Dr. Alvina Lai





Research Focus

I am a Lecturer in Health Data Analytics at the UCL Institute of Health Informatics, experienced in both dry- and wet-lab research. I obtained my PhD in New Zealand where I worked on the molecular underpinnings of the circadian clock. My move to the University of Oxford for postdoctoral training is supported by two prestigious international peer-reviewed fellowships; EMBO and Human Frontier Science Program. I was also a Lecturer at Christ Church Oxford where I teach Biological Sciences to Oxford’s undergraduates.

I run a Cancer Informatics group at UCL IHI where we are interested in harnessing real-world data collected in the form of electronic health records to understand how we can improve health and healthcare systems using data at scale to generate meaningful and actionable clinical insights. Employing health data linked across primary (GPs) and secondary (hospitals) care, we aim to use machine learning tools to gain population-wide insights into how to manage and treat diseases in ways that are most effective. To realise the underlying capabilities of electronic health records, results must be intricately linked to genomics data – our group also utilise multi-omics datasets from public repositories to help advance data science at scale, improve health, prevent the onset of disease, improve early diagnosis and innovate therapy.

We are a multi-disciplinary group of individuals connected through our enthusiasm of using data to save lives. We collaborate with data scientists, biologists, computational scientists, clinicians, epidemiologists and theoreticians to answer questions that are seemingly intractable and yet have real-world implications.

On September 2019, we welcomed our first postdoctoral colleague, Nikos Papachristou, who is funded by the Cancer Research UK. As long as you share a passion for data science, we invite you to get in touch if you would like to join the group as a student or a postdoctoral colleague. We are also keen to hear from potential collaborators to discuss areas of research synergy and ways in which we can contribute to your research.

When I am not working

I love playing console games and vintage-esque RPG games from Square Enix. My latest obsession is Kingdom Hearts III on PS4 and OST Face My Fears featuring DJ Skrillex.

News coverage

Key publications

  • Chang, W. H., & Lai, A. G. (2019). The pan-cancer mutational landscape of the PPAR pathway reveals universal patterns of dysregulated metabolism and interactions with tumor immunity and hypoxia. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1448(1), 65–82.
  • Dattani, A., Kao, D., Mihaylova, Y., … Aboobaker, A. (2018). Epigenetic analyses of planarian stem cells demonstrate conservation of bivalent histone modifications in animal stem cells. Genome Research.
  • Chang, W. H., & Lai, A. G. (2019). Aberrations in Notch-Hedgehog signalling reveal cancer stem cells harbouring conserved oncogenic properties associated with hypoxia and immunoevasion. British Journal of Cancer, 10.1038/s4.
  • Chang, W. H., & Lai, A. G. (2019). Timing gone awry: distinct tumour suppressive and oncogenic roles of the circadian clock and crosstalk with hypoxia signalling in diverse malignancies. Journal of Translational Medicine, 17(1), 132.
  • Mihaylova, Y., Abnave, P., Kao, D., … Aboobaker, A. A. (2018). Conservation of epigenetic regulation by the MLL3/4 tumour suppressor in planarian pluripotent stem cells. Nature Communications, 9(1), 3633.
  • Kao, D., Lai, A. G., Stamataki, E., … Aboobaker, A. (2016). The genome of the crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis, a model for animal development, regeneration, immunity and lignocellulose digestion. ELife, 5, e20062.