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UK bioscience sparkles with new Diamond fellowship

20 July 2009

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 £1.7M 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."


Recipients of 2009 fellowship awards

Professorial Fellowship

  • Professor Malcolm Bennett, University of Nottingham - Improving crop root architecture to help make agriculture more sustainable, increase yields and underpin food security

Diamond Professorial Fellowship

  • Professor So Iwata, Imperial College London - Studying structure and mechanisms of human cell membrane transporters

Research Development Fellowships

  • Professor Miltos Tsiantis, University of Oxford - Using computational modelling to understand the genetics of leaf geometry
  • Dr Adrian Whitehouse, University of Leeds - Analysing changes within animal cell nucleolus during a herpes virus infection
  • Dr Carmen Molina-Paris, University of Leeds - Studying the adaptive cellular immune system using systems biology
  • Dr Gillian Stephens, University of Manchester - Exploring new methods of using different enzymes to breakdown waste materials for use as biofuels
  • Dr Sotaro Kita, University of Birmingham - Exploring how young children develop language skills

Industrial Impact Fellowship

  • Dr Mark Ian Christie, King’s College London - Working with the Centre for Integrative Biomedicine to maximise the partnership and education opportunities for in vivo science and translational medicine

David Phillips Fellowships

  • Dr Christian Rutz, University of Oxford - Studying tool use, culture and cognition in New Caledonian crows
  • Dr Nicholas Roberts, University of Bristol - Studying vision in deep sea animals
  • Dr Martin Stevens, University of Cambridge - Exploring defensive coloration and predator vision in birds
  • Dr Jeremy Murray, John Innes Centre - Learning more about the function of a gene found in Legumes required for beneficial interactions with bacteria and fungi
  • Dr Gareth Lavery, University of Birmingham - Exploring the metabolic pathways that mammals use to derive energy from the glucose found in food and utilise it in muscle
  • Dr Alastair Wilson, University of Edinburgh - Studying the genetics of competition in animals and whether resource limitation constrains evolution
  • Dr Alessio Ciulli, University of Cambridge - Developing new approaches to advance understanding of protein-protein interfaces and of their modulation using small molecules

Institute Career Path Fellowship

  • Dr Christopher Bass, Rothamsted Research - Exploring the molecular mechanisms underlying insecticide resistance in crop pests


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.

The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382