Celebrating our international funding: Newton Fellowships research spotlight



Through matched funding between the UK government and Newton Scheme partner countries across the globe, the Academy is actively promoting research and innovation, at a governmental level, in partner countries including South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, India and China. In this article we celebrate Newton Fellowships, and consider the impact they are having.

Professor Marina Botto FMedSci, Chair of the Newton International Fellowship Panel commented:

“The benefit of Newton schemes go far beyond funding a specific research project. We see researchers develop leading edge skills and knowledge which they take back to the partner country. The working relationships built between UK and international researchers have continued to grow and expand over time, meaning everyone benefits from a growing pool of skills and knowledge.

 “Not only that, but partner countries provide matched funding for the schemes. The Academy’s close working relationships with overseas funding partners is making sure research and innovation become embedded in the culture of partner countries. This approach will help make sure that patients in the UK and internationally benefit from medical science being higher up on government agendas around the world.”

To celebrate our Newton Fellowships we have picked out three projects that give insight into the impact this scheme can have.

 

  1. From China to London: learning about respiratory disease in children

Yu Deng held a Newton International Fellowship from 2016 to 2018. Having previously worked at one of China's top children's hospitals, the Children's Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, her Newton International Fellowship enabled her to spend time at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health in the laboratory of one of our Academy Fellows, Professor Ros Smyth FMedSci

“The title of my project was ‘investigating the role of neutrophils in RSV induced epithelial damage.’

"RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus, which is the leading cause of young children’s respiratory tract disease. It is a very common pathogen, but it can cause life threatening bronchiolitis and pneumonia. Every year 200,000 children die globally and there are no vaccines or drugs to treat it. As far as we know the current animal models are not a real host for RSV, so they are not fit for purpose. Tissue samples from patients are usually very small and hard to obtain, particularly from children, so we are eager to develop a model of primary human cells. Once the model is set up, we can increase our understanding of the mechanisms of neutrophils transepithelial migration during RSV infection and discover strategies for the prevention and protection from RSV.”

Talking about the impact of the Fellowship, Yu Deng said:

“The fellowships offer support for two years, and I think that’s the perfect time to develop and produce quality research. You've given me the opportunity to move to the UK and work with the leaders in my area, which is wonderful.”

 

  1. From Bengaluru to Oxford: improving understanding of HIV

Dr Reena R. D'Souza, was awarded a Newton International Fellowship in 2016, having obtained her PhD in 2014 at Manipal University, India, and subsequently undertaken a period of postdoctoral research at the St John’s Research Institute of Bengaluru. During this fellowship she is working with Professor Philip Goulder FMedSci at the University of University.

“The Fellowship has given me the opportunity to spend two years in a laboratory in Oxford with different expertise to my laboratory in Bengaluru. Access to an outstanding research facility, collaboration network and high level of academic associations, has helped me advance in my scientific career by providing a solid foundation in studying the disease progression and pathogenesis in HIV.”

“I'm honoured to receive this fellowship, which will help further my research into HIV immunology, mechanisms of immune control and the factors contributing to slow disease progression in HIV.”

 

  1. From Mexico City to Northumberland: using physics to understand old age

Ruben Fossion was one of the Academy's first Newton Advanced Fellows, at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He was awarded a fellowship in 2015 to build a three year collaboration with Professor Maia Angelova and Dr Benoit Huard at Northumbria University on "Loss of complexity of human physiological signals with ageing and degenerative disease".

“I’m a physicist, working with an interdisciplinary team including medical doctors, computer experts and programmers. In many countries in the world, populations are getting older and individual people are becoming more fragile. Geriatricians have a specialized word for that: they call this "frailty". They are not ill, but they are less robust than young adults, thus if something happens to them, for example, if they get the flu, they don’t recuperate as well as younger people, and there is a higher chance for a negative end result such as becoming dependent, chronic illness, or even death.” 

Speaking about how the Fellowship had impacted on his research and team, Ruben said:

 “I go to conferences, and I’ve been to Northumbria University a couple of times, but a new thing for me that stands out is that I could take my students with me. That’s fantastic, because my students had the opportunity to interact with brand new research, and meet international research professionals working on all kinds of cutting edge methods.”

“I really enjoy interaction with my students. They’re really enthusiastic, and through this Fellowship, they have become even more enthusiastic

 

Since 2014, the Academy of Medical Sciences has been a delivery partner for two schemes supported by the Newton Fund, which are offered in partnership with the Royal Society and British Academy: the Newton International Fellowship (NIF) and the Newton Advanced Fellowship (NAF).

Newton International Fellowships support promising early career researchers in Newton Partner Countries to spend up to two years in the best research training environments in the UK.  The Academy has made a total of 31 awards to researchers from Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey at a total cost of over £3 million.

Newton Advanced Fellowships support mid-career researchers in Newton Partner Countries to establish long-term collaborative links with the UK. The Academy has made 39 awards to researchers from Brazil, China, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey at a total cost of £3.8 million.

 To find out more about these schemes, please visit our pages on Newton International Fellowships and Newton Advanced Fellowships. To find out more about the impact of our work, visit our pages celebrating 20 years of the Academy of Medical Sciences. 

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