He moved to Cambridge in 2004 to work towards his PhD in the Cavendish Laboratory and the Nanoscience Centre. In 2008 Professor Knowles was elected to a Research Fellowship at St John’s College, Cambridge, and was then appointed successively to a University Lectureship, Readership and Professorship. Since 2016, he holds Professorships in both the Department of Chemistry and the Cavendish Laboratory (Department of Physics). Professor Knowles has co-authored over 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles.

Prof. Sara Linse

Protein Biophysical Chemistry

Professor Linse is Founder and Head of the Sweden office for Wren. She is Professor of Physical Chemistry and Molecular Protein Science at Lund University, Sweden. Her current research focuses on protein misfolding and self-assembly, including the aggregation process, the influence of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, and coaggregation between lipids and proteins. Professor Linse's research has focused on developing new experimental and theoretical tools for studying highly complex systems of misfolding proteins in a quantitative and repeatable manner. Her approaches have made it possible to generate (for the first time) high signal-to-noise data from these systems, and have subsequently revealed fundamental insights into the molecular mechanisms driving these systems, including the importance of auto-catalytic cycles in the protein misfolding and aggregation pathway. Professor Linse has received numerous awards for her work, including the Cozzarelli Prize awarded by the National Academy of Sciences, USA (2007), the IUPAC Distinguished Woman in Chemistry prize (2011), Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s Great Prize (2014) and the FEBS/EMBO Woman in Science Prize (2019). Professor Linse studied Chemical Engineering at Lund University and Stanford University, and received her doctorate in Physical Chemistry from Lund.  In 2009, Professor Linse became a Member of the Nobel Prize Committee for Chemistry; she served as Chair of the Committee from 2015-2017, and continued as a Member of the Committee until 2020. Professor Linse has co-authored over 245 peer-reviewed scientific articles.

Prof. Michele Vendruscolo

Biophysics & Protein Regulation

Professor Vendruscolo is a Founder and Board Member of Wren. He is a Professor of Biophysics and co-director of the Cambridge Centre for Protein Misfolding Diseases at the University of Cambridge. Professor Vendruscolo's research interests are focused on the investigation of the physico-chemical principles of protein homeostasis and their application to the development of therapeutic strategies against neurodegenerative diseases. His methods offer new insights into the manner in which physics and chemistry regulate the biochemical reactions taking place in living organisms, and have led him to clarify the fundamental role that protein solubility has in the maintenance of protein homeostasis. Professor Vendruscolo has demonstrated how these approaches provide a rational basis for diagnostic and therapeutic strategies to combat some of the most prevalent and still incurable protein misfolding diseases. Professor Vendruscolo has received several awards for his work, including the Soft Matter & Biophysical Chemistry award from the Royal Society of Chemistry (2013) and the Giuseppe Occhialini Prize from the UK Institute of Physics (2017). Professor Vendruscolo received his PhD in Condensed Matter Physics in 1996 from the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste (Italy). He then spent two years as post-doctoral fellow at the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), before moving to Oxford, where he worked in collaboration with Chris Dobson. He later moved to Cambridge and was appointed successively as a Royal Society University Research Fellow, a Lecturer, a Reader and a Professor (2010). Professor Vendruscolo has co-authored over 300 peer-reviewed scientific articles.

Samuel Cohen PhD

Biophysics & Kinetics

Dr. Cohen is a Founder, Board member, and former Chief Executive Officer of Wren. Dr. Cohen has a background as a research scientist, as well as experience in venture capital and strategy consulting. He was previously a Research Fellow in Biophysical Chemistry at the Centre for Misfolding Diseases at the University of Cambridge, where he worked with Wren’s other scientific founders on the chemical kinetics of protein misfolding and aggregation. Dr. Cohen's research included the development of the network kinetics theoretical framework and its application to multiple disease systems. In particular, he was part of the team that established the central role of secondary nucleation in the misfolding and aggregation pathway. Dr. Cohen was formerly an investment director at Malin plc, and a consultant in the London office of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) where he advised leading healthcare and technology companies across Europe and the US.  He was also previously the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at St John’s College, University of Cambridge. Dr. Cohen graduated with bachelors and masters in Natural Sciences (Physics) and a PhD in Biophysical Chemistry from the University of Cambridge. He also spent a year as a Visiting Fellow at Harvard University. Dr. Cohen is co-author of more than 30 scientific papers. His TED talk on Alzheimer’s disease has been viewed more than 2 million times.

Johnny Habchi PhD

Head of Research

Dr. Habchi is a Founder and Head of Research for Wren. Previously, he worked at the Centre for Misfolding Diseases, Cambridge, where his research focused on developing new methodologies in drug discovery for protein aggregation. Dr. Habchi's research included the first proof-of-principle studies demonstrating the mechanism of action of a small molecule drug targeting the misfolding and aggregation process, driven by a conceptual shift from structure-based to kinetics-based drug discovery in protein misfolding diseases. Dr. Habchi completed his BSc in Biochemistry at the Lebanese University during which he became interested in understanding the protein folding process. He then obtained masters and doctoral degrees in protein science from Aix-Marseille University, France, where he studied the folding of unstructured (intrinsically disordered) proteins. Dr. Habchi has co-authored more than 40 publications, is a Cambridge University Fellow in Leadership and a Fellow at Hughes Hall College, Cambridge.