World-leading and collaborative research undertaken at the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research, University of Dundee, has been honoured at one of the sector’s most prestigious prize-givings.
Experts at WCAIR based in the School of Life Sciences scooped three of the top accolades at the Biochemical Society’s annual awards.
The School’s Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) received the Industry & Academic Collaboration Award for its continuing research into neglected tropical diseases with Biopharmaceutical company GSK’s Global Health Unit. Meanwhile, Dr Mattie Pawlowic received the Early Career Research Award, with Professor Sir Mike Ferguson, Regius Professor of Life Sciences, named recipient of the Morton Lecture for outstanding contribution to lipid biochemistry.
The DDU team has formally collaborated with GSK since 2011 to develop new drug candidates for diseases such as leishmaniasis and Chagas disease. Caused by related parasites from the kinetoplastid family, there are few concerted drug discovery efforts aimed at tackling these diseases, which affect millions of lives in some of the world’s poorest countries, killing thousands annually.
Dr Manu De Rycker, from the School’s Drug Discovery Unit (DDU), said, “It is great recognition of a truly integrated industry-academia collaboration that has delivered multiple clinical candidates for neglected tropical diseases. The success of our collaboration is down to a brilliant group of like-minded scientists working together towards a single aim.”
Tim Miles, GSK, added, “As scientists, we hope that our work will have a positive impact on society and GSK’s collaboration with the DDU is a great example of how high quality science and effective industry-academic partnerships can do that, in this case by delivering promising drug candidates for some of the most neglected populations in world.”
Mattie Pawlowic’s ground-breaking research focuses on Cryptosporidium, parasites that causes chronic diarrhoea, or cryptosporidiosis, which is estimated to claim tens of thousands of infant lives every year. In her career to date, Dr Pawlowic’s research has helped to identify the fundamental biology of Cryptosporidium, raising the possibility of developing new treatments to combat cryptosporidiosis.
She said, “I’m thrilled to receive this award, which reflects the hard work of my laboratory team and the support from colleagues at Dundee for my growing group.”
Professor Sir Mike Ferguson’s research also centres upon understanding the biochemistry of protozoan parasites, particularly those that cause the tropical diseases African Sleeping Sickness, Chagas’ disease and leishmaniasis. His award specifically recognises his seminal work on protein-lipid membrane anchors, work that has proven to be important in parasite and human biology. He also helped found the Drug Discovery Unit and has contributed to the expansion of Life Sciences in Dundee over many years.
He said, “I am delighted to receive this honour from the Biochemical Society. Our work has involved many colleagues and collaborators, and I want to thank all of them. It also a great thrill to see the DDU and Mattie being recognised for their brilliant work.”
Professor Iain Gillespie, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said, “Professor Ferguson, Dr Pawlowic and Dr De Rycker and his team are exceptional talents that have helped to establish our School of Life Sciences as one of the foremost research centres of its kind. Their work has helped – and will continue to help – transform lives around the world and it is hugely gratifying that this has been recognised by the Biochemical Society. The research being undertaken here is world-leading and to maintain that requires leadership and teamwork from exceptional scientific minds. I congratulate all of our winners on this success.”