Dr Duncan Ayers

Dr Duncan Ayers

Senior Researcher, Centre for Molecular Medicine and Biobanking

Dr. Duncan Ayers completed his PhD in Translational Medicine from The University of Manchester (UK) in 2011 and is currently a senior post-doctoral researcher (RSOIV) at the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Biobanking within the University of Malta. Dr. Ayers also holds a MSc degree in Immunology and Immunogenetics from the University of Manchester and previously graduated as a Bachelor of Pharmacy (with Honours) from the University of Malta. He is also an Honorary Research Associate with the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Manchester. During his doctoral studies, Dr. Ayers spent a 17-month attachment with the globally renowned Vandesompele research group at the Center for Medical Genetics Ghent, within Ghent University (Belgium), specializing in microRNA (miRNA) technology and neuroblastoma functional genomics.

Dr. Ayers’ research focuses on non-coding RNA biomarker discovery and therapeutic applications for paediatric cancers such as neuroblastoma. Other research interests include the influences of genomic, miRNA and other non-coding RNA expression profiles in the development of human disease conditions, high throughput semi-/quantitative gene analytical techniques such as RT-qPCR, microarray platform utilization and the development of nanoparticle – based drug delivery systems for miRNA-based therapeutics in cancer.

Dr. Ayers’ research has been published in 21 reputed peer-reviewed scientific journals and he also contributed to five book publications in his research fields, together with disseminating his research at 47 local and international scientific conferences, including Singapore, USA and Japan. His research was also awarded the Best Poster award in its category at a conference hosted by the Karolinska Institute (Sweden) in 2010.

Moreover, Dr Ayers was invited to act as a scientific Peer Reviewer for over 30 international scientific journals, including PlosOne, Tumour Biology, Oncotarget, Cancer Letters and the European Journal of Cancer.

Dr Ayers was also recently appointed by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO, Belgium) to act as a Grant Reviewer for awarding post-doctoral Fellowships within Belgium. In addition, he was also bestowed the role of External Doctoral Examiner for doctoral students performing their thesis defence within Ghent University (Belgium).

Other academic activities performed by Dr Ayers include the supervision of several undergraduate and post-graduate / doctoral students within the University of Malta and the University of Wolverhampton (UK). Dr Ayers also currently lectures in Immunology to medical students for the Department of Pathology, within the University of Malta’s Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.

Dr. Ayers is also an editor for the Journal of Cancer Research and Treatment, acts as a review board member for the Journal of Vaccines and Immunology and also serves as a member and sub-committee (STSM Board) chairperson within the European Epitranscriptomics Network (COST, EU).

Clearing a Pathway for Chemotherapy


Cancer Research – using miRNA Technology

Selected Publications:


  • Duncan Ayers. Current management challenges in Neuroblastoma: non-coding RNA influences.  Book chapter contribution for ‘Neuroblastoma – Molecular Mechanisms and Therapeutic Interventions’ Editor – Swapan. K. Ray (Elsevier S&T Books, USA – Accepted 11/1/18)
  • Tesfaye Worku, Dinesh Bhattarai, Duncan Ayers, Kai Wang, Chen Wang, Ziaur Rehman, Hira sajjad Talpur, Yang Liguo. Long Non-Coding RNAs: The new horizon in ovarian cancer gene regulation. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2017 Nov 27;44(3):948-966.        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29179183 
  • Duncan Ayers, Jo Vandesompele. Influence of microRNA and long non-coding RNAs in cancer chemoresistance. Genes (Basel). 2017 Mar 3;8(3).    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28273813
  • Duncan Ayers, Pieter Mestdagh, Tom Van Maerken, Jo Vandesompele.      Identification of miRNAs in Neuroblastoma chemoresistance. Comput Struct Biotechnol J. 2015 Apr 29;13:307-19.      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25973145
  • Duncan Ayers. Implications of miRNA-directed gene silencing in cancer. Book chapter included in: RNAi Technology. Edited by Drs. R.K. Gaur, Y. Gafni,Pradeep Sharma and Vijai Kumar Gupta (Science Publishers, USA – April 2011).