Over £20 million government award marks Midlands’ bio-economy strengths
A consortium of Midlands research-active universities has just been awarded research studentships worth over £20 million to build on the Midlands’ already significant bio-economy and success in life sciences and agricultural research.
The Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership 2020 (MIBTP2020) is led by the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick and brings together a number of other Warwick research departments, in partnership with the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester, Aston University and Harper Adams University. The funding comes from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council arm of the Government’s UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding organisation. This award will be matched by the universities in the partnership to fund a total of 245 doctoral students (59 per year) over the next 5 years.
Warwick Award Winners 2019
Congratulations to our University Staff Award winners:
Dr Leanne Williams won the 2019 Warwick Award for Personal Tutoring Excellence (WAPTE). This is a new award that recognises staff who have made an outstanding contribution to the support of students through the personal tutoring system. Leanne already holds a Warwick award for teaching excellence and has been doing amazing work supporting our students over the years.
Dr Rebecca Freeman won a Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence (WATE). Beccy has made an enormous difference to SLS by radically changing our approach to teaching and the students’ approach to learning. She has engaged students as collaborators in the development of our curricula and helped us develop rigorous yet innovative and flexible teaching approaches, which have now become examples of best practice for the University.
Public Engagement Contribution
Professor Nick Dale won the Public Engagement Contribution award. Nick explains "the complexities of his subject, the brain, in a way that drives interest from those who know something and a fascination from others who know less".
Supporting Student Employability
David Molyneux, SLS Senior Careers Advisor, won the award for Supporting Student Employability. David is described "As a colleague, he is unstinting in his devotion. He is giving, generous of spirit and passionately cares about students and their employability".
School of Life Sciences achieves Athena SWAN silver charter award to 2022
The School of Life Sciences achieved a Silver Athena SWAN Charter Mark in the 2018 submission round. The charter mark is an important indicator of work undertaken to address gender equality in academia and professional and support roles.
In the same round the University retained its Silver award and Politics and International Studies (PAIS) received a Bronze award.
Dr Dan Smith named as honorary SLS Industry Professor
Dr Smith is currently Chief Scientific Officer at Cobra Biologics Ltd., but he started his scientific career here at Warwick, with a BSc in Biochemistry then a PhD on the mechanism of action at the cellular level of cytotoxic proteins such as ricin.
By becoming an honorary Industrial Professor in our School, Dr. Smith will bring widespread experience in both the workings of a multi-million budget R&D company in a sector at the forefront of biomedical products and also in academic research. His specific expertise in knowledge transfer and experience in developing successful collaborations between regional development agencies, industry and academics will be enormously useful.
Dr Smith will bring many links with industries that we do not yet interact with, both in the UK and internationally. He will contribute ideas and contacts to help our undergraduate students secure industrial placements, a key strategic development area for the School.
Dr Smith will also aid our technology transfer to support start-ups with commercial promise. His past work is highly interdisciplinary in both the academic and industrial sides in chemistry and biology, knowledge of which can massively impact startup success.
We welcome him to the School.
Professor R.John Ellis to be presented with 2019 Centenary Award
Professor R.John Ellis, an Emeritus in the School of Life Sciences, has been honoured in the Biochemical Society's annual Awards. The awards recognise scientists for the excellence of their work and the impact it has had within the bioscience community and wider society.
Professor Ellis will be presented with the 2019 Centenary Award for his pioneering research on molecular chaperones and their role in protein folding.
Head of Life Sciences shortlisted for BBSRC Innovation Award
Professor Laura Green, Head of the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick, has been shortlisted for an Innovator of the Year award from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
Nominated in the ‘Social Impact’ category, Professor Green’s research has led to halving the level of lameness in sheep flocks - from ten percent to five percent - in a decade, saving a million sheep a year from becoming lame.
Dr Corinne Smith awarded Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship
Dr Corinne Smith has been awarded a Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship for her project entitled "defining clathrin network interactions using advanced cryo-electron microscopy". The Fellowship will enable Dr Smith to spend a year away from teaching in order to focus on her research activities.
University of Warwick honoured at Accreditation Awards Ceremony for Bioscience Degrees
Matt Teft is part of winning team at Warwick Staff Awards
Matt Teft, a second year MIBTP (Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership) student, is part of a team that has won an award for Public Engagement at the University of Warwick Staff Awards.
The MIBTP is a BBSRC funded Doctoral Training Partnership between the Universities of Warwick, Birmingham and Leicester. As part of their training, the BBSRC requires students to complete a Professional Internship for Phd Students (PIPS). Matt participated in the University's activities at the Cheltenham Science Festival in June 2015 as part of his PIPS and has written a blog of his experience: blogs.warwick.ac.uk/mibtp/entry/cheltenham_science_festival
Matt is a PhD student with Dr Miriam Gifford in the School of Life Sciences working on a project entitled 'Investigating conservation of function of SCARECROW-LIKE/GRAS transcription factors and their interactions in controlling root architecture responses'.
Professor Nicholas Dale receives MRC Discovery Award
Innovative University of Warwick research will be accelerated thanks to funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to take ground-breaking ideas into industry and out to patients. A Discovery Award of £973k will support vivo microscopy researchers investigate the dynamic activity of individual neural cells during complex behaviours.
Led by Professor Nicholas Dale, researchers will investigate the activity of neural cells deep in the mammalian brain that help control complex behaviours such as feeding and breathing and the operation of the body’s circadian clock.
SBRI funding received to develop diagnostic biosensors for strokes
Sarissa Biomedical, a spin-out company established by Professor Nick Dale, Ted Pridgeon Professor of Neuroscience in the School of Life Sciences, has been awarded £150,000 from Innovate UK’s Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI). Sarissa Biomedical has pioneered highly sensitive analytical devices known as microelectrode biosensors, which can be used to monitor in real-time the levels of purines - neurochemicals that influence the function of the nervous system. These biosensors have been used to demonstrate that purines are elevated in the blood of stroke patients compared to healthy controls.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the UK – in 2010 there were an estimated 150,000 strokes and 50,000 deaths attributable to stroke. Stroke currently costs the UK economy approximately £9billion per year in health and social care costs. Rapid treatment of ischaemic strokes to remove the blockage of cerebral circulation can allow perfect recovery and avoid lasting disability. On average for every 15 minutes saved in the period from stroke onset to the provision of treatment, one extra month of disability-free life is achieved. Point-of-care tests that can detect stroke from its earliest moments would help to shorten treatment delays and ensure that as many patients as possible receive treatment.
The SBRI funding will enable the project team to develop the biosensor technology into a prototype diagnostic device for strokes that can be used by paramedics. It will also support the analysis of the stroke clinical pathway to determine how the device can be used most effectively, and it will allow the design of a large-scale clinical trial involving paramedics and ambulance staff across the UK. Deployment of this test with paramedics will allow speedier identification of stoke victims at the point of injury, and facilitate rapid coordination of the clinical treatment pathway to maximise the chances of the best possible patient outcomes.
Professor John McCarthy receives MRC award to identify novel drug therapies
Professor John McCarthy, Professor of Molecular Systems Biology at the University of Warwick School of Life Sciences, and Director of the Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology Centre (WISB), has received funding from the MRC to pursue research on ’Protein synthesis in trypanosomatids as a target for novel drug therapies’. The FEC award of £360k will be complemented by a simultaneous award from Fundação Araucária in the State of Paraná (Brazil) to collaborators in the Carlos Chagas Institute in Curitiba. Colleagues at the University of Leeds will also be involved in the project.
Trypanosomatids are parasites that migrate between insect vectors and mammalian hosts. They cause a number of highly debilitating and potentially fatal diseases with major impacts on human health and wellbeing on a global scale. Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease, is believed to affect at least 11 million people in Mexico, Central America and South America. Leishmania is now endemic in South America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and more than 20 countries in Europe.
Given that the current anti-parasitic treatments are unpleasant, not fully effective, and encountering resistance, there is an urgent need for a new strategy to identify safe, efficacious drugs. This collaborative project will explore whether drugs can be developed based on selective targeting of protein-protein interactions in the trypanosomatid protein synthesis machinery.
The project was funded through MRC’s UK-Brazil Neglected Infectious Diseases Partnership scheme.
Warwick extends synthetic biology collaborations with Brazil
Katherine Denby, Vardis Ntoukakis and Patrick Schafer have been awarded £39,000 for establishing research collaborations between the plant synthetic biology group of Warwick Intregrative Synthetic Biology Centre (WISB) and the Biomass Systems and Synthetic Biology Center (BSSB) at the University of São Paulo.
The funding from the Warwick–FAPESP Sprint scheme will fund a number of initiatives over two years, with the partnership lead on the Brazilian side by Prof Marie-Anne Van Sluys. Specific activities are planned to strengthen the collaboration and leverage additional research funding. We will build on the success of our Plant Synthetic Biology workshop at Warwick in September 2014 which was attended by 9 Brazilian PhD students and early career scientists, and run a second workshop in early 2016 with increased inclusion of synthetic biology engineering concepts. Two grant writing workshops will be held, one at Warwick and one in São Paulo, to develop proposals for EMBO and FAPESP funding for future Synthetic Biology workshops and joint applications for BBSRC-FAPESP research grant funding. Specific research exchanges by early career scientists and undergraduate students in both directions will build the collaboration at all levels.
IAS Fellowship success for PhD students
School of Life Sciences PhD students Max Newbert and Nicola Galley have been awarded Early Career Fellowships by the University of Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Study (IAS). The fellowships are designed to support Warwick doctoral candidates in the transition phase between their doctoral and postdoctoral careers. In addition to continuing research carried out during their PhD projects, Fellows have the opportunity to participate in collegiate and career development activities including leading a research-orientated workshop for other members of the IAS, assisting at the IAS-led Research Showcase events, and attending the weekly Academic Careers and Employment programme.
Max’s fellowship will focus on continuing and publishing research completed during the course of his BBSRC PhD studentship entitled 'The genetic diversity of Turnip yellows virus in oilseed rape (Brassica napus) in Europe, pathogenic determinants, new sources of resistance and host range'. Max’s studentship received extra funding from the Perry Foundation, a UK charity that promotes education and research connected with agriculture or food production for the benefit of the public. Turnip yellows virus (TuYV) is a major threat to oilseed rape and other brassicas reducing yields by up to 65%. Very high levels of virus have been detected in this year’s crop and there is evidence of 20-24% reduction in yield due to TuYV, from crops harvested so far. Max’s work has highlighted the prevalence of the virus in mainland Europe, identified isolates with novel host ranges and identified significant and new information on the phylogeny of the species, all of which are important for breeding resistant plant lines. The fellowship will be carried out at Wellesbourne under the supervision of Dr John Walsh.
Nicola’s fellowship will build on research undertaken during her BBSRC PhD studentship on 'The role of species-specific modifications in peptidoglycan biosynthesis'. Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a catastrophic threat to human health, dramatically reducing the effectiveness of drugs that we have come to rely on in common medical practice. It has been predicted that if resistance continues to grow at the same rate, 10 million people will die every year as a direct result of AMR infections by 2050. Understanding the bacterial cell wall and its main component, peptidoglycan, is vitally important in the development of new antimicrobials. Penicillin binding proteins (PBPs) are responsible for making peptidoglycan and are excellent targets for antimicrobial drugs as they are essential for cell viability. Nicola’s research identified a critical PBP substrate recognition phenomenon in Streptococcus pneumonia that has led to significant advances in understanding the cell wall synthesis process. During the fellowship Nicola aims to write several high-impact publications, present her research at international interdisciplinary conferences, and organise a symposium at Warwick on the topic of antimicrobial resistance. The fellowship will be carried out under the supervision of Dr David Roper and Prof Chris Dowson.
Congratulations to Max and Nicola on their success!
Researchers have been awarded over £1.3m to research food security
Researchers from the University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences (SLS) have been awarded over £1.36m in grants to further their work into food security.
The BBSRC Horticulture and Potato Initiative (HAPI) grants include substantial cash and in-kind contributions from industrial partners and will be used to support work into how to improve pest and disease control and post-harvest quality.
Commenting on the grants Professor Laura Green, Head of SLS, said:
“The BBSRC HAPI grants will help ensure that the University of Warwick’s School Life Sciences continues to play a leading role in improving food production globally. The Warwick HAPI-funded projects will result in substantial impacts on the horticulture industry by translating research findings into solutions that benefit several stages in the food supply chain, including farmers, processors and retailers.”
Nick Dale, Professor of Neuroscience awarded £755,273 from BBSRC for his project 'Amino acid sensing by hypothalamic tanycytes'
Nick Dale, Professor of Neuroscience in the School of Life Sciences, has been awarded £755,273 from BBSRC for his project on ‘Amino acid sensing by hypothalamic tanycytes’.
The research will focus on specialised cells known as tanycytes, which play a crucial role in detecting the levels of important metabolites such as amino acids and glucose in the brain.
This sensing mechanism helps the brain to regulate the balance between energy storage and expenditure, leading to the gain and loss of body weight, so understanding the biological factors involved in these processes could lead to major impacts on health and wellbeing.
IAS Fellowship success in SLS
John Sidda has been awarded an Early Career Fellowship from the University of Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Study (IAS).
John, who recently completed a PhD under the supervision of Dr Chris Corre in the School of Life Sciences and the Department of Chemistry, will build on his previous research on the regulatory mechanisms involved in bacterial natural product biosynthesis, which led to the discovery of new natural products from Stremtomyces venezuelea.
His Fellowship project, which was co-funded by the School of Life Sciences’ Pump Priming Fund, aims to develop the methodology used for natural product discovery in other Streptomyces species.
BBSRC award £601,861 to study Footrot in sheep
Professor Laura Green and Dr Kevin Purdy from the School of Life Sciences and Professor Matthew Keeling from the School of Life Sciences and the Mathematics Institute, at the University of Warwick have been awarded £601,861 to study the issue of Footrot in sheep.
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council's (BBSRC) Animal Health Research Club (ARC) announced the award on Friday 27th March 2015 as part of a range of new research projects to improve the health of livestock.
Professor Laura Green, Head of the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick said:
“Footrot is very common in sheep in the UK, affecting more than 95% of sheep flocks. Footrot is caused by Dichelobacter nodosus, a bacterium that causes inflammation of the skin of the foot which leads to lameness. Using swab samples collected from the feet of sheep kept under different managements, the study will determine which molecular factors in Dichelobacter nodosus and which managements in sheep are most important in disease progression and how these lead to disease spread and persistence, informing on potential approaches to improve flock resilience to the disease."
Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills, said:
"By targeting these livestock diseases the Animal Health Research Club projects have the potential to protect farmed animals and food supplies and save UK farmers and the wider economy millions of pounds a year.”
“The Club shows that the public sector and private industry can work together to fund and support excellent research tackling important research challenges.”
Nick Dale, Professor of Neuroscience awarded a prestigious Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award
Nick Dale, Professor of Neuroscience in the School of Life Sciences, has been awarded a prestigious Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award, which recognises experienced researchers with a track record of outstanding achievements and the potential to make further significant contributions to their field of research.
The funding will support Nick’s research on the role of CO2 sensing mediated by connexin-26 in health and disease. Connexin-26 is a protein that forms a channel between neighbouring cells, allowing them to communicate with one another via the movement of signalling molecules; it is found in specialised nerve cells in the brain and has been implicated in the regulation of breathing.
This pioneering study has the potential to make very significant advances in the understanding of CO2-mediated signalling in the brain by linking the structural biology of connexin-26 channels and cell signalling to neurophysiological function, offering the prospect of major impacts on human health through the advanced understanding of the regulation of cerebral blood flow and the roles of this novel CO2-signalling mechanism.
New £12 million Synthetic Biology Centre to help drive advances in biotechnology, medicine and food security
Researchers at the Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology Centre (WISB), University of Warwick, that brings together disciplines including Life Sciences, Engineering, Chemistry, Computer Science, Education, and Law, have won a £12 Million award to create a new Centre to develop advanced technologies in synthetic biology.
Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills announced the new Centre as part of a £40M investment in UK synthetic biology, at the Manchester Institute for Biotechnology on Thursday 29th January.
Professor John McCarthy, Director of WISB and from the School of Life Sciences (pictured above with Vince Cable), said:
" We are delighted to receive this strategically important UK Synthetic Biology Centre Award. Synthetic biology has huge potential to generate valuable processes and products for biotechnology and medicine, as well as new understanding of the fundamental principles that underpin living systems. WISB is building a globally recognized presence as a centre of excellence in research and training in Synthetic Biology, and this grant from BBSRC and EPSRC will help us enormously in achieving our goals.”