Life Sciences News
Dr David Roper receives BBSRC grant to explore next generation antibiotics
Dr David Roper has been awarded £1.1M from BBSRC-LINK grant for his project on ‘Tools and Reagents for Next Generation Inhibitor Discovery in Peptidoglycan biosynthesis’.
The two-year project will be carried out in collaboration with industrial partner Merck Pharmaceuticals and includes Prof Chris Dowson and Dr Adrian Lloyd from the School of Life Sciences as co-investigators. Antimicrobial resistance to existing antibiotics threatens future healthcare at multiple levels and has been acknowledged as a worldwide issue with an impact as important as climate change. However, a number of factors has led to a steady decline in the discovery and development of antimicrobials in the pharmaceutical industry despite the clear clinical need. This study will investigate the enzymes involved in an early stage of bacterial cell wall synthesis as a target for new antimicrobial drugs. The project seeks to gain the essential knowledge required to explore these enzymes for next generation antibiotics. The team will generate a series of specialist chemical probes to interrogate the mechanism by which these enzymes work, determine the structures of these probes bound to the enzymes, and generate new assays that will allow the discovery of future antibiotics.
Marine conservation research in top 20 global impact case studies
The UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS) has listed the School of Life Sciences marine conservation case study as one of its top 20 favourite impact stories showing how research is improving lives of people around the world. The study led by Prof Charles Sheppard was selected from 6,975 impact case studies submitted to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) which is a system used to assess research quality in UK universities.
The case study shows how Prof Charles Sheppard and colleagues have been co-ordinating new approaches to coral reef conservation, restoration and management, using the coral reefs and islands in the Chagos Archipelago as a reference site. Underpinned by UK research, this British Indian Ocean Territory has now been declared a Marine Protected Area, supporting ecosystem conservation to benefit tropical habitats and help preserve livelihoods in some of the poorest countries in that region.
For full details visit UKCDS Conserving marine environments
(Image courtesy of Anne Sheppard)
Best student poster awards for PhD student Kathryn Hales
School of Life Sciences PhD student Kathryn Hales, won both the John Colhoun Prize awarded for best student poster at the British Society for Plant Pathology Presidential Meeting 2015, and the best student poster award at the recent AHDB Studentship Conference.
Her poster was entitled 'Understanding the ecology and epidemiology of Pythium violae to enable disease management in carrot crops'.
Inaugural SLS Undergraduate Project Impact Prize awarded
The outstanding research of two undergraduate students in SLS has been recognised by them becoming joint recipients of the School’s Undergraduate Project Impact Prize.
Final-year students Archna Shah (pictured) and Sarah Brocklesby performed their research projects in the laboratory of Dr David Roper, and made significant contributions to his programme of research on antimicrobial resistance.
The rapid rise of multi-drug-resistant bacteria is a global healthcare crisis, and new antibiotics are urgently required. Research at Warwick seeks to identify particular structural information on this essential class of enzymes that may lead to a new antibiotic discovery strategy. Archna and Sarah worked in parallel on cloning, expression, purification and crystallisation of tRNA synthetases from the bacteria S. aureus and E. coli respectively. These proteins were required as part of an MRC-funded research grant entitled Multi-Targeting of tRNA synthetases: A paradigm shift in combating Antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The clones that the students produced have now been provided to MRC-funded postdoctoral researcher, Dr Dominico Bellini working at the Diamond Light Source synchrotron facility in Oxfordshire, who has used them to produce protein crystals that enabled totally new X-ray crystal structures of the corresponding tRNA synthetase enzymes to be produced. The first of these structures was determined at a near-atomic resolution of 1.3Å, the day before Archna and Sarah graduated in July 2015 and is the highest resolution structure of this class so far discovered!
Archna and Sarah’s clones have made a pivotal contribution to this project at its very earliest stage and we expect that the project will lead to significant advances in antibiotic drug discovery in the future.
Both students have shown great promise and they have already made the next step towards advancing their research careers: Sarah now works for the biotechnology company ProImmune, based in Oxford, and Archna recently started an MBio industrial placement with Micropathology Ltd at the University of Warwick Science Park.
NERC grant success for Prof Dave Scanlan
Prof Dave Scanlan has been awarded £386,000 by NERC for his project on 'Revealing a mechanistic understanding of the role of viruses and host nutrient status in modulating CO2fixation in key marine phototrophs'. The research will be carried out in collaboration with Dr Andy Millard from Warwick Medical School, and colleagues at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and focuses on understanding the impact of viral infection on marine photosynthesis, which has implications for ocean carbon cycling and climate change.
Warwick extends synthetic biology collaborations with Brazil
Katherine Denby, Vardis Ntoukakis and Patrick Schafer have been awarded £39,000 for establishing research collaborations between the plant synthetic biology group of Warwick Intregrative Synthetic Biology Centre (WISB) and the Biomass Systems and Synthetic Biology Center (BSSB) at the University of São Paulo.
The funding from the Warwick–FAPESP Sprint scheme will fund a number of initiatives over two years, with the partnership lead on the Brazilian side by Prof Marie-Anne Van Sluys. Specific activities are planned to strengthen the collaboration and leverage additional research funding. We will build on the success of our Plant Synthetic Biology workshop at Warwick in September 2014 which was attended by 9 Brazilian PhD students and early career scientists, and run a second workshop in early 2016 with increased inclusion of synthetic biology engineering concepts. Two grant writing workshops will be held, one at Warwick and one in São Paulo, to develop proposals for EMBO and FAPESP funding for future Synthetic Biology workshops and joint applications for BBSRC-FAPESP research grant funding. Specific research exchanges by early career scientists and undergraduate students in both directions will build the collaboration at all levels.