World-class bioscience investment at University of Leicester

Inward investment into the knowledge economy sees more than £1.5m go to pioneering work that affects health

The University of Leicester has been awarded more than £1.5m to advance knowledge and understanding in three key areas that have an impact on health.

The funding has come from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which leads world-class bioscience, promoting innovation in the bioeconomy and realising benefits for society within and beyond the UK.

Three groups from the University of Leicester have won awards. They are led by:

  • Professor David Lambert, £338,432, Department of Cardiovascular Sciences
  • Professor Marco Rinaldo Oggioni, £700,532, Department of Genetics
  • Dr Shaun Cowley, £507,945, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology.

The projects cover a wide range of subjects that affect human health, including sepsis, the spread of infections and cancer, amongst other things. Professor Lambert and his team from the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences have designed a novel biosensor to observe the release of nociceptin from single living immune cells, which has never been done before.

He said: ‘This is a really exciting project, looking at sepsis from the basics of release at the single cell level to translating that information into a disease-relevant model. Sepsis is a huge problem, taking 31,000 lives and costing the UK’s NHS some £2bn each year. BBSRC funding is critical to understanding the basics of the process that will underpin clinical development.’

Professor Oggioni from the Department of Genetics is investigating the spread of infection. He said: ‘This will give us a better understanding of the way pathogenic bacteria spread, either through food or from animals, and is expected to have clear benefits in the prevention of infection and, possibly, on antimicrobial drug resistance.’

Dr Cowley from the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology said: ‘Professor Schwabe and I work on a class of enzymes called HDACs (histone deacetylases), which help to regulate access to the information stored within our DNA. Drugs that inhibit HDACs can prevent cancer cells from growing, reduce inflammation and have positive effects on models of Alzheimer’s disease. Despite these promising results, we still don’t really understand how they work at a molecular level. Our project grant from the BBSRC is designed to understand how the cell signals to HDAC enzymes and fine tunes their activity.’

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