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Professor Sarah Newbury

Prof Sarah Newbury

Professor Sarah Newbury (BSc Hons, PhD)

Professor in RNA Biology and Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange
T: +44 (0)1273 877874
Location: Medical Research Building, Room 2.08, 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: Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange; Impact Champion; Joint Leader of the Brighton and Sussex Cancer Research Network


Professor Sarah Newbury is working on fundamental mechanisms of gene regulation and how they control cell proliferation, programmed cell death, cell differentiation and cancer. She is developing microRNA biomarkers for  a number of human diseases including melanoma (in collaboration with Prof Tony Metcalfe and Dr Yella Martin (Blond McIndoe Foundation)), sepsis (with Dr Martin Llewellyn and Prof Florian Kern) and in motor neurone disease (with Dr Majid Hafezparast and Professor Nigel Leigh). She has recently started a project on gene regulation in osteosarcoma with Dr Peter Bush (University of Brighton).

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 came to BSMS in 2007 and has undertaken a number of roles including Director of Doctoral Studies. She is now a professor in RNA Biology at the Medical School.


Research in the Newbury group focuses on the role of RNA degradation in animal development and cancer. Degradation of messenger RNAs and microRNAs is controlled by ribonucleases and other factors that work together as a “molecular machine”. Her group are studying the ways in which this novel mechanism of gene regulation can control cell proliferation and apoptosis in the model organism Drosophila. Sarah and her group have recently discovered that exoribonucleases such as Pacman(Xrn1) can play a key role in the control of apoptosis and proliferation of imaginal discs, which form adult structures such as wings and legs. Future work aims to understand the molecular mechanisms whereby these exoribonucleases target particular RNAs and microRNAs to cause specific developmental defects. More recently, the group has started work on elucidation of the roles of one of these ribonucleases in the progression of the bone cancer osteosarcoma.

In collaboration with clinical researchers, the group are also identifying microRNAs 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, her group and her collaborators have identified and patented a microRNA biomarker signature from circulating blood for myeloma, and have identified microRNAs with diagnostic potential for sepsis. More recently, together with her group and collaborators at the Blond McIndoe Foundation, she has used serum samples to identify prognostic biomarkers for melanoma.


Sarah teaches on gene regulation and genomics to 1st year medical students and is also an Academic Tutor. She is also involved in teaching and advising lab based B.Sc project students, M.Sc students, medical students and Ph.D students.

Selected publications

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

Jones C, Pashler A, Towler B, Robinson S, Newbury S. RNA-seq reveals post-transcriptional regulation of Drosophila insulin-like peptide dilp8 and the neuropeptide-like precursor Nplp2 by the exoribonuclease Pacman/XRN1. Nucleic Acids Res. 2015;44(1):267-280. 

Towler B, Jones C, Newbury S. Mechanisms of regulation of mature miRNAs. Biochemical Society Transactions. 2015;43(6):1208-1214. 

Towler B, Jones C, Viegas S, Apura P, Waldron J, Smalley S et al. The 3'-5' exoribonuclease Dis3 regulates the expression of specific microRNAs in Drosophila wing imaginal discs. RNA Biology. 2015;12(7):728-741.

Waldron J, Jones C, Towler B, Pashler A, Grima D, Hebbes S et al. Xrn1/Pacman affects apoptosis and regulates expression of hid and reaper. Biology Open. 2015;4(5):649-660.

Robinson S, Oliver A, Chevassut T, Newbury S. The 3' to 5' Exoribonuclease DIS3: From Structure and Mechanisms to Biological Functions and Role in Human Disease. Biomolecules. 2015;5(3):1515-1539.

Jones C, Grima D, Waldron J, Jones S, Parker H, Newbury S. The 5′-3′ exoribonuclease Pacman (Xrn1) regulates expression of the heat shock protein Hsp67Bc and the microRNA miR-277–3p in Drosophila wing imaginal discs. RNA Biology. 2013;10(8):1345-1355.

Nagarajan V, Jones C, Newbury S, Green P. XRN 5′→3′ exoribonucleases: Structure, mechanisms and functions. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Gene Regulatory Mechanisms. 2013;1829(6-7):590-603.

Gounaris-Shannon S, Newbury S, Chevassut T. MicroRNAs - Key Players in Haematopoiesis. Current Signal Transduction Therapy. 2013;8(1):91-98.

Jones C, Zabolotskaya M, King A, Stewart H, Horne G, Chevassut T et al. Identification of circulating microRNAs as diagnostic biomarkers for use in multiple myeloma. Br J Cancer. 2012;107(12):1987-1996.

Waldron J, Newbury S. The roles of miRNAs in wing imaginal disc development in Drosophila. Biochm Soc Trans. 2012;40(4):891-895.

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