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Contact Details

+64 3 479 7854
Senior Lecturer and Rutherford Discovery Fellow
Department of Biochemistry
MSc, PhD
Research summary
Cancer Research and RNA Biology


The overarching research questions of our group are (i) to identify novel therapeutic targets in cancer and (ii) to decipher the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of oncogene and tumour suppressor regulation.

Recent publications revealed that only 1-2% of the human genome encodes for proteins but as much as 75% of the genome can be transcribed. These non-coding transcripts comprise the majority of RNA molecules in the cell and bear exciting potential to pursue as therapeutic targets and biomarkers. Our group investigates the role of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), the largest and most diverse class of non-coding transcripts. We focus on metastatic breast and colorectal cancer and glioblastoma, as these types of cancer are major health concerns in New Zealand and world-wide. Our research combines bioinformatics, CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, cancer biology, single-cell and spatial transcriptomics and preclinical research using patient-derived organoids and mouse models. In addition to translational research, we are interested in studying the molecular mechanisms by which lncRNAs act in the cell and exploring the RNA interactome.

Current research projects include:

  • Identifying novel lncRNA oncogenes and tumour suppressors using CRISPR screens.
  • Developing nucleic acid therapeutics to target lncRNAs in cancer, as monotherapies and in combination with standard-of-care.
  • Elucidating the molecular mechanism of lncRNAs in the cell, with particular interest in cancer metabolism and global transcription and translation changes.
  • Studying the impact of lncRNAs on tumour evolution.
  • Investigating the RNA interactome and structurome in cancer.
  • Identifying new lncRNAs and circRNAs as biomarkers.
  • Translational research models such as patient-derived organoids

Diermeier Lab Group
The 2022 Diermeier Lab photo

Amaroq Technologies

Our research has been commercialised with the help of Otago Innovation Ltd.

Our company, Amaroq Technologies, focuses on developing a new class of therapeutics that target lncRNA in cancer.


Funding for our research has been provided by the Royal Society Te Aparangi, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the Health Research Council (HRC), Susan G. Komen, the Cancer Society NZ, the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation, the Maurice Wilkins Centre, Otago Innovation Ltd and the University of Otago.


Chang, K.-C., Diermeier, S. D., Yu, A. T., Brine, L. D., Russo, S., Bhatia, S., … Spector, D. L. (2020). MaTAR25 LncRNA regulates the Tensin1 gene to impact breast cancer progression. bioRxiv. doi: 10.1101/2020.02.03.931881 Working Paper; Discussion Paper; Technical Report

Rana, Z., Diermeier, S., Hanif, M., & Rosengren, R. J. (2020). Understanding failure and improving treatment using HDAC inhibitors for prostate cancer. Biomedicines, 8(2), 22. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines8020022 Journal - Research Other

Arun, G., Diermeier, S. D., & Spector, D. L. (2018). Therapeutic targeting of long non-coding RNAs in cancer. Trends in Molecular Medicine, 24(3), 257-277. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2018.01.001 Journal - Research Article

Diermeier, S. D., Chang, K.-C., Freier, S. M., Song, J., El Demerdash, O., Krasnitz, A., … Spector, D. L. (2016). Mammary tumor-associated RNAs impact tumor cell proliferation, invasion, and migration. Cell Reports, 17(1), 261-274. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.08.081 Journal - Research Article

Arun, G., Diermeier, S., Akerman, M., Chang, K.-C., Wilkinson, J. E., Hearn, S., … Spector, D. L. (2016). Differentiation of mammary tumors and reduction in metastasis upon Malat1 lncRNA loss. Genes & Development, 30(1), 34-51. doi: 10.1101/gad.270959.115 Journal - Research Article

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