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UK bioscience sparkles with new Diamond fellowship

UK bioscience has received a major boost following the announcement of 16 new fellowships by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) including the first ever Diamond Fellowship, so named because the post will be based at the new Research Complex at Harwell, adjacent to the Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire - the UK national synchrotron facility.

Professor So Iwata, from Imperial College London, becomes the first ever Diamond Fellow. He will use the high quality x-rays produced by the Diamond Light Source to study the structure of human cell membrane transporters to provide a basic understanding of life at the molecular level and help advances in medicine and pharmacology.

Up to 1.7 Million has been awarded to each of the 16 new Fellows from across the bioscience field, who range from some of the UK's most promising early career researchers through to internationally renowned scientists.

Speaking about the newly awarded Fellowships, the Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, said: "The UK is already a world leader in biosciences research. These fellowships from BBSRC will help us maintain our lead and give some of our most outstanding bioscientists an extra boost.

"It is vital that we nurture scientists throughout their careers, as they will be essential to helping us tackle the major challenges we face."

The Fellowships, lasting from three to five years, allow researchers to concentrate exclusively on conducting world-class research to tackle serious scientific questions. The 2009 BBSRC Fellows will be tackling bioscience issues including increasing crop yields, accelerated therapeutic drug development and better understanding of the natural world.

The 16 new Fellowships include:

  • The first BBSRC Diamond Professorial Fellowship - supporting research to harness the full power of synchrotron radiation to answer life science questions.

  • Seven David Phillips Fellowships supporting the UK's most promising early career researchers. David Phillips Fellows are the bioscience leaders of the future. These researchers are the minds who will help UK bioscience to deliver answers to social and economic challenges in the coming decades. Examples include gaining a better understanding of energy metabolism which could pave the way for significant health benefits and studying vision in deep sea animals which could have benefits in optical technologies.

  • The first Industrial Impact Fellowship - a new scheme established to enable a vital exchange of knowledge and expertise between academic and industrial sectors - helping to accelerate the development of new drugs by embedding an expert from the pharmaceutical industry in an academic research lab.

  • Institute Career Path Fellowship awarded to an early career researcher who will be based at a BBSRC Institute and will be carrying out research relevant to food security.

  • Five Research Development Fellows - a scheme that allows world-class UK researchers to develop their science in new directions and integrate new scientific approaches into their work. Examples include exploring new methods of using different enzymes to breakdown waste materials for use as biofuels and exploring how young children develop language which could lead to interventions for children with language difficulties.

  • 2009 Professorial Fellowship - awarded to an internationally renowned researcher developing new and innovative directions of research. This year's recipient will deploy the power of systems biology to answer questions about plant root development which could help deliver increased crop yields and improved food security.

Dr Celia Caulcott, Director, Innovation and Skills for BBSRC, said: "We are excited to be awarding these Fellowships which give scientists the freedom to submerge themselves in their science and offer an opportunity to learn new skills and develop innovative ideas without being distracted by funding worries. Awards such as these help build a robust research base, placing UK scientists as world leaders and ultimately benefiting society as a whole."


Contact: Tracey Jewitt
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

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