Researchers at The University of Warwick to benefit from £18 million investment in world-class frontier bioscience
Researchers at The University of Warwick are among four world-class teams receiving a share of £18 million to pursue transformational bioscience research programmes.
Funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC), the four teams will tackle bold challenges at the frontiers of bioscience, combining world-class ideas, people and transformative technologies with the aim of uncovering fundamental rules of life.
The team from the University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences will investigate the bacterial cell wall – which could help to develop new classes of antibiotics, tackling the global challenge of antibiotic resistance.
Cell walls are essential for the survival of most bacteria and they dictate bacteria shape. They mostly made of a compound called peptidoglycan which binds together to form new wall material by a combination of proteins known as the ‘elongasome’. Remarkably, we know very little about how this important protein complex functions at a molecular level. This represents a key knowledge-gap in our understanding of bacterial physiology.
Through a coalescence of microbial biochemistry, biophysics, and chemical biology, the team leading this project aim to provide new insight into how the bacterial cell wall is formed. They will deploy structural analyses in tandem with molecular dynamics simulations to determine the basis of elongasome function and regulation from the atomic through to the macromolecular scale. This will lead to a significant advance in our understanding of how bacterial cell walls form.
Further, this project may lay the foundations for development of fundamentally new classes of antibiotics that inhibit the elongasome machinery.
This project is a collaboration between University of Warwick and Queen’s University Belfast. It is led by Professor David Roper in collaboration with Stephen Cochrane, Séamus Holden and Phillip Stansfeld.
Professor David Roper, University of Warwick, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to apply an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to a understand how bacteria make and control their cell walls that may provide us with the knowledge and tools to develop new antibiotics. The provision of this five-year funding means we can all work together in a way that is not normally possible”.
The investment from the BBSRC’s strategic Longer Larger grants programme (sLoLa) aims to catalyse and convene the critical mass of research effort needed to address significant fundamental questions in bioscience.
Professor Guy Poppy, Interim Executive Chair at BBSRC, added: “The latest investment by BBSRC’s sLoLa award programme represents a pivotal step in advancing frontier bioscience research.
“These four world-class teams are poised to unravel the fundamental rules of life, employing interdisciplinary approaches to tackle bold challenges at the forefront of bioscience.
“By fostering collaboration and innovation, we aim to catalyse ground-breaking discoveries with far-reaching implications for agriculture, health, biotechnology, the green economy and beyond.”
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Dr Séamus Holden, University of Warwick, said: “The team nature of the project will enable us to train a cohort of post-doctoral researchers as truly transdisciplinary microbiologists, with expertise bridging biophysics, biochemistry, chemistry and computation biology. By the end of the five-year project, these junior scientists will be ideally positioned to address the multifaceted challenge of antimicrobial resistance in their independent careers.”
Professor Phillip Stansfeld, University of Warwick, added: “As part of this five-year sLoLa grant we will use a range of interdisciplinary techniques, including microscopy, biochemistry, molecular simulation and synthetic chemistry, to study how the Elongasome produces cell wall as a bacteria grows.”
About the sLoLa programme
Advancing our understanding of the rules of life is a key priority as outlined in BBSRC’s strategic delivery plan.
The large-scale support offered via the sLoLa awards programme enables world-class teams to pursue innovative avenues of multidisciplinary investigation over the longer timeframes necessary to realise transformational change.
By encouraging researchers to pursue bold and creative questions, BBSRC aims to catalyse exciting fundamental bioscience discoveries that may have far reaching implications for agriculture, health, biotechnology and the green economy.
The four projects funded by sLoLa
· Rules of life in microbial communities, Led by Professor Sophie Nixon, The University of Manchester
· Human heart development, Led by Professor Sanjay Sinha, University of Cambridge
· GlycoWeb, Led by Professor Cathy Merry, University of Nottingham
· Bacterial cell wall formation, Led by Professor David Roper, University of Warwick
29 September 2023