Professorship scheme awardees

Our AMS Professorship scheme is supporting newly appointed Professors to relocate and settle in the UK. Meet our awardees, and learn about how they hope to utilise their awards. 

Professor Meritxell Canals, Professor of Cellular Pharmacology, Centre of Membrane Protein and Receptors (COMPARE), University of Nottingham

AMS Professorship Round 1 awardee – awarded in 2019

Meri currently works at the Centre of Membrane Protein and Receptors (COMPARE), a joint venture between the University of Birmingham and the University of Nottingham. Meri and her group’s research is aiming to help develop new and safer therapeutic strategies for managing pain. To do so, her group investigates how the body responds when it is administered with different opioid drugs to treat severe acute pain and how these responses are mediated. Meri studied at the University of Barcelona, completing a PhD in biochemistry.

Thanks to the AMS Professorship, Meri will be able to develop new lines of research that use novel approaches to promote a more effective translation of basic pharmacology findings into preclinical models of disease. In addition, Professor Canals will be able to establish her group as a key training centre for the next generation of scientists in her vital research area.

 

Professor Vincent Dion, UK Dementia Research Institute at Cardiff University
AMS Professorships Round 1 awardee – awarded in 2019

Vincent joined the UK Dementia Research Institute at Cardiff University in early 2019. His research programme focuses on expanded DNA CAG/CTG repeats, which cause over 13 neurological and neuromuscular disorders affecting around 1 in 2000 people worldwide with no available cure. His goal is to develop novel therapeutic avenues by targeting the unique features of expanded CAG/CTG repeats, and developing new technologies to detect and manipulate them.

Vincent applied to the AMS Professorship scheme to help him establish a national network and give his research programme a boost. Specifically, the scheme has provided many opportunities for networking, and the opportunity to partake in the Academy’s mentoring programme. Scientifically, the Professorship award has enabled Vincent and his group to develop CRISPR screening, bioinformatics analysis tools for tandem repeats, and single-cell sequencing with the prospect of progressing novel avenues to treat expanded CAG/CTG repeat disorders.

 

Professor Ulrich Rass, Professor of Genome Stability, Genome Damage and Stability Centre at the University of Sussex
AMS Professorships Round 1 awardee – awarded in 2019

Ulrich joined the University of Sussex in late 2018, and leads a research programme aiming to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underpinning genome stability.

The DNA damage response counteracts DNA damage and perturbations of the DNA replication process. Defects to this response system lead to chromosome instability, and have been linked to various conditions such as neurodegeneration, dwarfism, premature ageing and cancer. Utilising various molecular biology techniques in the budding yeast model and human cells, Ulrich’s research aims to reveal the fundamental molecular mechanisms responsible for maintaining genome integrity.

The AMS Professorship Award has provided Ulrich with invaluable support for a successful transition to the UK and integration into the scientific community. The award will enable Ulrich’s aims to translate insight into genome stability mechanisms into biomedical and clinically-relevant findings.

 

Professor Evi Soutoglou, Genome Damage and Stability Centre at the University of Sussex
AMS Professorships Round 1 awardee – awarded in 2019

Evi works within the Genome Damage and Stability Centre at the University of Sussex, and leads a research programme focusing on the role of nuclear architecture in genome stability.

Inaccurate repair of double stranded DNA breaks leads to instability of the genome and is implicated in certain diseases such as cancer. Cells can repair errors in DNA using different pathways, which must be tightly regulated to preserve the integrity of the genome. Evi’s research focuses on how the genome’s spatial organization impacts the balance between faithful and mutagenic DNA repair, and how it affects the formation of chromosomal rearrangements.

Evi applied to the Professor scheme to facilitate her transition from France to the UK and to increase her network within the country. She hopes to utilize the award to understand how repetitive sequences in the genome maintain their integrity, and to generate additional results that act as proof of principles to help apply for further funding.

 

Professor Dirk-Peter Herten, Chair in Cell Biology of Membrane Proteins, University of Birmingham
AMS Professorship Round 2 awardee – awarded in 2020

Dirk was appointed Chair in Cell Biology of Membrane Proteins by the Centre of Membrane Proteins and Receptors (COMPARE) at the University of Birmingham in 2019, and heads a programme of interdisciplinary research working to enable quantitative studies of cellular structures and protein dynamics in living cells.

By working to bridge the worlds of biophysical chemistry and cell biology, Dirk aims to improve our understanding of the effect of various diseases on cellular responses and intracellular functions. Concurrently, the group’s work to design fluorescent probes for live-cell single-molecule studies has the potential for use in biomedical research and diagnostic applications.

The AMS Professorship allows Dirk to start his lab at the University of Birmingham and to initiate collaborations with colleagues in COMPARE and across the UK. The support by the Academy enables him to establish a new method for 3D super-resolution reconstructions of whole cells and probes offering direct control over protein-protein interactions in living cells.

 

Professor Jody Rosenblatt, Professor of Cell Biology, King’s College London
AMS Professorship Round 2 awardee – awarded in 2020

Jody relocated from the University of Utah to be appointed Professor of Cell Biology at King’s College London in 2019. Her lab studies how cell death and division are linked to maintain tight epithelial barriers that coat and protect our organs, and how misregulation of this balance can lead to aggressive metastatic cancers and asthma.

Through studying the fundamental process of cell extrusion, which promotes cell death when epithelia become too densely populated, Jody’s research programme is working to gain a root understanding of the cause of diseases, opening the possibility for the future development of cures for currently untreatable conditions.

 

Professor Wenying Shou, Professor of Quantitative and Evolutionary Biology, University College London
AMS Professorship Round 3 awardee – awarded in 2020

Wenying relocated from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle to the Centre for Life's Origins and Evolution (CLOE) at UCL’s Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment.

Combining her interests in biology and mathematics, Wenying studies biology using both experiments and mathematical models. Her research interests include understanding the evolution of microbial cooperation and cheating, using artificial selection to improve microbial community functions (e.g. drug production), and making causal inferences from ecological time series data.

At UCL, Wenying also hopes to collaborate with medical scientists and engineers to tackle problems of clinical relevance.

 

Professor Juanma Vaquerizas, MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, Institute of Clinical Sciences, Imperial College London
AMS Professorship Round 3 awardee – awarded in 2020

Juanma has been working at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences since late 2019, and began his role as Professor at Imperial College London soon thereafter.

Juanma’s research programme employs high-throughput techniques to measure changes to DNA regulatory mechanisms across the whole genome. By looking at patterns found in the data, Juanma aims to understand how the information encoded in the DNA is used by cells to perform physiological functions required during the different phases of an organism’s life cycle. As the disruption of the regulatory mechanisms controlling the use of DNA are responsible for various developmental disorders and diseases, it is hoped that a greater understanding of the underlying mechanisms will help reveal the causes of associated diseases.

Juanma applied to the Professorship scheme for its ability to contribute to a smooth transition of his laboratory to London. The award ensures that he can support members of the laboratory during the move, so they can keep focusing on producing their best science.

In addition, Juanma was keen to take advantage of the potential of being able to regrow his UK scientific network, after nearly a decade in Germany, through interactions with Academy Fellows, the mentoring programme and masterclasses, and the additional leadership and training opportunities offered by the Academy.

 

Professor Jordi Diaz-Manera, Professor of Neuromuscular Disorders, Newcastle University
AMS Professorship Round 4 awardee – awarded in 2021

Jordi is an adult neurologist by training, specialized in neuromuscular disorders. He joined Newcastle University in 2020, and ­­alongside his Professor role also works as Honorary Consultant Clinical Geneticist with the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Jordi has long-standing experience in translational clinical and basic research running both types of project concurrently. His current clinical projects focus on characterising large cohorts of muscular dystrophy patients, as well as implementing quantitative muscle MRI to diagnose and follow-up patients with muscle diseases. In terms of basic research, Jordi is interested in understanding the process of muscle degeneration and the replacement of muscle tissues by fat and fibrosis that takes place in patients with different neuromuscular diseases with the main aim to identify key molecular pathways regulating this process that could be used as targets for new treatments.

Thanks to the AMS Professorship, Jordi will be able to apply new cutting-edge transcriptomics technology to better characterize the process of muscle degeneration in muscle samples and cells obtained from patients with different neuromuscular conditions. In addition, he aims to establish his group as a key centre for basic research on these diseases in Newcastle complementing the excellent Clinical Research activities already on going at the John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Research Center of Newcastle University.

 

Professor Petter Brodin, Garfield Weston Chair in Neonatology and Professor of Pediatric Immunology, Imperial College London
AMS Professorship Round 5 awardee – awarded in 2021

Dr Petter Brodin is a pediatrician specialized in pediatric immunology and an immunology researcher with a strong interest in development of novel experimental and computational technologies to better study and understand human immune variation and development. Petter recently joined Imperial College London as the Garfield Weston Chair in Neonatology and Professor of pediatric immunology and the Imperial NHS trust as an honorary consultant.

The Brodin lab utilizes systems-level analyses to understand the regulation of human immune systems in health and disease and has been particularly interested in how immune-microbe interactions during the first months and years of life shape human immune systems and determine the risks of a number of immune mediated diseases. At Imperial Petter and his team will continue this work and expand it to also include clinical trials and larger population studies to further understand environmental and genetic determinants of immune system composition and function across the human life span but particularly in children and young people. The work also aims to better understand and find novel treatments caused by immune system dysregulation such as inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Thanks to the AMS Professorship, Petter has a unique opportunity to be introduced into the medical science community in the UK and be mentored by top researchers and physician scientists. He has previously been very active in science outreach and public engagement in his native Sweden and will also hope to continue these efforts through the various policy and outreach programs organized by the AMS.

 

Professor Randy Bruno, Professor of Neuroscience, University of Oxford
AMS Professorship Round 6 awardee – awarded in 2022

Professor Bruno joined the University of Oxford in 2022 and was appointed Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics. His research programme exists to understand how the microcircuitry of cerebral cortex contributes to our abilities to sense the world, apply learned knowledge, make decisions, and execute movements.

A major obstacle in understanding brain disorders is that the functions of many cortical cell types remain unknown. These cell types are organized in distinct layers within a stereotyped circuit that is iterated across the surface of the brain. The lab seeks to identify the computational and behavioral contributions of these various circuit elements, beginning with the different layers. Experiments focus on the sense of touch, which rodents prefer over most other senses when exploring the environment. His lab has developed new texture, shape, and object discrimination behaviors in which they simultaneously manipulate, record, and image large neuronal populations.

The Professorship has facilitated Randy’s transition from the USA to the UK research community. It will enable him to distinguish different plausible computational roles of cortical cell types and layers in behavior and mechanistic theories of how learning alters cortical circuits. These efforts will provide new insight into potential failure points that can lead to neurological and psychiatric disorders and potential therapeutic targets.

 

Professor Zion Tse, Professor of Digital Health, University of York
AMS Professorship Round 6 awardee – awarded in 2022

Professor Tse relocated to the University of York, and heads the Digital Health and Robotics Lab. At the core of Zion’s work is solving pressing medical and healthcare problems from bench to bedside and code to clinic. He organises multidisciplinary teams, including medical doctors, researchers and engineers, to create impactful translational technology. He has developed and tested a broad range of medical robots and clinical devices in his career, most of which have been applied in clinical patient trials.

The AMS Professorship will enable Zion to clinically validate next-generation interventional technology for affordable image fusion with a small footprint and translate it to clinical practice. Zion’s planned project, a collaboration between his lab and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, will aim to improve freehand transperineal prostate cancer biopsy by developing an integrated 3D MRI-US image fusion system built upon state-of-the-art AI techniques. This system will help clinicians precisely navigate needles to lesions in the prostate for more effective diagnosis and treatment.

 

Professor Dennis Wang, Chair in Data Science, Imperial College London
AMS Professorship Round 7 awardee – awarded in 2022

Dennis is an interdisciplinary researcher at the intersection of molecular biology, medicine and data science. He joined the National Heart and Lung Institute of Imperial College London in 2022. His research focuses on organising high-dimensional datasets collected from patients in order to develop better ways of diagnosing and predicting outcomes of complex diseases (cardiovascular, neurological, infectious diseases and cancer).

Cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension are observed in ~44% of dementia cases. And although specific diseases occur in different areas of the body, and may seem unrelated, common genetic and molecular markers have been found in the patients of each disease when studied separately. Dennis leads an international team of computational scientists who train artificial intelligence (AI) to find common molecular and phenotypic features in patient data in order to predict multiple long-term health conditions or multimorbidities in individuals of the general population and at hospitals. 

The AMS Professorship enables Dennis to empower AI techniques by linking multiple different patient datasets across UK regions and internationally in other continents. By bringing his experience of multi-ethnic patient studies from Singapore, he will be embedding equality, diversity and inclusion in the way data is collected and used to train AI. This will limit bias from influencing predictions, and therefore allow all groups of people to benefit equally from big data approaches in the health service.

 

Professor Maia Lesosky, Professor of Biostatistics, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
AMS Professorship Round 7 awardee – awarded in 2022

Maia currently works in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), and leads a collaborative research programme focusing on improving statistical design, methods and analytic approaches for important clinical research questions in global health.   

At LSTM, Maia will continue to work with researchers in non-communicable lung diseases and expand her work to include studies in malaria and other urgent infectious diseases using a range of statistical approaches and methods. The focus will be on using statistical simulation modelling and Bayesian analytic approaches along with multi-disciplinary teams to leverage value from multiple data sources and earlier studies. 

Thanks to the AMS Professorship award, Maia will be able to build a research group with a focus on methodological advances for pragmatic trials and epidemiological studies in collaboration with clinical researchers as well as strengthen her UK network.

Key contacts


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Annual Fellows Meeting and Jean Shanks Lecture 2022

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