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Academy awards £1.5 million to support talented international biomedical researchers

International emerging research leaders working to tackle some of the most pressing health challenges have been awarded £1.5 million of grant funding by the Academy of Medical Sciences to take up Professorships in the UK.

As part of our commitment to attracting and retaining talent from across the globe, the three researchers will each receive up to £500,000 in flexible support to advance medical science and translate developments into benefits for patients and the wider society.

The grants will enable researchers to strengthen their international networks. One of the grant awardees is Professor Christine Goffinet, who has relocated from Charite–Universitätsmedizin Berlin to join the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. As Professor of Virology, her research looks at how the defence system of a host can limit a virus’s spread.

Professor Christine Goffinet, Academy of Medical Sciences Professorship grant awardee, said:

“This award from the Academy will support my research to find a cure for HIV that has a high chance of working in populations with the most urgent need, in an institution with strong links to these countries.

“Currently the majority of research into a cure is conducted in people from Europe and North America rather than the populations most affected by the virus, including those in South Africa. It is important that the way we do research changes as population differences, such as exposure to other viruses and pathogens, will impact how effective a cure is.”

Embodying the team science principle that the Academy values, one of the Professorship grant awardees is using the grant to establish an interdisciplinary research team.

Professor Emile Chimusa, Professor of Bioinformatics & Computational Biology at Northumbria University, has moved from the University of Cape Town. He uses novel artificial intelligence (AI) approaches to look at genomic studies and assess how susceptible to diseases certain populations are. His team encompasses experts in AI, statistical genetics, and wider health and clinical researchers.

On receiving the grant, Professor Emile Chimusa, Academy of Medical Sciences Professorship grant awardee, said:

“I’m over the moon to join the other AMS Professorship awardees and to be the first Black African to be awarded in this prestigious scheme. This funding will help me to make a step-change in disease risk prediction, using AI, and will lead – to name just one example – to an improved risk prediction of prostate cancer in diverse ethnic groups. I’m excited to combine the UK’s network with my existing African networks to deliver these benefits for patients.”

The Academy of Medical Sciences Professorship scheme is designed to support researchers at an early-leadership stage of their career to build capacity. In addition to the funding, awardees also have access to the Academy’s one-to-one mentoring programme which provides researchers with career development support by pairing them with an Academy Fellow.

Professor Simon Johnson, Professor of Translational Bioscience at Northumbria University, has also been awarded a Professorship grant to relocate from the University of Washington.

Professor Simon Johnson, Academy of Medical Sciences Professorship grant awardee, said:

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities provided by the AMS Professorship and can’t overstate how much of an impact this will have on the transition of my research program to the UK. The funds will allow me to continue uncovering the role of mitochondria in health and disease, to understand how mitochondrial diseases develop. These are a large group of disorders with a wide range of symptoms, and the mechanisms for disease are currently poorly understood.

“I hope that my line of research will lead to treatments for these life-threatening diseases. In addition, the network and mentorship opportunities provided by the Academy will allow me to rapidly adapt to and incorporate into the UK biomedical research community.”

Professor Tom Solomon CBE FMedSci, Vice President (International), Academy of Medical Sciences, said:

“We are proud to provide funding for talented researchers across the world, as part of our strategic priority to support all researchers to reach their full potential. By investing in these research leaders, we are ensuring the UK remains an attractive place for exceptional biomedical and health research, and we are strengthening the Academy’s global networks and our impact on health internationally.

“We look forward to welcoming Simon, Chimusa and Christine into the UK and supporting them as they conduct research to improve the health of people everywhere.”

The Academy of Medical Sciences Professorship scheme, which has been running since 2019, is generously supported by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).

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