Academics scoop top prizes at Student Union Teaching Awards

Five Faculty lecturers have received awards for their work with students. The awards are given in recognition of an individual’s commitment to providing the best possible teaching to students across the University.

The Faculty won the ‘Best Supervisor’ for Undergraduate, Post-Graduate Taught and Post-Graduate research education at this year’s Student Union teaching awards. Additionally, two academics picked up awards for Best Lecturer within FLS and The Award for Fantastic Feedback. The Faculty is proud to be so highly commended right across the University.

The Faculty has a track record of teaching excellence – continuously scoring highly on national rankings. Just this past year, the Faculty received a mark of 92% for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey.

Michelle Keown, the winner of the ‘Fantastic Feedback’ award said:

“I was really delighted to win this award as it is such a positive reflection on how our students are engaging with the feedback process. Being able to provide not only timely constructive feedback but also various feedback opportunities and activities is such an important part of my role as a teacher. Feedback can obviously help improve a student’s understanding but also and equally as important their confidence and enthusiasm for learning.”

On receiving the award for Best PGT supervisor at the University, Keith White said

“I am flattered and gratified upon receiving the award and I would like to thank all the students and others involved. Probably the most satisfying and rewarding aspect of my job as an academic is to be in a position to assist students in achieving their career objectives, whatever these may be.  The overwhelming majority of students on the environmental Master’s courses that I have coordinated and taught have gone on to careers in the public sector, industry, academia, teaching and environmental consultancy, and I am pleased to have been able to contribute to their success.”

Sheena Cruickshank, winner of the best PGR supervisor at the University, added

“I feel extremely honoured to have been both nominated and awarded this award. It means such a lot coming from the students in my lab with whom I work every day “

On receiving the award for Best Lecturer in FLS, Simone Tuchetti said:

“It was absolutely fantastic to receive the award especially given that I am relatively new to the faculty’s teaching staff. This really meant a lot to me mainly because the students’ comments suggest that they appreciated my efforts to innovating teaching, raising awareness about today’s climate change issues and explaining why the past matters when we seek to understand them.”

Finally, Undergraduate supervisor of the year, Ian Burney said:

“I’m delighted to have been named as the Student Union’s undergraduate supervisor of the year. Supervising final year projects is great because it enables student and teacher to bond over their shared interest in a topic. The process is not always easy, and there’s often a steep learning curve to be negotiated. But when a project comes good, and a student recognises something new and exciting about their skills and potential as a maker of knowledge, it’s a real joy.”

University praised at the BBSRC award ceremony

The University of Manchester was recently a finalist at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Excellent with Impact awards and was awarded two special commendations for demonstrating outstanding practice in particular areas. The University of Manchester was awarded the two special commendations for our outreach in collaboration with the Manchester Museum and effectively embedding impact across our staff development programmes.

The awards looked to “recognise institutions that can develop and successfully deliver a vision for maximising impact, alongside a relevant institution-wide culture change” and so The University is extremely proud to be commended in such a way.

The BBSRC is the largest biology funding body in the UK and they support over 3,500 scientists in the UK.  The University has a large number of BBSRC-funded lab groups performing cutting edge research across all its Faculties. Our commendations and presence in the finals recognise the importance our groups place on research that has a real impact and is setting a culture of excellence.

Representatives from the Manchester team at the BBSRC: Karen Lewis (BBSRC Executive Team), Simon Hubbard, Lauren Tempelman,  Amanda Bamford, Luke Georghiou. Photo by Joel Knight

The BBSRC judges were particularly impressed with our Museum outreach, highlighting the ‘Learning with Lucy’ frog conservation and education programme. Working with the Manchester Museum, the Faculty teamed up with Lucy, a nine year old girl on a mission to save the Lemur Leaf frog. The project was a huge success, reaching international coverage and having an impact in helping to save one of the world’s rarest frogs.

Professor Amanda Bamford says

” I am really pleased the judges were impressed with the education and outreach work we do with Manchester Museum. We have a very long standing, successful and unique collaboration with the Museum staff delivering outstanding impact”

In addition, two University scientists, Dr Sheena Cruickshank and Dr Andrew Almond, were finalist for BBSRC Innovator of the Year this year.  Innovator of the Year “celebrates individuals and small teams who have harnessed the potential of their excellent research to help address real world challenges”.

Professor Simon Hubbard, one of the leaders of the University competition bid, says

During the course of this three year competition the University has made great strides in embedding an impact culture into its staff and students, in all areas from business development through to social responsibility. I am thrilled that the BBSRC recognised this and chose us as one of the 10 finalists. We were the only institution to have two nominees for Innovator of the Year and were rightly recognised with two commendations for our impact success.


Manchester scientists recognised with Academy Fellowship

Two scientists from The University of Manchester have been elected to the prestigious Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Judith Allen, Professor of Immunobiology and Graeme Black, Professor of Genetics and Ophthalmology and  Deputy Director, Biomedical Research Centre will join 45 other UK researchers who have been elected to the renowned body.

The Fellows have been elected for their contribution to medical research and healthcare, the generation of new knowledge in medical sciences and its translation into benefits to society.

This year’s elected Fellows have expertise that spans paediatrics, genetics, neuroscience and oncology among many.

13 of the new Fellows are women, representing 28% of the total elected in 2016. The total women in the pool of candidates was 25%.

Graeme Black said:

“It is an honour to be elected: my work focuses on understanding the molecular basis of rare inherited conditions associated with blindness and aims to improve the diagnosis, management and treatment of such conditions.

Such a recognition is a reflection of the fact that this is a scientific area that has seen huge progress over recent years, including work done in the University of Manchester and within St Mary’s and the Manchester Royal Eye Hospitals.

Consequently this also underlines the hope there is that further progress can be made, here and elsewhere, to build on such foundations.”


Judith Allen said

“I am honoured that the academy of medical sciences has chosen to recognise my contributions to parasite immunology and macrophage biology.

I very much looking forward to working with the academy, particularly on their efforts to support and recognise the value of teams in science.”


Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences said:

“These new Fellows represent the amazing diversity of talent and expertise among the UK medical research community. Through their election to the  Fellowship, we recognise the outstanding contributions these individuals have made to the progress of medical science and the development of better healthcare.

“Thanks to the experience and expertise of its Fellows, the Academy can play a crucial role in addressing the great medical challenges of our time, such as maintaining health in an ageing population, the spread of non-communicable diseases and multiple morbidities.

“We work with our Fellowship to create the essential connections between academia, industry and the NHS and beyond, to strengthen biomedical research and facilitate its translation into benefits for society.

“We are delighted to welcome this year’s new Fellows to the Academy and I look forward to working with them all in the future.”

The new Fellows will be formally admitted to the Academy at a ceremony on the 29th June 2016.

Two scientists receive nominations

Two University of Manchester scientists have been shortlisted for the prestigious BBSRC Innovator of the Year award. Both Dr Sheena Cruickshank and Dr Andrew Almond from the Faculty of Life Sciences have been nominated.

The BBSRC Innovator of the Year will be awarded on the 18 May at the Fostering Innovation event in London. The award recognises scientists who have been able to harness the full potential of their research leading to breakthroughs in their respective fields. An award nomination is a recognition of a scientist’s excellent work and effort.

Dr Andrew Almond received his nomination in helping to pioneer the C4X venture. C4X is a spin-out company that uses a new approach for for 3D modelling of specific structures with high accuracy. This modelling has helped to develop new and effective drug targets and does so in a much more efficient way; sometimes saving up to 90% of the normal production costs. The company is now estimated to be worth £31 million.

On receiving the nomination, Dr Almond said:



“I was delighted to receive the news that I had been shortlisted for BBSRC Innovator of the Year and surprised by the very positive feedback from the review panel. C4X Discovery, now listed on the London Stock Exchange, is building the world’s most productive drug discovery engine and its recent ground breaking R&D in the areas of addiction, COPD, inflammation and diabetes are poised to deliver substantial patient benefits. It is testament to the University of Manchester’s world leading research environment and its assiduous support for innovation and commercialisation.”

Dr Sheena Cruickshank has received her nomination on the basis of her work, in raising awareness and involving the public in her research around infection and immunology, in both local and global communities. Sheena studies neglected tropical diseases and her work with international populations of people now based in the UK has directed and informed her research which now focuses on ways to better diagnose and monitor infection. Her work identified a need to develop science resources that would remove barriers to accessing healthcare, enabling dialogue and discussion. These resources have been used in Bolton College and more recently in Madagascar. In addition in response to concerns from international communities about allergies she worked with the public, teams of scientists and the Royal Society of Biology and British Society for Immunology to  create the #BritainBreathing app which uses citizen science to further research into  seasonal allergies.

On receiving the nomination, Dr Cruickshank said:

Sheena AAS“I was thrilled to receive the news that I had been shortlisted as I am passionate about sharing my research with the public and believe this is a vital part of a scientist’s role in society. Working with the public has been vital to my research and really driven its direction and shaped its content. Hearing people’s own reflections on infections and the barriers to healthcare is deeply moving and I have been privileged to work these people as well as my amazing collaborators who have enabled this work. This project is one of many that reflect the University’s commitment to Social Responsibility.”

PhD Student wins Science Communication Competition

PhD researcher Ben Stutchbury has won an international science communication competition. The competition was hosted by Chemistry World, the magazine published by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). The aim was to make chemistry a more accessible topic to the public.

The applicants first had to write an 800 word essay summarising a commissioned report by the RSC. The report found that chemistry, unlike other scientific disciplines, failed to be relatable to the lay audience.

Ben says:

“The RSC Public Attitudes to Chemistry Research Report highlighted a number of issues in the way chemistry is perceived by the public. For example, when asked where a chemist was likely to work, most people said “in a pharmacy”! One thing that struck me was how negatively the term ‘Chemistry’ is viewed by the public in comparison term ‘Science’. As chemistry is a huge part of science, I was surprised by how differently they are perceived. I think that the public opinion to the terms ‘Biology’ and ‘Physics’ would be more positive than that of ‘Chemistry’.”

The report had found that the public’s perception of science was that it was fun, interesting and engaging, which was in stark contrast to the view of chemistry as an isolated field, which was seen to be inaccessible, serious and intimidating. Ben therefore concluded that establishing why science was tangible and chemistry was not, would help to make chemistry more accessible.

Ben argued that this is likely due to chemistry’s lack of presence in the mainstream media. There is no David Attenborough or Brian Cox acting as a ‘public champion’ for chemistry. However, he also concluded that the problem may run deeper, stemming from how chemistry is taught in schools.

His essay, which will now be published in the next issue of Chemistry World, was highly received and Ben was shortlisted for the final, in the famous Faraday lecture theatre at the Royal Institute. Each of the 5 finalists had to produce a 10 minute talk to a mixed audience of 200 people that would explain a chemistry concept in an engaging way. For this Ben chose the chemistry behind the mucus in our bodies.

After some deliberation amongst the judges, Ben was presented with the award. The award comes with a week’s work experience with AkzoNobel – a world leader in the chemistry field.

Ben, whose PhD comes to an end in 6 months, says:

“It is really fantastic to have won the award, but the most exciting thing was just reaching the final. The opportunity to present in the historic Faraday Lecture Theatre is something I will never forget. The other finalists all gave brilliant presentations and it really showed that the communication of exciting chemistry has a bright future!”

Becoming the Best: Women in Science

Women have made great strides towards achieving equality in science, but there’s a still a long way to go – according to a leading scientist from The University of Manchester.

Dr Hema Radhakrishnan, one of the nation’s top sight researchers, today launched a programme of events at The University to encourage women to advance in their field.

Called ‘Becoming the Best’, women from across science spoke to an audience of female academics and students on International Women’s Day.

The event was organised by Dr Radhakrishnan, Deputy Associate Dean for Social Responsibility and Professor Amanda Bamford, Associate Dean for Social Responsibility – both at the Faculty of Life Sciences.

The move builds on the prestigious Athena Swan Silver Award given in October 2015, which recognised the Faculty’s commitment to tackling gender inequality in higher education.

The Equality Challenge Unit gave the award to just 87 departments in the whole of the UK.

The Athena SWAN charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science.

Dr Radhakrishnan said:

 “Even though we are a long way forward from even 10 years ago, women are still more likely to progress in their careers at a rate that is slower than their male counterparts.

“Men and women do things differently and offer different perspectives; it doesn’t make sense to lose the talents of half the population.

“Women often drop out of science in the period between getting their PhD and finding an academic position and it’s family life which can act as a barrier.

“Sometimes, though it’s simply a question of women not putting themselves forwards for promotion.

“So to break that barrier, we have implemented flexible working, coaching and mentoring schemes – as well as establishing a Women in Life Sciences Group.

“And this programme is part of that ethos.”

Professor Bamford added:

” We strive to develop a culture of fairness, opportunity, flexibility, and respect and want to be a beacon in gender equality.

“So there is no pausing in our efforts, especially as we are now working towards our Athena Swan Gold award”

The event included a keynote speech from Professor Teresa Anderson MBE, Director of the Jodrell Bank Discover Centre

Other speakers at the event included:

Lopa Patel MBE – digital entrepreneur and founder of inclusion think tank ‘Diversity UK’.

Dr. Heather Williams – Director of ‘ScienceGrrl’, which celebrates and supports women in science.

Dr. Narmeen Varawalla – Executive ice-president and chief scientific officer of Lambda Therapeutic Research.

Dr Santos Bhanot – Chair of Asian Circle, a charity which supports vulnerable and disadvantaged women in India.

Professor Susan Kimber – Co-director of NEWSCC.

Angela Saini – Science journalist, author and broadcaster.

Professor Amrita Ahluwalia – Deputy director, The William Harvey Research Institute.

Professor Aline Miller – Professor of biomolecular engineering, The University of Manchester


Faculty scientist wins prestigious life science enterprise award

Dr David Brough was recently named the Bionow Promising Technologist of the year at the 14th annual Bionow Awards.

Bionow is an organisation that helps support business growth and innovation in the biomedical and life science sector. The award ceremony highlights the best technologies and individuals that are present in the north of the UK.

Brough Award

David was recognised for developing and driving the translation of his research findings of a new class of potential therapeutic drugs. The drugs specifically targeted a molecule called NLRP3 and could help with central nervous system inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease. His work has led to a recently patented class of compounds that enables specific control of damaging inflammatory reactions.

David adds:

 “I was delighted to accept this award on behalf of our team in the brain inflammation group and in the School of Pharmacy. We now know that the process of inflammation contributes to the worsening of neurodegenerative disease. Our goal is to understand the biology of inflammation, and through improved understanding, develop new ways to target disease causing mechanisms.”

On the awards as a whole, Dr Geoff Davison, Chief Executive Officer of Bionow, commented:

“The 14th Annual Bionow Awards Dinner has been our best yet and we would like to congratulate all of the award winners and thank the sponsors for their continued support. We were delighted to spend the evening celebrating the achievements in our sector which showcases the strength and breadth of the sector in the North and demonstrating how we can contribute to the Northern Powerhouse.”


Faculty scientist wins prestigious Optometry award

The College of Optometrists is the professional, scientific and examining body for optometry in the UK, recently recognised the achievements of the most talented researchers working in the field at its annual Diploma Ceremony at the Central Hall in Westminster, London on Tuesday 10th November. Four individuals and a research team were presented with a College Research Excellence Award in recognition of their outstanding contribution to vision science, eye health care and to the profession.

We are delighted to announce that Dr Hema Radhakrishnan MCOptom, received the Neil Charman Medal for Research, the most prestigious of the five awards, for her pioneering work on ocular accommodation and collagen cross linking.

She said:Picture by All rights reserved College of optometrists  diploma awards 2015, London.

I was delighted to receive the Neil Charman medal for research. The Research Excellence Awards recognise the outstanding research that is done by College members. It was amazing to see so many excellent researchers from across the globe being handed these awards and Life Fellowships. On the day, when the streets around Westminster were lined with poppies, we had our own affirmation of how we are able to see much further in our profession by standing on the shoulders of giants.

This is the first time that the award has been made to a Manchester researcher and is the highest profile research prize in Optometry in the UK.  This award follows on from a previous research excellence award from the College of Optometrists in 2011 when Dr Radhakrishnan was given The Bernard Gilmartin award  for having the most highly regarded research paper in Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, the journal of the College of Optometrists.

Student awarded SCI Scholarship

We are delighted to announce that The Faculty of Life Science’s very own James Adams, has been awarded a SCI scholarship of £5,000 to support his studies into the development of selective Phosphatase inhibitors.

SCI Scholarships are more than just financial, he will also benefit from publishing opportunities, access to a high-calibre network to help launch his career, and opportunities to present his work and raise his profile within the scientific community.

James Adam said:

“I am working on a challenging but inspirational research project that is truly multidisciplinary. This research involves the development of effective bioactive tools to dissect fundamental signalling pathways in particular those involving Phosphatases.

The funding and support offered by my SCI Scholarship will provide a valuable resource to help me pursue my studies.”

Faculty of Life Sciences awarded the Athena Swan Silver Award

The Faculty of Life Sciences are proud to announce that they have been awarded the prestigious Athena Swan Silver Award. The award was created as a way to recognise institution’s commitment to tackle gender inequality in higher education.

Equality Challenge Unit awarded the Athena Swan Silver Award to just 87 departments in the whole of the UK. The Faculty was one of only 6 departments who were able to retain their silver award from 3 years ago. In order to retain, The Faculty had to show progression in its efforts to address gender equality on both an individual and structural level. The award will last for the duration of 3 years and will promote the Faculty as a champion for gender equality.

On the value of the award, Sarah Dickinson, Head of Equality Charters at Equality Challenge Unit said:

“In an ever changing higher education landscape, we realise that participating in the charter is a significant undertaking, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate all those who participated for their demonstrable commitment to tackling gender inequality.”

Amanda Bamford, Chair of the Athena Swan Self-Assessment Team and Associate Dean for Social Responsibility, said:

“I am really thrilled with this award which recognises the efforts made across the Faculty to ensure a supportive working environment for all our staff. The award reflects an enormous amount of work and commitment to provide the most progressive and supportive environment possible for career development and work-life balance in the Faculty. We strive to develop a culture of fairness, opportunity, flexibility, and respect. We want to be a beacon in gender equality so there is no pausing in our efforts especially as are now working towards our Athena Swan Gold award!”

Hema Radhakrishnan, Deputy Associate Dean for Social Responsibility, Faculty of Life Sciences, who also took an active role in the application, said:

“We are delighted to receive the Athena SWAN Silver award which recognises the tremendous effort from the Faculty of Life Sciences towards advancing gender equality amongst staff and students. Even though we are a long way forward from the Suffragette movement, women are still more likely to be discouraged from pursuing careers in Science, Engineering and Technology. Women who do take interest in these subjects often progress in their careers at a rate that is slower than their male counterparts. Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science. This Silver award shows that we as a faculty are working hard to reduce the gender gap and the efforts taken by the faculty are benefiting women and individuals with caring responsibilities.”

The Faculty will be presented with the award at a ceremony in the coming months and will be able to proudly wear the Athena Swan Silver badge.


Cobra Biologics and The University of Manchester Announce Collaboration to Improve Industrial Scale-up

It has been announced that a two year collaboration between The University of Manchester and Cobra Biologics is to take place.

The partnership is focused on improving understanding of cellular bio-processing which is required for the scaled production of therapeutic proteins. The collaboration is supported via the FLexible Interchange Programme (FLIP) Scheme from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The partnership aims to produce better predictability in the production of bio-pharmaceuticals which can be used in treatments for diseases like cancer and inflammation.

The agreement will enable the exchange of knowledge, technology and skills and will allow Cobra access to the University’s internationally renowned academic and associated research group. Professor Dickson will benefit from Cobra’s production data and significant operational knowledge of industrial manufacturing processes.

Dr Daniel Smith, CSO Cobra Biologics, said:

This is an exciting and unique opportunity for Cobra Biologics to gain scientific and technological insights from one of the senior UK academics working in the bioprocessing area.
“In addition, Professor Dickson has links and collaborations with UK and international academics, addressing all aspects of production of biopharmaceuticals.
“The insights of Professor Dickson into the various processes and tools used, combined with historical data case studies undertaken by Cobra Biologics, will allow better definition and enhancement of our current manufacturing processes and to build towards the idealised platforms and processes for future manufacture of innovator and biosimilar molecules.

Professor Alan Dickson, The University of Manchester, commented:

For an academic, FLIP support offers a tremendous opportunity to place the intellectual driver of research in the context of commercial perspectives.

In working with colleagues at Cobra Biologics over the next two years, we hope to develop predictive visions for choice, manipulation and decision-making in manufacturing processes. The collaboration will offer long-term benefits for the University of Manchester, Cobra Biologics and, consequently, for the biopharmaceuticals sector in the North West of England.

This is a true exchange of vision across the industrial/academic interface, in which both partners will learn from each other’s perspectives, with learnings that will be translated to subsequent research projects and commercial activities.

Faculty scientist shortlisted for International book prize.

Faculty scientist, Professor Matthew Cobb has been shortlisted for the prestigious Royal Society Winton Prize.

In Life’s Greatest Secret: The Story of the Race to Crack the Genetic Code, Matthew talks about the fascinating history behind the genetic code and how scientists from the 1940s and 50s managed to crack it.

The Royal Society Winton Prize is the world’s leading science literature award and celebrates science books which are designed to be accessible for the general public. The book, released earlier this year, has received rave reviews:

“Authoritative… thrilling… a first-class read’ – the Observer

“A compelling fusion of science, history and biography” – The Sunday Times

“A masterly account… a delight” – the Guardian

On receiving the nomination, Matthew Cobb says:

“I’m delighted and honoured that Life’s Greatest Secret has made it onto the shortlist of this prestigious prize. I hope that it will inform and inspire readers, in particular school and university students.”

The winner will be crowned on the 24th September, with the winner receiving £25,000. The other five shortlisted authors will receive £2,500 each.

Chaim Weizmann continues to inspire Manchester research 100 years on

A century after the first President of Israel made his vital discovery about acetone at The University of Manchester, we are celebrating his legacy through a collaboration with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

In 1915, Chaim Weizmann discovered a more sustainable way of making acetone which was required for the manufacture of cordite. His work attracted the attention of the British Government and six distilleries were requisitioned for the mass production of this explosive powder. As shell production rose from 500,000 in the first five months of the First World War to 16.4 million in 1915, Weizmann was credited with a significant impact on the war effort.

Today, the Faculty has eight links with the Weizmann Institute all of which are undertaking significant research. Now, thanks to the Alliance Family Foundation, funding is in place for seven further partnerships.

The Weizmann Institute hosted a two day symposium on March 24 to celebrate the scientific discoveries already made through Professor Steffen Jung (Weizmann Institute of Science), Lord Alliance and Professor Werner Muller (University of Manchester)the Lord Alliance Get Connected Grants. Faculty scientist Professor Werner Muller’s partnership with Stefan Jung was awarded the Lord Alliance Prize of £100,000. Their work has shed light on how the cells in our gut respond to foreign parasites such as worms and how they may trigger diseases. Other discoveries made possible through the grants have impacted neural conditions, food security, wound healing, and cancer. Professor Martin Humphries, Dean of the Faculty, says:

“In establishing the concept of the Get Connected scheme, Benny Geiger and I aimed to build on this historical link and provide a means for the excellent scientists in both institutions to forge new interactions. The Get Connected programme is a shining example of what can be achieved when such researchers are given the freedom and resources to join forces with other like-minded teams. Put simply, what is achieved is progress at an accelerated rate.”

Manchester researcher takes gold for biology display in Parliament

Dean with MP Rosie WintertonA University palaeontologist won the gold award at the SET for Britain competition on Monday March 9. Mentored by Faculty scientist Dr David Penney, Dean Lomax presented his research to a panel of judges at the House of Commons and claimed the £3000 prize.

The SET for Britain competition aims to improve the understanding of our politicians when it comes to the UK’s thriving science and engineering scene.  It rewards the excellent research being done in the country.

Dean’s research focused on how he discovered a new species of Ichthyosaur, an extinct marine reptile. It was judged against 59 other shortlisted researchers’ work. Dean said:

“It is truly an honour to win this prestigious award. To think that my research has been acknowledged in such a prominent capacity helps to show the importance of palaeontology, and that what I contribute has meaning. This has given me an incredible boost to continue to aim high, work hard, and communicate further the study of the science I love. This is a win for British palaeontology. Thank you to everybody involved; what a magnificent event.”

Minister in Manchester to announce £40 million funding boost

Vince Cable MP speaking to Professors Perdita Barran and Bob KellBusiness Secretary Dr Vince Cable has visited the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) to meet scientists working on synthetic biology. This follows the announcement of £40million funding into this cutting-edge research area, £32 million of which is being split across new research centres in Manchester, Edinburgh, and Warwick.

The investment comes from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and the Medical Research Council (MRC), as well as via capital investment from the UK government. Funds will be awarded over a five-year period, boosting national research capacity and ensuring that the expertise to nurture this growing industry exists in the UK.

The MIB will receive £10.3million to establish the Centre for Synthetic Biology of Fine and Speciality Chemicals (SYNBIOCHEM). This centre will develop new products and methods for drug discovery and production, agricultural chemicals, and new materials for sustainable manufacturing. Professor Nigel Scrutton, Co-Director of SYNBIOCHEM, said:

“Our vision is to harness the power of synthetic biology to propel chemicals and natural products production towards ’green’ and sustainable manufacturing processes. More broadly, the Centre will provide the general tools, technology platforms, and ‘know-how’ to drive academic discovery and translate new knowledge and processes towards industrial exploitation.”

Synthetic biology is a new scientific method that applies engineering principles to biology to create new biological parts, devices, and systems. It has been used to generate biological ‘factories’ producing useful products such as medicines, chemicals, green energy, and tools for improving crops. It has been identified by the government as one of ‘Eight Great Technologies’ in which Great Britain can be a world leader. Fellow Co-Director, Professor Eriko Takano, added:

“Synthetic biology is an emerging science that has the capacity to transform the UK and European industrial landscape. It will revolutionise manufacturing processes to deliver renewable and sustainable materials, biopharmaceuticals, chemicals, and energy that will impact significantly on our economic, social, and environmental landscape. It promises a brighter future for all.”

Business Secretary Dr Cable discussed the funding:

“From materials for advanced manufacturing to developing new antibiotics and better tests for diseases, this new £40million investment is in one of the most promising areas of modern science. It will see our world class researchers using bacteria to produce chemicals to make everyday products like toothbrushes and credit cards, which are currently made from unsustainable fossil fuels.  Not only will this help improve people’s everyday lives in the future but it will support long-term economic growth.”

£3 million grant for cutting-edge biotechnology

MIB BuildingProfessor Nigel Scrutton and his team at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) have been awarded nearly £3million to create sustainable ways of manufacturing chemicals used in everyday products. They are one of five long-term research projects benefiting from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) Strategic Longer and Larger Grants (sLoLaS) scheme.

The team will design and assemble bespoke biological parts to be used in a synthetic, engineered microbial factory. They hope these biological compounds will replace those currently taken from fossil fuels. Professor Scrutton says:

“Our vision is to harness the power of Synthetic Biology to propel chemicals and natural products production towards ’green’ and sustainable manufacturing processes. More broadly, the programme will provide the general tools, technology platforms, and SynBio ‘know-how’ that will impact widely in the sustainable manufacture of chemicals and natural products for development by the industrial sector.”

£15.8 million is being awarded to five projects in the UK. They were chosen based on the basis of their scientific excellence, long timescales, extensive resources, multidisciplinary approaches, and internationally leading research teams. Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said:

“BBSRC’s sLoLaS scheme gives world-leading scientists long-term funding to work on critical research challenges. In this round those challenges include producing clean energy, new ways to produce medicines and other valuable chemicals, and protecting livestock from disease. Not only will these funded projects help the UK and the world to address these challenges, but it will build vital research capacity here in the UK and provide opportunities for economic and social benefits.”

Funding for new ‘Manchester Single Cell Research Centre’

The University has secured funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) for a new Manchester Single Cell Research Centre (SCRC). A Single CellThe £5 million award application was led by Faculty scientist Professor Cay Kielty in collaboration with colleagues from FLS and the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences.

Researchers in the SCRC will focus on characterising a group of rare cells called circulating tumour cells (CTCs), which give rise to drug-resistant cancers. They will also be working on specific stem cells that can enable the regeneration of damaged tissues such as muscle, joints, skin, and blood vessels. Professor Kielty says:

“This new technology will enable us to define cell heterogeneity and the biology of rare cells in health and disease.”

Faculty researcher receives grant for pancreatic cancer project

Dr Jason BruceFaculty researcher Dr Jason Bruce has been awarded a grant of around £180,000 by The Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (PCRF.)

PCRF have awarded a total of £1.2million to ambitious projects tackling the UK’s deadliest cancer. It is the second year that they have invested over £1million in a single funding round, enabling innovative research that could lead to new treatments for this aggressive and complex disease.

Dr Bruce’s work focuses on pancreatic cancer cells and the unique way that they extract energy from the nutrients which help them to survive and grow. The cancer cells use this energy source to pump calcium out of the cell. As high levels of calcium can be fatal to such cells, Dr Bruce’s project will aim to utilise new drugs and cut off the supply of energy to the calcium pumps. This would kill cancer cells whilst leaving healthy ones unharmed.  Maggie Blanks, PCRF’s founder and CEO, said:

“This is an amazing achievement, and it is thanks to the tireless fundraising of our supporters around the country who know that funding research is the only way to accelerate the development of new treatments and diagnostic tools that will improve patients’ chances of survival.”

Faculty Impact Fellow wins prestigious award

Malcolm RhodesDr Malcolm Rhodes will receive the Peter Dunnill Award for Outstanding Contribution to UK Bioprocessing at the bioProcessUK Conference in November. Dr Rhodes is currently working as a BBSRC Industrial Impact Fellow in the Faculty, helping to build collaborations between industry and academia. During the last four years, funding of approximately £8 million has been awarded for collaborative research with biopharmaceuticals companies, through the Centre of Excellence in Biopharmaceuticals. Dr Rhodes said:

“I am extremely honoured to have been awarded the Peter Dunnill Award. Prof Dunnill and the previous recipients of this award have contributed so much to our field, and it is a real privilege to be associated with them. I would also like to thank my colleagues from industry and academia for awarding this great honour to me.”

Steve Bates, the Chief Executive Office of the UK BioIndustry Association, said:

“Malcolm’s commitment, skill and passion for bioprocessing are widely recognised across the industry and we are delighted that this is being acknowledged with this prestigious award. Malcolm has been a significant catalyst in the industry over the past decades as well as mentoring and assisting numerous emerging companies and professionals. It is thanks to the exceptional work and talent of individuals like Malcolm that the UK is fast becoming a leading global location for bioprocessing and medicines manufacturing.”

Faculty student wins prestigious award

Siddarth Krishnan Faculty student Siddharth Krishnan has won the Life Sciences category of The Undergraduate Awards, a prestigious international programme that identifies leading creative thinkers through their undergraduate coursework. There were 4,792 entries from 206 Universities across 27 countries. Another Faculty student, Eliot Haworth, was highly commended.

Siddharth entered his work from a placement at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, USA, in which he helped to characterise a novel gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease. This was part of his degree in Pharmacology with Industrial Experience. He said:

“I gained a lot of great experience during my placement. The Mayo Clinic has a hospital, education wing, and research centre all on the same site, so I was able to work with researchers and patients for my genetic studies. This gave me a lot of confidence, as it meant I had good research experience already. It also helped me get onto my PhD in Neuroscience and I had a strong submission to the awards. Still, I was surprised and delighted to win!”

Prestigious fellowships for three Faculty scientists

A lab workerOur congratulations go to three Faculty researchers who have recently been awarded important independent fellowships. Gloria Lopez-Castejon and John Grainger received two of the twelve available Henry Dale Fellowships, while Franciska de Vries became the Faculty’s sixth recipient of a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship.

The Henry Dale Fellowships, which are awarded twice a year, are for outstanding postdoctoral scientists who wish to build their own independent research career in the UK. Gloria and John both work in the area of inflammation. John’s interests focus on the role of lymphoid cells in the regulation of inflammation and immunity, whereas Gloria’s fellowship will focus on how the regulation of certain post-translational modifications of proteins orchestrates an inflammation response.

The BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship, which Franciska has been awarded, is intended for scientists who have demonstrated high potential and hope to establish themselves as independent researchers. There were only five awards available, and the support will last for five years.  Franciska will be researching the role of plant roots in ecosystem responses to climate change. Prof Ian Roberts, Associate Dean for Research in the Faculty, said:

“These fellowships are highly prestigious. To see our promising young researchers recognised in this way demonstrates the calibre of the scientists working in the Faculty.”

Book prize launched to honour world renowned historian of science and medicine

The British Society for the History of Science (BSHS) has set up a prize to honour Professor John Pickstone, the world-Professor John Pickstonerenowned historian of science from the University of Manchester who passed away earlier this year.

The announcement of the BSHS John Pickstone Prize coincided with a memorial held at the University earlier this month. The event celebrated Professor Pickstone’s contribution to the history of science, technology, and medicine.

Professor Pickstone worked at the Faculty’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. He was one of the nation’s most important historians in his field and a tireless champion of Manchester’s heritage. The BSHS said that his research and teaching exemplified their ethos.

The prize will be awarded every two years to the best scholarly history of science book in the English language. The winning book should mark a major advance in the understanding and interpretation of the scientific past.

A shortlist for the first Pickstone Prize will be released at the BSHS’s EGM, which takes place in July. The winner will be announced in December 2014.

Professor Daniel Davis longlisted for important science writing prize

Professor Daniel Davis’s The Compatibility Gene has been longlisted for the Royal Winton Prize for Science Books. The book discusses howDan Davis and his book our compatibility genes may influence finding a life partner as much as they influence our health and individuality.  The judges said:

“Davis wins you over from the start with touch points you can relate to and engaging descriptions. Dedication and a life spent in pursuit of his subject are evident on every page.”

Over 160 books were submitted for this year’s prize, and the judges faced a difficult task when whittling that number down to a longlist of twelve. The winning author will receive £25,000 and up to five shorlistees will be awarded £2,500. The shortlist will be announced on 19th September 2014.

Professor Nicky Clayton FRS, Chair of the judges, said:

“There really is a plethora of good science writing out there at the moment. I think this shows how science is ever increasingly becoming part of our culture. In the end though, we did have to agree on 12 and we’re delighted with those we’ve selected. Each one takes you on an informative but perhaps more importantly, engaging, journey of the science. Some are woven with humour and passionate personal stories; others are able to illuminate incredibly complex topics. All are marvellously written and full of the wonder of science.”

Faculty researcher shortlisted for national award

Sheena CruickshankA project led by Faculty researcher Dr Sheena Cruickshank was shortlisted in the Engage Competition 2014, run by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE). The project, entitled ‘Educating Community Groups about Parasite Infection and its Impact,’ was praised for its work informing UK immigrants about how infections are transmitted.

Alongside Indira Mclean of Bolton College, Dr Cruickshank devised an education programme that is being used by language schools. The programme teaches people from around the world about how parasitic infections such as toxoplasma, whipworm, malaria, and schistosomes are caught, and how they can be prevented. Dr Cruickshank said:

“Globally, the biggest killer of people under 50 is infection. In countries where infections that are caused by gut worms are still very common, it is the main reason why children don’t get an education. We focused on explaining how people catch these infections, their global significance (in terms of prevalence and effects on global health and economy), and how they can be prevented.”

The programme underwent a pilot run during ESOL classes at Bolton College. The participants were of mixed nationalities including African, Iraqi, and Indian. Dr Cruickshank said:

“Apart from providing a vital information service, this is an incredible opportunity to learn from these people’s experiences. Hearing about worm infections and their impact on daily life has motivated many of us to change our research.”

Students offer advice on sensible drinking

The student's posterFaculty students are campaigning against excessive alcohol consumption and hope their message goes viral. The team of first year biology students have won an award from the University for a project which tasked students with the challenge of bringing biology into the local community.

Students Bethany Love, Katy Faulkner, Caroline Cahill, Portia Hollyoak, Aimee Parry, Annika Vik,  and Helen Feord launched the awareness campaign earlier this year on social media. They used Facebook and Twitter to promote facts and figures on alcohol consumption using images and videos to engage its audience.

Bethany said her team came up with the idea not to encourage students not to drink alcohol, but to advise them on over-drinking:

“We wanted to use social media to promote our campaign to young adults outside the university since it isn’t just students that overindulge with alcohol. While the majority of students are aware of the short term effects of excessive drinking, many are not aware or would rather not think about the permanent damage that can occur as a result of binge drinking”

“We are raising awareness and letting people know that you can go out and have fun with your friends, but you can also still be safe and not damage your health. Our ambition is that when people are searching online for information about anti-binge drinking, we want them to think of us. We think they will want to engage with the campaign because it is about students talking to other students about the issues surrounding binge drinking.”

Aimee said:

“The success of our project is clear from the popularity of our Facebook and Twitter pages, and the use of social media has enabled us to reach the attention of a wider audience than expected.”

The campaign won an award for the Best Community Project at the University’s recent Biology Project Symposium. Students taking part in the project were given a term to bring biology into the local community. It took on numerous forms, from fundraising for charities to setting up/demonstrating topical information displays in primary schools and shopping malls.



Faculty scientist recognised for entrepreneurial spirit

curtisdobsonDr Curtis Dobson has won the Commercial Innovator of the Year award at the BBSRC’s Fostering Innovation Awards 2014. The awards were presented in London, in front of a prestigious audience featuring leading figures from the worlds of investment, industry, government, charity, and academia. He scooped the £15,000 award in recognition of two successful healthcare companies that are based on his research.

Ai2 Ltd has developed anti-infective peptide technology for use in ophthalmics and medical devices. This technology helps to reduce infections caused by contact lenses, catheters, wound dressings, and orthopaedic devices. Microsensor Ltd is developing a new approach to the early detection of medical device infection and environmental monitoring. The technology is simple, inexpensive, and robust, proving a clear indication of clinically or industrially relevant levels of infection on a surface. Dr Curtis Dobson said:

“Being recognised by this BBSRC award is a privilege and an honour, and further validates our efforts to tackle resistant infection, which impacts so many people throughout the UK and beyond. The additional funds will help us accelerate commercialisation of our latest technologies, ultimately delivering benefits to patients sooner.”

Professor Ian Kimber, Faculty Associate Dean for Business Development, said:

“This is a remarkable achievement and is a testament to the industry and innovation of Curtis and his co-workers. It is a reflection also of the emphasis we place on ensuring that the fruits of our substantial investment in research deliver valuable products and opportunities.”

Faculty researcher among BBSRC Innovator of the Year finalists 2014

A Faculty researcher is among nine shortlisted finalists for the 2014 BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research innovatorCouncil) Innovator of the Year competition who were announced today.

Curtis Dobson has been shortlisted in the Commercial Innovator section for his serial innovations focusing on the treatment or detection of infectious agents on medical device surfaces.

He joins Neil Gibbs and Catherine O’Neill, from the Faculty of Medical and Human Science’s Institute of Inflammation and Repair, who have been shortlisted in the same category for their novel approaches to safe skin healthcare – Curapel.

The innovators will be competing to be crowned Innovator of the Year 2014 at a high-profile event in London on 20 March 2014 in recognition of their efforts to take their innovation beyond the lab to deliver social and economic benefits.

The other categories include Social Innovator and Most Promising Innovator reflecting the breadth of the benefits delivered by BBSRC’s investment in UK bioscience. One of the category winners will then be chosen as the overall Innovator of the Year.

Winners in each category will receive a £15,000 award for them to support their research, training or other activities promoting economic or social impact. The overall winner will receive a further £15,000.

The finalists will be judged by an expert independent panel. The judges will be looking to recognise those innovators who have worked the hardest and gone the furthest to take their science out of the lab to deliver impact.

Innovator of the Year is one of BBSRC’s Fostering Innovation competitions that aim to promote excellence amongst researchers, knowledge exchange practitioners, departments and institutions by recognising successful approaches to innovation and impact in the biosciences.

More information about Innovator of the Year can be found on the BBSRC website.

PhD student Sarah Fox gets SET for BRITAIN

setforbritainSarah Fox will have a chance to present a poster of her research to a range of politicians and a panel of expert judges at SET for BRITAIN 2014. SET for BRITAIN is a prestigious national science competition, run by The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee in collaboration with a number of other institutions, which recognises and rewards Britain’s most talented early-career scientists. Sarah will exhibit her research poster entitled “EEG as a tool for early Alzheimer’s diagnostics and drug development”. Sarah’s work highlights the possibility to detect changes in communication between regions of the brain associated with memory formation prior to the appearance of usual Alzheimer’s diagnostic markers, such as memory alternations and build-up of amyloid plagues in the brain. This research could also be used to aid the development of drugs for the treatment of early Alzheimer’s.

Sarah’s poster will be judged alongside other early-stage researchers from across the UK in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Session of the competition. On taking part in the competition, Sarah said:

“I’m excited to be representing Manchester and bringing our research to the people who can influence policy. I hope I can use this opportunity to explain the necessity for both basic and applied research, especially with regard to neuroscience, where the exploration and understanding of basic brain mechanisms is essential to help focus future applied research.”

We wish Sarah luck in the competition!

Prestigious honours for Faculty members

alexeiTwo Faculty members received major honours in their respective fields last month.

Alexei Verkhratsky, Professor of Neurophysiology, has been elected to the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Founded in 1652, the Leopoldina provides science-based advice to political leaders and is home to the European Academies Science Advisory Council. Professor Verkhratsky is the first member of Leopoldina from Manchester and one of only 39 members from the UK. The election recognises Professor Verkhratsky’s personal standing and his many achievements in the neurosciences.

Optometry lecturer Andrew Stokes was also celebrating this month, after receiving an award from the Worshipful spectaclemakersCompany of Spectacle Makers. Andrew received the highest national qualification in spectacle manufacturing and processing. The presentation took place at Apothecaries Hall in London, the home of the oldest optical body in the world.

University receives doctoral training award in regenerative medicine

The University has been chosen to host four new national Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) in science and cdtengineering. Universities and Science Minister David Willetts revealed details of how the £350m fund will be used to train more than 3,500 postgraduate students. It is the UK’s largest investment in postgraduate training in engineering and physical sciences and will fund more than 70 new centres.

The funding, allocated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, will target areas vital to economic growth. The four CDTs awarded to Manchester are in ‘Power Networks,’ ‘Next Generation Nuclear,’ ‘Science and Applications of Graphene and Related Nanomaterials,’ and ‘Regenerative Medicine.’

The Regenerative Medicine CDT, led by Professor Cay Kielty of FLS, with support from the faculties of Medicine and Human Sciences and Engineering and Physical Sciences, will tackle the growing need for therapeutic solutions to the ageing, degenerative, and injury-related pathologies faced by our society and address the shortage in skilled scientists equipped to meet these needs. The team will deliver multidisciplinary training in a variety of related areas and provide clinical translational training supported by the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre. This is the only CDT in regenerative medicine to be funded under the new scheme. Professor Kielty said:

“This CDT award enables us to exploit Manchester’s unique biomedical strengths to train future regenerative medicine experts and enhance the health and wealth of the UK.”

Manchester iGEM team are world champions!

worldchampionsCongratulations to the Manchester iGEM (international Genetically Engineered Machine) team for their success at the iGEM World Championships held in Boston, USA on 2-4 November. The 10 Manchester students, mainly from our Faculty and based at The Manchester Institute for Biotechnology (MIB), won the ‘Best Human Practices’ prize for their work on developing a biosynthetic version of palm oil which could help preserve the rainforest and thereby save elements of biodiversity, including the orangutan.

The Manchester team competed with 73 other synthetic biology teams from around the world. Their project drew praise for a vision in which synthetic biology and traditional farming complemented each other. Members of the team will be describing their work, and the excitement of the iGEM Championships, in the next episode of the Life Sciences podcast. For more details about the project, visit Team Manchester’s website. Team member Robert Harrison said:

“I am absolutely thrilled that we have just won the award for World’s Best Human Practices! We would once again like to express our deepest gratitude for all the support shown by the university, in particular to FLS and MIB, without which this amazing achievement would not have been possible.”

The Big Picture – images of Manchester research in action

Photographs focusing on University research are being showcased as part of Manchester Science Festival. The photos are entries for this year’s Image of Research Competition, with subjects ranging from wishing trees, to living chrysalises, to the ravages of extreme weather. This year’s theme is ‘The Big Picture’ and all of the entries demonstrate how University research is making a real difference in the world.

Members of the public are invited to help decide which pictures most capture the imagination, raise curiosity, and get you thinking differently about research. You can vote for favourite until November 4.

crossingcontinentsFaculty researcher Dr Joanne Pennock has been shortlisted in the competition. Her image features a British boy looking through a microscope, standing in front of another photo of a young Ugandan boy. Dr Pennock explained:

“The Ugandan boy in the background is eligible for a global World Health Organisation program, which has a target to treat 750 million children for intestinal worm infection by 2020. The boy in the foreground is British. He is not part of the global treatment campaign, yet he is learning about the worm eggs that infect children in Uganda and the effect they have on health.”

The Images of Research Competition is a regular part of the annual Manchester Science Festival. Now in its seventh year, the festival’s family friendly programme also features the University’s Science Spectacular on Saturday November 2. This free event takes place at Whitworth Hall and Manchester Museum between 11am and 4pm, giving visitors the chance to learn about research, meet scientists, and try out simple experiments.

Success in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition!

Faculty undergraduates were part of a team that won a gold medal in the European heat of the International igemGenetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. The students will now go on to the World Finals, to be held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston at the beginning of November.

The worldwide iGEM competition is open to students who are interested in synthetic biology. Competing teams are given a kit of biological parts at the beginning of the summer. They then use this kit, and additional parts of their own design, to build biological systems and operate them in living cells.

The Manchester team, mentored by Professor Eriko Takano, created a synthetic alternative to palm oil using E. coli. Due to its use in many consumer products, demand for palm oil is huge. This is causing the price to rocket, at the same time as creating irreparable damage to rainforests and species such as the Sumatran Orangutan. The team said:

“We went beyond what’s expected in terms of human practices. We researched a report that explored the effect of our project on national and global scales. We studied the viability of replacing palm oil with a synthetic alternative, putting special focus on the effects of competing with traditional farmers. Our report details a vision in which synthetic biology and traditional farming complement each other.”

Because of this aspect of their work, the team won the award for Best Human Practices. They were also involved in outreach activities, with stands at the FLS Community Open Day and at the University’s Science Stars day. Team member Rob Harrison said:

“We would like to thank the Faculty for their generous support. Each team member found the experience highly beneficial; be it for lab experience, computer modelling, or the development of transferable skills.”

We’ll be posting an update on how the team get on at the World Finals. You can find out more about their project on their Wiki page, and more about the competition in general on the iGEM website.

Commendation for Faculty PhD student

Oliver Freeman, a final-year PhD student from the Faculty, has received a commendation for his entry in this oliverfreemanyear’s Max Perutz Science Writing Award. Following the shortlisting of his article, Why sugary nerves aren’t so sweet, Oliver attended a writing masterclass and an award ceremony in London, where he picked up his commendation prize of £750.

The Max Perutz Award is named in honour of one of the UK’s most outstanding scientists and communicators, Dr Max Perutz, who died in 2002. The awards are in their sixteenth year and aim to bring the work of Medical Research Council researchers to the attention of a wider audience. All entrants are asked to explain why their research matters in a maximum of 800 words. This year’s judges included MRC Chairman Donald Brydon, Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow, New Scientist editor Lizzie Gibney, and Dr Andrew Bastawrous, the winner of last year’s award. Our congratulations go to Oliver and all of the successful entrants. Oliver said:

“Being shortlisted for the award was a fantastic experience and to be commended in the award ceremony was a great bonus. The support the MRC gives to young scientists is incredible and I’d urge anyone considering entering a competition such as this to give it a go.”

Double success for the Faculty!

The Society of Biology Science Communication Awards reward scientists and researchers for outreach work rebeccawilliamswhich educates and engages the public. There are two categories in these annual awards, and this year both winners were from our faculty.

Applicants’ projects can vary widely, from articles and talks, to demonstrations and art displays. Judges look for engaging activities which bring top-quality science to non-academic audiences, encouraging a long-lasting interest in biology.

This year’s New Researcher Award went to developmental biology PHD Student Rebecca Williams. Rebecca established Fastbleep Biology, an organisation that runs workshops in Greater Manchester, while obtaining her PHD. She also worked as a Widening Participation fellow at the University and a demonstrator at Manchester Museum. Ben Johnson, chair of the judging panel, said:

“What struck us about Rebecca’s application was the variety of activities she was involved in and her ability to improve projects based on participant feedback. Rebecca had some great projects and was really committed to ensuring they continued after she finished her PhD.”

Dr Sheena Cruickshank was successful in the other category, receiving the Established Researcher Award for sheenaawardher role as a developer of The Worm Wagon. Combining art and interactive activities, The Worm Wagon brings awareness to global health issues caused by parasitic worms. Working with a variety of audiences, ranging from school children, to immigrant groups, to festival goers at Live from Jodrell Bank, The Worm Wagon informs the public of how these infections can be both transmitted and treated. Dr Steve Cross, another judge on the panel, said:

“Sheena’s application stood out because she’s getting to audiences beyond the places science normally goes, focusing her time and effort to make successful projects that involve her colleagues. We loved the creativity of her communication and the very clear passion for her field of immunology.”

The winners will receive their awards at the Society’s Annual Award Ceremony at the King’s Fund on Thursday 17th October during Biology Week 2013.

Professor Nancy Papalopulu Becomes a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences

nancypapalopulu (1)Professor Nancy Papalopulu has been elected to the Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences as recognition for her contribution to the advancement of medical science. Out of 351 candidates, Professor Papalopulu was one of only 44 UK researchers to be recognised in this year’s list.

To be elected as an Academy Fellow, a scientist must display excellence in medical research, show innovative applications of scientific knowledge, or provide eye-catching service to healthcare. Professor Sir John Tooke, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said:

“The Academy of Medical Sciences exists to promote the best of medical science for the benefit of society. Our new Fellows are recognised for their exceptional contribution and collectively represent the array of talent present in the UK medical science community. They will further strengthen the Academy and I look forward to working with them over the coming years.”

Professor Papalopulu joined the Faculty from The University of Cambridge in 2006. Her research studies the development of the nervous system from fertilised egg to embryonic brain. Her work focuses on understanding how cells decide to divide or differentiate at the molecular level; a decision which is crucial for the correct development of the nervous system. Most recently, she made an important discovery into how cyclical fluctuations in levels of protein and small RNAs regulate the fate that cells adopt.

This research into the nervous system could prove integral to the treatment of many medical conditions. It is for this work, and the role she plays in helping future scientists to undertake similar crucial research, that Professor Papalopulu has been recognised as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. Professor Papalopulu discussed her election to the Academy:

“Basic research underpins medical discoveries and it is a great honour that my research has been recognised in this way by the country’s leading medical scientists. I am looking forward to serving the community as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.”

University and UMIP Runners Up in BBSRC Award

The University of Manchester and its technology transfer arm, University iankimberof Manchester Intellectual Property (UMIP), have been announced as joint runners-up in the Activating Impact category of the 2013 BBSRC Fostering Innovation Awards.

Activating Impact is a new category. It was created to celebrate the work of successful Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation (KEC) teams or individuals who have made essential contributions in turning BBSRC supported bioscience research into real-life applications. The University places great emphasis on KEC and the Faculty is a major recipient of funding from the BBSRC.

The Faculty’s Associate Dean for Business Development, Professor Ian Kimber, has played a crucial role in the work that led to this award. Working closely with Dr Rich Ferrie, Head of UMIP, he helped create an intimate connectivity between the researchers and IP specialists.

This has contributed to the successful transfer of technology, and the subsequent healthcare impact, for many years. Ai2 Ltd and Conformetrix were just two examples recognised by the judges. Ai2 Ltd has developed anti-infective peptide technology for use in ophthalmics and medical devices, whilst Conformetrix have developed platform technology that uses nuclear magnetic resonance analysis to determine 3D molecular structures of drug compounds with high accuracy. This is a world first which allows Conformetrix to develop a pipeline of proprietary drugs for use against therapeutically important targets.

As joint runners-up, The University and UMIP will receive £25,000. This will help appoint an IP Impact Officer for one year, to work closely with Professor Kimber and Dr Ferrie on a pilot programme aimed at maximising impact from the pool of IP emanating from the Faculty. Professor Ian Kimber comments:

“I was delighted to learn that our bid was awarded joint second place in the finals. I believe this achievement recognises our commitment to developing new models and new mechanisms, ensuring that the fruits of our investment in research are exploited quickly and effectively to deliver real health and economic benefits.”

Worm Wagon Team Win International Women’s Day STEM Award

wormwagonFaculty scientists Dr Sheena Cruickshank and Professor Kathryn Else, alongside Dr Joanne Pennock of The Faculty for Medical and Human Sciences, have received the International Women’s Day 2013 Award for Woman in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The award is presented to women who have excelled in the STEM fields, and those having a positive impact on women or the wider community. The fact that the team have been chosen as this year’s recipients demonstrates just how successful they have been in their joint venture: The Worm Wagon.

The award-winning trio’s research focuses on Neglected Tropical Diseases, specifically soil transmitted parasitic worm infections. These illnesses have a huge impact on global health and often trap communities in poverty due to ill health and reduced schooling. A key 2020 goal for the World Health Organisation is to provide deworming medication to 75% of school-age children in endemic regions.

The Worm Wagon showcases this research and is enthusiastically supported by other members of the Manchester Immunology Group. Activities revolve around videos of hatching worm eggs, field work in Ecuador, and messy mucus demonstrations. These activities have been enjoyed by over 45,000 people at schools, festivals, and museums. The scientists have also worked with community organisations and women and children from Asian communities, raising awareness of parasitic worm infections.

At the 2010 Manchester Science Festival, the Worm Wagon created two pieces of traditional Indian art (Rangoli) to highlight the role that science can play in reducing world poverty. The artwork raised awareness of on-going research and highlighted the global drive to reduce worm infection in school children. The events were a great success, prompting interesting discussion and contributing to the scientific direction in Manchester.

The Worm Wagon team are all committed to encouraging and promoting women in science. Professor Else and Dr Pennock work on improving Athena Swan status for their Faculties, while Professor Else also founded the Women in Life Sciences group at the University. Receiving this latest award is a deserved achievement, recognising the successful and dynamic work done to improve the situation for female scientists at the same time as combatting serious illness.

Prof Richard Grencis Awarded Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award

Professor Richard Grencis was recently awarded a Wellcome Trust Senior GrencisRichardInvestigator Award for his work entitled ‘Immunity to Whipworm: Transforming the Paradigm.’

The award will enable him to use new in vitro and in vivo models to define how whipworm, or Trichuris, a prevalent gastrointestinal parasitic roundworm, invades the host and survives the immune system’s attack. Furthermore, the award will support vital new collaborations with researchers in regions endemic for human whipworm infection. This should help to bridge the gap between experimental and translational studies in the future, leading to increasingly effective research.

Dr Curtis Dobson Receives Biomedical Project of the Year Award

Faculty of Life Sciences researcher Dr Curtis Dobson has been awarded the ‘Biomedical Project of the Year’ at the 11th Annualdobson Bionow Awards. Dr Dobson and his team received the award for their ‘MicroSensor’ initiative. This initiative consists of the development of a mini sensor which detects when disposable medical products, such as wound dressings, intravenous lines, catheters and contact lenses, have become colonised by microbes.

Traditionally, scientists have tried to find better ways to kill the invading microbes, which can lead to severe illness or even death in patients, but these approaches have not been completely successful, and may never eradicate the problem. Dr Dobson’s team, comprised of material scientists, engineers, clinical researchers, and biologists, have developed technology that allows a miniature biochemical sensor to be embedded close to a device’s surface. The sensor dramatically changes colour when the surface becomes infected, quickly alerting healthcare professionals or the wearer to the presence of harmful bugs.

The multidisciplinary team, led by Dr Dobson, have taken this principle, demonstrated its success in the laboratory, and incorporated it into real medical products that can be tested by major companies in the sector. The team consists of material scientists and engineers Dr Jane Bramhill, Professors Nicola Tirelli, Nick Goddard and Peter Fielden (now at Lancaster University), clinical researchers Dr Frank Bowling, Dr Carole Maldonado-Codina and Philip Morgan and microbiologist Dr Andrew McBain.

Dr Dobson, whose project received £126,000 from the University’s intellectual property company UMI3 as well as further funding of £225,000 from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), said:

“It was fantastic to receive such a prestigious award so early in the development of this technology. Our goal is to aggressively target medical device infection using this new approach. The boost the Bionow award provides should significantly shorten the time it takes us to achieve this, allowing us to protect patients from infection sooner.”

Outstanding Alumnus Award for Dr Duncan Casson

Many congratulations are offered to Dr Duncan Casson, a Faculty of Life Sciences alumnus who was this week presented with an Outstanding Alumnus Award. These awards are presented only to alumni who have achieved distinction in their profession, provided exemplary service to the university or wider community, or demonstrated outstanding service of a personal or humanitarian nature.

Duncan graduated from the University of Manchester in 1980 with BSc in Biochemistry. In 1988 he joined Genzyme as a Seniorduncancasson Project Manager. Here, he managed a team developing novel biological molecules for a hyaluronic acid-based range of products as well as cartilage replacement therapies, both of which continue, nearly 20 years later, to play a significant role in patient treatments.

In 1997, he moved to Cambridge Antibody Technology (CAT) as VP Manufacturing and Programme Management. He was responsible for the strategic and operational management of all CAT’s programme management and manufacturing. CAT, having grown to be one of the leading UK biotechnology companies through the development of fully human therapeutic monoclonal antibodies based on the phage display technology of Prof Greg Winter of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, was acquired in 2006 by AstraZeneca (AZ) for £702 million.

In 2005, Duncan joined newly established PanGenetics as Chief Operating Officer. The firm has been highly successful in the crucial transition of antibody drugs from scientific concept to adoption by the pharmaceutical industry. Duncan has played a significant role in the interface between scientific and business enterprise, translating new bioscience into successful treatments. He has been of pivotal importance in the establishment of a new business model known as the “virtual” biotechnology company, where many of the activities are outsourced to specialist vendors. He represents the sort of drive, enthusiasm and willingness to innovate that we wish to foster in our current generation of students.

Honour for champion of ‘citizen science’

Dr Erinma Ochu, who led the mass sunflower planting as part of MOSI’s engagementcelebration of Alan Turing, has been awarded a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellowship.

The Fellowships champion and develop upcoming stars in public engagement with science. The scheme, now in its second year, provides support for science communicators with a strong track record of delivering high-quality public engagement and aims to propel them to become leaders in their field.

Erinma will explore innovative ways to embed biomedical science in people’s everyday lives. She will investigate how ‘citizen science’ – science carried out by the public, for example in the mass planting for Turing’s Sunflowers, which invited the public to grow sunflowers in order to analyse mathematical patterns in nature – can contribute to biomedical research challenges. Working with high profile mentors, researchers and the Wellcome Trust Arts Awards team, she will also explore the role that new technologies and interactive storytelling can play.

She already holds an honorary research fellowship in the Faculty of Life Sciences. She will work in partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and various festivals to test out new approaches.

The fellowships are part of the Wellcome Trust’s strategic vision of working with researchers and the creative industries to help societies explore and become involved with biomedical science, its future directions, its impacts on society and the ethical questions that it brings.

Science Communication Award 2012

lizgrangerCongratulations to Faculty of Life Sciences’ PhD student Liz Granger who has won the Society of Biology & Wellcome Trust Science Communication Award 2012, in the ‘New Researcher’ category.

Liz’s continued contribution to public engagement demonstrated through her projects during Science Week and Community Open Days and her aim to increase awareness through a range of on-line resources and social media all contributed to her being selected for the Award.

The Society of Biology Science Communication Awards recognise and reward outreach work carried out by biologists to inform, enthuse and engage the wider community. Sue Thorn, Chair of the judging panel, said:

“The standard of entries this year was extremely high, and we had applications from many talented communicators. What struck us about Liz’s application were her innovative ideas and the variety of activities she was involved with. She had some great projects in which she understood how to tailor for different age groups, and went into depth about the science when this was appropriate to the audience.”

Liz received her Award the Society of Biology Science Communication and Photography Awards Ceremony in London, on Tuesday 16th October 2012 and joins other prestigious Faculty of Life Sciences winners such as Emily Robinson (2011 winner) and Ceri Harrop (2009 winner).

Nuffield Student one of top five young scientists in the UK!

nbriggsNiall Briggs, an ‘A’ Level student, undertook a Nuffield Project in the Faculty of Life Sciences which gained him a place in the finals of the National Science and Engineering Competition 2012.

Nuffield Foundation Science Bursaries offer bursaries each year, for students to work alongside professional scientists. Students in the first year of a post-16 science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) course are eligible to apply for a bursary and spend 4-6 weeks over the summer working on a research project.

Niall who is studying at at Holy Cross College in Greater Manchester spent the summer of 2011 in the lab of Professor Kathryn Else in the Faculty of Life Sciences investigating the immune response to intestinal worms.

He was investigating a particular type of intestinal cell called a goblet cell and looking at the role that the cells’ nuclear receptor proteins played during a worm infection. Niall said,

“In my project I carried out a variety of modern immunological techniques, including immunohistochemistry and other staining methods, but also gained an insight into the world of scientific research and worked at the forefront of immunological research, which for an A level student like me was a fantastic experience.”

Niall entered his project for a Gold Crest Award which he achieved, as well as gaining a place in the finals of the National Science and Engineering Competition which were held at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham. 360 projects were entered and Niall was one of the five shortlisted for a ‘dragons den’ style judging event. Niall said,

“The judges included Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE, Vivienne Parry OBE, Professor Molly Stevens and Nobel Prize winning biochemist Sir Tim Hunt. As you can imagine it was a very memorable experience! After an intense few days I was awarded with a ‘Highly Commended’ in the Senior Science and Maths Category, so I can proudly say I am one of the top 5 young scientists in the UK!”

Niall has since received an offer from Durham to study Natural Sciences and hopes to go into research afterwards, something he was not considering until completing his Nuffield Bursary.

Find out more: Science Bursaries for Schools and Colleges