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:

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“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.”

£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.”

Worm Wagon at the Great British Bioscience Festival

Scientists from the Faculty took The Worm Wagon to East London for the Great British Bioscience Festival this November. Led byA proud jigsaw maker Dr Sheena Cruickshank and Professor Kathryn Else, they were part of just twenty groups selected to take part in this 20th year anniversary celebration of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

By combining eye-catching activities with real parasite samples, The Worm Wagon’s exhibition aimed to educate people about the dangers of infection. Both children and adults made the most of the chance to handle tapeworms while others posed as parasites at the ‘schistosome selfie stand’.

The exhibition also featured giant jigsaws and Top Trump cards, all of which proved very popular with the many children at the festival. The jigsaw, once completed, highlighted the key role that washing your hands plays in avoiding infections. The Top Trumps taught their users about the many different parasites and diseases around the world. They even featured topical information about the Ebola virus.

Despite the fact that The Worm Wagon’s exhibition was fun for all who attended, there is a very serious message behind the concept. The idea grew out of the work the team have been doing with recent migrants to the country, teaching them how to prevent the spread of parasite infection. These infections affect approximately 2 billion across the globe and are the biggest killer of people under 50 worldwide. 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. Dr Cruickshank discussed the event:

“It was great to see the local community get so involved and I learnt a lot from the visitors. A favourite moment was seeing one young boy (just 6) turn to another visitor and explain how worm infection was contracted and what the impact of infection was- a future scientist in the making.”

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.

Manchester researchers share in £18million industry-academia networks

University researchers have been chosen to lead new networks linking industry and academia which will sunflower (1)improve energy and food security and develop new drugs. Four of the 13 networks, announced by the BBSRC, will be led by experts from Manchester. One of these is the Bioprocessing Network, led by Faculty researcher Professor Alan Dickson and Professor Christopher Smales from The University of Kent. Professor Dickson said:

“Biologics are complex products made by cells with immense commercial and social potential. Antibody proteins, for example, are revolutionary medicines for treatment of previously incurable diseases. The bioprocessing network (BioProNET) will integrate academic and industrial strengths to improve current practice and establish step-changing and innovative solutions for the manufacture of the next generation of biologics. By enhancing cost effectiveness of bioprocessing, the sector will move towards more affordable biologics for sustainable and healthier lifestyles.”

All of the networks will receive funds to support proof of concept research projects which will demonstrate benefits for industry. The networks will then work with industries to investigate the concepts further. Many of the ideas will build into the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst, funded by the BBSRC, the Technology Strategy Board, and the EPSRC, which will be launched in early 2014. The Catalyst has benefited from recent cash injections and will soon support the development of ideas from concept to commercialisation.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

“To get ahead in the global race we need to turn our world-beating science and research into world-beating products and services, as set out in our Industrial Strategy. These networks will unlock the huge potential of biotechnology and bioenergy, such as finding innovative ways to use leftover food, and creating chemicals from plant cells.”

£2.8million funding boost to track development from embryo to adult

fruitfly (1)Faculty scientists have been awarded £2.8million to further understanding of how cells develop and form particular types of body tissue. The award is part of a £17.7million cash injection from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) which aims to harness the power of bioscience to make significant impacts in healthcare and agriculture. The Manchester team will collaborate with the University of Cambridge and University College London.

Using fruit flies as a model system, researchers will answer important questions regarding how much of each gene product is expressed at one time, which version of each gene is expressed, and which protein partners interact with the gene. Faculty scientist Professor Simon Hubbard explained:

“This could help explain how gene defects lead to abnormal development. Our simonhubbarddevelopment is governed by the complex interplay between the proteins encoded by our genes. Careful control of these proteins at a specific time during development dictates the fate of cells and the tissues they will form. While some of this information is contained within the genome sequence, we currently lack the full picture of what happens during development in the embryo. This project will close the gap in knowledge using both experimental and computational science. ”

The research is funded through the BBSRC’s Strategic Longer and Larger Awards (sLoLas,) which give world-leading research teams the time and resources they require. Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC’s Chief Executive, said:

“This public funding offers long-term support to address major research challenges, while building research capacity in important areas and maximising economic and social benefits for the UK.”