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Professor Sarah Newbury

Prof Sarah Newbury

Professor Sarah Newbury (BSc Hons, PhD)

Professor in RNA Biology
T: +44 (0)1273 877874
Location: Medical Research Building, Room 1.09, BSMS, University of Sussex, BN1 9PS

Areas of expertise: RNA stability; microRNA biomarkers; drosophila development

Research areas: Cancer biology; cell and developmental biology; microRNAs as diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers

Other relevant positions: Impact Champion; Joint Leader of the Brighton and Sussex Cancer Research Network


Sarah has worked at Brighton and Sussex Medical School since February, 2007. Her research aims to the molecular control of RNA degradation and how this impacts upon development and disease. Sarah was educated at the University of Edinburgh (B.Sc (Hons) in Biological Sciences) where she specialised in Zoology and Genetics. She then carried out a PhD at the University of Leeds on the ecological genetics of brewery Drosophila. After that she carried out Postdoctoral research at the University of Dundee (Department of Biochemistry) where she moved into the field of RNA stability and gene expression. She was awarded a Royal Society Fellowship which she used to carry out independent research at the University of Portsmouth before continuing with her research as a Lecturer at the Universities of Oxford (Dept. Biochemistry) and Newcastle (Cell and Molecular Biosciences).  Sarah has undertaken a number of roles including Director of Doctoral Studies and Early Career Research Lead. She is now a Professor in RNA Biology at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. She also founded the South Coast RNA Research Network and the Sussex RNA Research Network.


Sarah’s work focuses on the role of RNA degradation and the mechanisms whereby it controls cell proliferation, response to stress, cell differentiation and cancer. Degradation of messenger RNAs and microRNAs is controlled by ribonucleases and other factors that work together as a “molecular machine”. Her work is relevant to development of RNA vaccines, which have been used by Moderna and Pfizer against COVID-19. Sarah and her group have recently discovered that the 3’-5’ exoribonuclease Dis3L2 can play key roles in the control of proliferation of both Drosophila and human cells. Mutations in the equivalent human gene, DIS3L2, results in Perlman syndrome (a congenital overgrowth condition) and susceptibility  to Wilms’ tumour (cancer of the kidney) therefore this work has therapeutic potential. In addition, the work of her group has shown that the 5’-3’ exoribnuclease Pacman (XRN1) controls apoptosis in Drosophila and is associated with the bone cancer osteosarcoma, perhaps by controlling cell movement. In collaboration with clinical researchers, the group are also identifying microRNAs/non-coding RNAs as diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for human diseases. microRNAs are small RNAs (20-22 nucleotides) that are known to regulate gene expression and are important in many cellular processes. Using state-of-the art techniques, Sarah and her group have identified and patented a microRNA biomarker signature from circulating blood for myeloma (with Prof Tim Chevassut) and sepsis (with Prof Martin Llewellyn and Prof Florian Kern). More recently, diagnostic non-coding RNA biomarkers from circulating blood have been identified for motor neurone disease (with Prof Majid Hafezparast and Prof Nigel Leigh).


Sarah is actively involved in teaching gene regulation and genomics to 1st year medical students. Her role also includes supervision of laboratory research projects for medical students, final year B.Sc project students, M.Sc students, and Ph.D students.

Selected publications

Simoes, F.A.; Joilin, G.; Peters, O.; Schneider, L.-S.; Priller, J.; Spruth, E.J.; Vogt, I.; Kimmich, O.; Spottke, A.; Hoffmann, D.C.; Falkenburger, B.; Brandt, M.; Prudlo, J.; Brockmann, K.; Fries, F.L.; Rowe, J.B.; Church, A.; Respondek, G.; Newbury, S.F.; Leigh, P.N.; Morris, H.R.; Höglinger, G.U.; Hafezparast, M. Potential of Non-Coding RNA as Biomarkers for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23, 14554.

Greig Joilin, Elizabeth Gray, Alexander G. Thompson, Kevin Talbot, P. Nigel Leigh, Sarah F. Newbury, Martin R. Turner & Majid Hafezparast (2022) Profiling non-coding RNA expression in cerebrospinal fluid of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients, Annals of Medicine, 54:1, 3069-3078, DOI: 10.1080/07853890.2022.2138530 

Pashler AL, Towler BP, Jones CI, Haime HJ, Burgess T, Newbury SF. Genome-wide analyses of XRN1-sensitive targets in osteosarcoma cells identify disease-relevant transcripts containing G-rich motifs. RNA. 2021 Oct;27(10):1265-1280. doi: 10.1261/rna.078872.121. Epub 2021 Jul 15. PMID: 34266995; PMCID: PMC8457002.

Towler BP, Pashler AL, Haime HJ, Przybyl KM, Viegas SC, Matos RG, et al. (2020) Dis3L2 regulates cell proliferation and tissue growth through a conserved mechanism. PLoS Genet 16(12): e1009297.

Joilin G, Leigh PN, Newbury SF and Hafezparast M (2019) An Overview of MicroRNAs as Biomarkers of ALS. Front. Neurol. 10:186. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.00186

Joilin, G., Leigh, P. N., Newbury, S. F., and Hafezparast, M. (2019). Front. Neurol. 10:186. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.00186

Towler, BP, Newbury, SF. Regulation of cytoplasmic RNA stability: Lessons from Drosophila. WIREs RNA. 2018; 9:e1499.

Towler BP, Jones CI, Harper KL, Waldron JA and Newbury, SF. (2016) A novel role for the 3'-5' exoribonuclease Dis3L2 in controlling cell proliferation and tissue growth. RNA Biology 2016 Dec;13(12):1286-1299.

Pashler AL, Towler, BP, Jones CI, and Newbury SF. (2016) The roles of the exoribonucleases DIS3L2 and XRN1 in disease. Biochemical Society Transactions. Oct 15;44(5):1377-1384.

Caserta, S., Kern, F., Cohen, J., Drage, S., Newbury, S.F. and Llewelyn, M.J. (2016) Circulating Plasma microRNAs can differentiate Human Sepsis and Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS). Scientific Reports 6:28006

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