Achievements

Professor Sanjib Bhakta wins prestigious Microbiology Society 2020 outreach prize

The Microbiology Society Outreach Prize 2020 was awarded for the charity project ‘Joi Hok’, which uses educational intervention as a means of spreading awareness of tuberculosis.

Professor Sanjib Bhakta, Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Biochemistry at the ISMB and ‘Joi Hok!’ founder Sreyashi Basu have been awarded the 2020 Microbiology Outreach Prize by the Microbiology Society, for effectively bridging the gap between laboratory science and public health research with their project ‘Joi Hok!’, a community tuberculosis (TB) awareness programme.

The programme’s aim is to alter the perception of TB among the local community in Kolkata, India, through a network of local artists, musicians and health professionals. A series of routine interdisciplinary workshops were introduced in semi urban and rural schools around the city over a span of 6 months.

Sanjib Bhakta commented: “TB has progressively worsened with the advent of antibiotic resistance, hence there is urgent need to review and deal with the disease not only as a medical concern or even public health problem alone, but also as a socio-economic challenge.”

Sreyashi Basu commented: “we used traditional folk-art and music as a creative tool to engage and educate underprivileged youth on the influence of local stigmas and antibiotic resistance in the context of TB. We have been fortunate to see a discernible impact amongst the masses whereby the transfer of knowledge from children to household members has resulted in an increased awareness of TB in the community and encouraged patients to adhere to anti-TB treatment regimens .”

Professor Mark Harris, General Secretary of the Microbiology Society, said: “The Microbiology Society Prizes panel felt that the ‘Joi Hok!’ tuberculosis awareness programme demonstrated an inventive and exciting approach to informing the public about an important disease.  The novelty of the programme was its innovative use of traditional art and music to raise awareness of tuberculosis in rural India, with potential to positively influence treatment and control in a country that has the highest global incidence of this devastating infection – a worthy winner of the Microbiology Society Outreach Prize 2020.” 

The Microbiology Society is a membership charity for scientists interested in microbes, their effects and their practical uses, and is one of the largest microbiology societies in Europe. The Microbiology Outreach Prize is awarded for an outstanding outreach initiative, that shows innovation, originality and a sustained impact over time.

The Joi Hok programme uses traditional art and music to raise awareness of Tuberculosis in rural India.
Posted by ubcg49z in Achievements, Awards, News

Prof. John Christodoulou awarded the British Biophysical Society’s 2020 Sosei Heptares Prize

Congratulations to Prof. John Christodoulou (jointly affiliated between UCL and Birkbeck in the ISMB), on being awarded the British Biophysical Society’s 2020 Sosei Heptares Prize for Biophysics. The prize is in recognition of Prof. Christodoulou’s original and influential contributions to the advancement of biomolecular NMR and the biophysical analysis of protein folding on the ribosome.

John is serving as the director of the NMR facility at the ISMB and has been a driving force behind high-calibre structural biology at the ISMB for more than twelve years.

Posted by ubcg49z in Achievements, Awards, News

Prof. Bonnie Wallace wins the RSC Khorana Prize 2020

Congratulations to Professor Bonnie Ann Wallace for winning the Royal Chemical Society’s Khorana Prize 2020.

This prestigious accolade is awarded for her pioneering development of biophysical methods and bioinformatics tools to enable the characterisation of ion channel-drug molecule complexes. The Khorana Prize is the latest marker of esteem reflective of a highly successful career, as Bonnie also received the RSC Interdisciplinary Prize 2009 and the Biochemical Society’s AstraZeneca Award 2010.

Further details about the award are available here.

Posted by ubmsco004 in Achievements, Awards, News

Gorjan Stojanovski and Hugo Villanueva win prizes at ISMB Graduate Symposium

Congratulations to Gorjan Stojanovski and Hugo Villanueva, who were awarded prizes for their research presentations at this year’s ISMB Graduate Symposium. The Symposium was held in the Clore Management Centre at Birkbeck on Thursday 25th and Friday 26th April.

Gorjan, from Professor John Ward’s group, presented on ‘Applying bacterial competition to evolve novel antibiotics.’

Hugo, from Dr. Renos Savva’s group, presented on ‘Refactoring phages as repurposed nanomachines.’

Posted by ublmcr01 in Achievements, News, Student news, Uncategorised

Birkbeck Department of Biological Sciences receives Athena SWAN Silver Award

The Department of Biological Sciences, Birkbeck has been awarded an Athena SWAN Silver Award by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), upgraded from its previously held Bronze Award. The award recognises the department’s commitment to achieving gender equality across the institution and the progress that it is making in this area. It is valid until April 2022.

The ECU presents Athena SWAN awards to recognise and reward commitment to gender equality in higher education. Its Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research.
In 2015, the charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law, and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

The Department of Biological Sciences’ Athena SWAN Silver Award was formally presented at a ceremony at the University of Southampton on 10 December 2018.

 

Posted by ubcg49z in Achievements, News

ISMB’s Dr Alan Cheung and Dr Anthony Roberts selected as EMBO Young Investigators

ISMB members Dr Alan Cheung and Dr Anthony Roberts have received the prestigious EMBO Young Investigator Award in recognition of the outstanding quality of their current work and their proposals for future research.
The EMBO Young Investigator Programme identifies recent group leaders with a proven record of scientific excellence.
In the most recent round of applications the programme received 195 eligible applications out of which 26 young researchers were selected to join an active network of 102 current Young Investigators.
Posted by ubcg49z in Achievements, News

Film: ‘The Virtual Human’

October 2018

A collaboration between the ISMB's Prof Peter Coveney and Prof Andrea Townsend-Nicholson with Prof Blanca Rodriguez at University of Oxford, Prof Marco Viceconti at University of Sheffield and Prof Alfons Hoekstra at University of Amsterdam, 'The Virtual Human' is a film describing the recreation of a human being in silico, including IMAX video composited on the Marenostrum supercomputer. It was produced by Barcelona Supercomputing Centre and CompBioMed H2020 Centre of Excellence in Computational Biomedicine, led by UCL.

The film has been screened at the IMAX cinema as part Science Museum lates and at the 2018 Cheltenham Science Festival.

CompBioMed

Barcelona Supercomputing Centre

Posted by ubcg49z in Achievements, News

ISMB Commentary: An unexpected role for the enzyme Glutamine Synthetase

October 2018

Prof Francesco Gervasio’s group has contributed to the discovery and clarification of an unexpected, yet fundamental, role of the enzyme glutamine synthetase.

Glutamine synthetase (GS) is an enzyme that converts glutamate and ammonia to glutamine.  GS is expressed in endothelial cells, fundamentally regulating vascular development. However, a group of scientists led by Prof Peter Carmeliet at VIB in Belgium together with Prof Francesco L. Gervasio found that it surprisingly shows little glutamine synthetizing activity in these cells. Instead, GS localizes in membranes due to an expected (and so-far, unknown) auto-palmitoylation activity. This moonlighting activity turns out to be fundamental for vessel sprouting. However, it was unclear how it happens and which residues are involved. The state-of-the art models and simulations by Prof. Gervasio’s group were able to solve the mystery, showing how palmitoyl-COA binds to the active site (see figure, left) and reacts with cysteine 209 to form a covalent bond. Site-directed mutagenesis of Cys209 later confirmed the computational prediction and validated the proposed mode of action. This new finding, published by Nature at the beginning of September, has important implications for anti-cancer drug discovery, as it might lead to new drugs blocking the vascular development in solid cancers.

 

Role of glutamine synthetase in angiogenesis beyond glutamine synthesis
Eelen, G.,…, Gervasio, F.L.,…, Carmeliet, P.
Nature (2018) 561, 63-69

Posted by ubcg49z in Commentaries, News, Publications

ISMB Commentary: Using deep learning and single cell tracking to understand competitive interactions in cell populations

June 2018

Cell competition is a quality-control mechanism through which tissues eliminate unfit cells. Cell competition can result from short-range biochemical inductions or long-range mechanical cues. However, little is known about how cell-scale interactions give rise to population shifts in tissues, due to the lack of experimental and computational tools to efficiently characterize interactions at the single-cell level. Here, we address these challenges by combining long-term automated microscopy with deep-learning image analysis to decipher how single-cell behavior determines tissue makeup during competition. Using our high-throughput analysis pipeline, we show that competitive interactions between MDCK wild-type cells and cells depleted of the polarity protein scribble are governed by differential sensitivity to local density and the cell type of each cell’s neighbors. We find that local density has a dramatic effect on the rate of division and apoptosis under competitive conditions. Strikingly, our analysis reveals that proliferation of the winner cells is up-regulated in neighborhoods mostly populated by loser cells. These data suggest that tissue-scale population shifts are strongly affected by cellular-scale tissue organization. We present a quantitative mathematical model that demonstrates the effect of neighbor cell–type dependence of apoptosis and division in determining the fitness of competing cell lines.

Dr Alan Lowe

Ref: Local cellular neighbourhood controls proliferation in cell competition
Bove, A., Gradeci, D., Fujita, Y., Banerjee, S., Charras, G., Lowe, A.R.
Mol. Biol. Cell (2017) 28: 3215-3228

This video by the Alan Lowe lab demonstrates the data acquired and software developed as part of the work.

 

Posted by ubcg49z in Commentaries, Publications