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£1.9 million for University of Warwick scientists among next generation of research leaders

  • University of Warwick researchers among 84 promising future leaders in research and innovation awarded fellowships
  • Coming from the UK and around the world, they will research major global issues and commercialise their innovations at UK universities and companies
  • Megaenzymes from fungi that could be repurposed for medicine to be investigated by Warwick chemists
  • While statisticians at Warwick will find ways to predict how the surfaces formed by a variety of phenomena grow

Reprogramming megaenzymes from fungi for use in medicine and predicting how phenomena such as bacterial colonies and crystal formations grow their surfaces are the focus of two University of Warwick projects that will receive a total of £1.9 million from funding announced today by UK Research and Innovation.

Eighty-four of the most promising research leaders will benefit from £98 million to tackle major global issues and to commercialise their innovations in the UK.

Research at the University of Warwick is among the cutting-edge projects funded by UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) flagship Future Leaders Fellowships programme. Those receiving funding will tackle global issues ranging from climate change to the exploitation of women in global garment supply chains and it will help bring researchers’ innovative ideas from lab to market.

Over £1.9 million has been allocated to research at the University of Warwick.

Dr Matthew Jenner in the University’s Department of Chemistry has received £1.25 million for the project ‘Dissecting and Harnessing Carrier Protein Interactions in Fungal Megasynth(et)ases’. This will enable Dr Jenner to investigate megaenzymes in fungi with a view to repurposing them for medical uses.

Dr Matthew Jenner of the Department of Chemistry said: “Our work aims to understand the structure, interactions, and cryptic programming patterns of fungal polyketide synthases. These are giant multi-domain proteins responsible for the biosynthesis of a vast number of biologically active natural products with important applications in modern medicine. The precise assembly of these complex compounds relies on highly programmed interactions within these enzymes.

“Despite the importance of these interactions they remain poorly understood, as they require a combination of techniques to be studied effectively. Uncovering the molecular factors governing programming is the greatest remaining problem in our understanding of fungal PKSs, and represents a huge obstacle to rewiring these enzymes towards user-designed molecules.

“I'm incredibly honoured and grateful to receive this prestigious UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship. The long-term support will allow me to assemble a highly interdisciplinary team of researchers, from the UK and abroad, to tackle a long-standing problem in the field of natural product biosynthesis. I would like to thank everyone involved in supporting this application, and I look forward to the scientific challenges ahead.”

£697,816 has been awarded to Dr Giuseppe Cannizzaro of the Department of Statistics, who will be using statistics to investigate and predict how different phenomena grow their surfaces, from bacteria colonies to crystal formations.

Dr Giuseppe Cannizzaro of the Department of Statistics said: “Being awarded the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship has been amazing. On the one hand, it represents a recognition of the research I have been pursuing, while on the other it will allow me to fully devote to reaching my research objectives and further broadening their scope.

“My proposal lies at the interface of Probability, Stochastic Analysis and Statistical Mechanics and aims at gaining a deeper understanding of complex physical systems. It revolves around the concept of Universality - the observation that many phenomena, which may look very different from one another, share the same universal large-scale laws.

“Identifying and studying these laws in a well-funded and rigorous mathematical manner is an extremely powerful tool in the hands of researchers as it allows to make highly accurate quantitative and qualitative predictions about extremely complicated and diverse-looking real-world systems. The type of systems on which my proposal investigates Universality is that of systems describing random surface growth phenomena, which naturally emerge in a variety of physical and biological contexts, such as combustion fronts or bacterial colonies, crystal growth on thin films, and others.

“It is thanks to the Fellowship that I will be able to answer these fundamental questions and explore the connections between the novel tools and techniques I will elaborate and their applicability to more applied sciences.”

Pursuing new research and innovation ideas

UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “The Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with the freedom and generous long-term support to progress adventurous new ideas, and to move across disciplinary boundaries and between academia and industry.

“The fellows announced today provide shining examples of the talented researchers and innovators across every discipline attracted to pursue their ideas in universities and businesses throughout the UK, with the potential to deliver transformative research that can be felt across society and the economy.”

£100m new support for further Fellowships

Building on the success of the £900 million invested in the first six rounds of Future Leaders Fellowship, UKRI has additionally committed £100 million for a seventh round.

The scheme helps universities and businesses in the UK recruit, develop and retain the world’s best researchers and innovators, regardless of their background. Researchers can apply for substantial long-term funding to support their research or innovation and develop their careers, with each fellowship will last four to seven years.

The projects will be an important part of the government’s ambition to cement the UK’s status as a global leader in science, research and innovation.


Notes to editors:

UK Research and Innovation works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.

Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. www.ukri.orgLink opens in a new window

15 June 2022

University of Warwick press office contact:

Peter Thorley

Media Relations Manager (Warwick Medical School and Department of Physics) | Press & Media Relations | University of Warwick

Mob: +44 (0) 7824 540863