Personal profile

Academic Biography

Tora is an American who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree with honours in Biology (B.S. with a concentration in Genetics and Development) from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Genetics/Cell Biology at Duke University before moving to the UK.


Tora then worked as an NIH Fellow with Prof Sir Doug Turnbull and Prof Bob Lightowlers at Newcastle University, funded by a National Research Service Award to investigate the roles of mitochondrial defects in neurons.


After a career break, Tora worked at Northumbria University as a postdoc, then an Anniversary Research Fellow and then a Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences, establishing her current area of research, before joining Teesside University as a Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science in 2017.


Tora is interested in the molecular mechanisms of disease and has three main areas of research.


1- PDIA6 as a target for therapy in prostate cancer

Tora, with colleagues, identified a new gene, PDIA6 (see publication), that may be involved in prostate cancer and is a druggable target. We are following up on that gene with the aim to develop new cancer therapies based on inhibiting PDIA6 with targeted compounds.


2- The roles of mitochondrial dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease

Tora performed a screen for mitochondrial mutations that enhance or suppress climbing ability of Parkinson’s disease mutations in Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) models (see publication). We identified a number of mitochondrial mutations that enhanced the effect of the Parkinson’s disease mutations, those may be involved in causing Parkinson’s disease and are targets for further study to understand molecular mechanisms of the disease.

We also identified a strong suppressor mitochondrial mutation which rescued the climbing ability of the Parkinson’s mutated flies (see publication). Dr. Maria O’Hanlon further analysed this gene in relation to Parkinson’s disease in the fly models during her Ph.D. Maria completed her viva for her Ph.D. in August 2023.

Research is currently ongoing in the Smulders-Srinivasan lab to identify in more detail exactly how the rescue effect occurs and whether this rescue could be used to target new types of therapies for Parkinson’s disease.


3- Circadian control of Alzheimer’s disease in Drosophila melanogaster

Tora is part of a funded Horizon Europe Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Network, totalling €3,811,636.80 and funding 15 + 2 PhD students across the network.

The title of the overall grant is "Targeting Circadian Clock Dysfunction in Alzheimer’s Disease” Doctoral Network (TClock4AD).

Because of Brexit, Teesside University received £530,503 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the UK for Professor Xinzhong Li and Tora to fund the ‘+2’ PhD students: Alexandros Zantis and Kazi Ishrak Faiyaz, as part of this wider network.

The project that Ishrak is working on with Tora is “Circadian control of Alzheimer’s disease in Drosophila melanogaster”.

In this project, we are developing a new Alzheimer’s disease fruit fly model based on circadian dysfunction. We are also trying to better understand how circadian rhythms might be involved in Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, we will test compounds created or identified by others in the project on the Alzheimer's disease model flies.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Suppressors of piwi: Dosage-sensitive chromatin and transcriptional regulators in Drosophila germline stem cell division., Duke University

Award Date: 14 Nov 2003

Bachelor, B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Genetics and Development, Cornell University

Award Date: 31 May 1996


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