Top award for Jesuit research scientist

Fr Sumeth Perera SJ in his lab
Fr Sumeth Perera SJ

We congratulate Fr Sumeth Perera SJ who has been awarded a distinguished Oxford doctorate in genetics. 

Fr Perera, who is a member of the Sri Lanka Province, has been studying in Britain since 2012, first for an MRes in Biochemistry at Imperial College London, and then at Campion Hall Oxford for doctoral studies focussing on cancer research.

“Cancer treatments are becoming increasingly sophisticated,” he explains, “but there are still major gaps in our understanding of how treatments work and why they don’t always block cancer growth. One of those gaps is how cancer secreted nano-vesicles (exosomes) function, and the new phenomenon I have discovered here, called ‘exosome switching’, may ultimately influence the ways that we treat cancer patients and recognise whether treatments are working.”

The significance of this finding was recognised in 2014 with an award as the runner-up for the Peter Beaconsfield Prize in the Medical Sciences division.

Fr Perera’s interest and research into cancer treatments began a decade ago in Sri Lanka with a cancer which disproportionately affects the poor:

“Oral cancer is prevalent among the most marginalised people in South Asia.  It is caused by a form of substance abuse - addictive use of Betel quid. And because it affects the poor of South Asia disproportionately, developed countries have little incentive to find a cure” he explains.  Fr Perera developed the first animal model for this cancer while studying at Peradeniya University in Sri Lanka

Later his research on gene therapy at Imperial College London addressed how genetically inherited diseases, such as blindness in children, could be rectified.

We wish every blessing to Fr Perera as he leaves the British Province to take up a postdoctoral fellowship in cancer biology at the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland USA.   He will be joining the Georgetown Jesuit community.