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.
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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.

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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.

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Congratulations Hugo Villanueva | Student Update

Hugo Villanueva passed his PhD viva on 6th December 2019, having studied in Dr Renos Savva’s research group at Birkbeck, co-supervised by Dr Vitor Pinheiro and Prof Elena Orlova. Hugo had recently successfully been awarded an IPF award by LIDo to pursue commercialisation of his research.

Hugo has made the most of that opportunity by successfully being awarded his application for ICURe (Innovation & Commercialisation of University Research – funded by InnovateUK). The award is one of the very limited places on the programme in Cohort 26. The requirements are very high for the programme and Hugo will join a small number of teams who have been accepted on to the Cohort.

During the programme (approximately 3 months) Hugo will be able to claim up to £35,000 of expenditure, to enable him to carry out market validation of his research-based business idea and receive intensive support in developing a structured business model. At the end of the programme, Hugo will present to a panel of innovation experts and entrepreneurs. He may then be invited to apply for spin-out/start-up funding or carry out some further market validation.

Dr Hugo Villanueva will start his full-time activity on Monday 6th January 2020, until Tuesday 31st March 2020. His team consist of himself, Dr Renos Savva (senior research adviser), Dr Mark Fisher (UCL-B), and Dr David Lunn (Revenant Bio, business adviser). The team begins its quest to launch a start-up biotech at the opening symposium in Reading from 6th to 9th January.

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Two adaptive immune receptor databases hosted at the ISMB

Dr Adrian Shepherd’s computational immunology group are now hosting two databases – OGRDB and VDJbase – that focus on the analysis of large immune repertoire datasets.

The Open Germline Receptor Database (OGRDB) was developed in collaboration with members of the Adaptive Immune Receptor Repertoire (AIRR) Community, and is used to support the inference of novel germline genes from B- and T-cell repertoires. Genetic differences in the loci that encode B- and T-cell receptors are poorly characterised by conventional genome sequencing; a better understanding of such differences may help to explain why individuals often respond differently to pathogens, vaccines and biotherapeutics. This work is published in leading edge research publication Nucleic Acids Research.

Whereas OGRDB is about individual genes, VDJbase is about whole genotypes and haplotypes – the complete sets of immunoglobulin genes that are expressed by different individuals. This resource supports a range of different kinds of analysis, including the inference of gene deletions within a single haplotype, and the estimation of gene heterozygosity within a population. Originally developed by Gur Yaari’s lab at Bar-Ilan University, VDJbase is now co-developed and hosted at Birkbeck, and is also published in NAR.

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New findings on the self-preservation properties of killer T cells | UCL research paper published

UCL News article ‘What protects killer immune cells from harming themselves?’ (27th Nov 2019) announces a collaborative paper published in peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications, identifying mechanisms by which white blood cells protect themselves.

The paper – ‘Lipid order and charge protect killer T cells from accidental death’ – was co-authored by Professor Bart Hoogenboom (London Centre for Nanotechnology, UCL Physics & Astronomy and UCL Structural & Molecular Biology) and presents findings from scientists at UCL and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.

To read the article in full (and for additional content & links) please visit the original UCL News article.


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Professor Steven Perkins’ paper featured on the cover of Biochemical Journal

Professor Steven Perkins (Professor of Structural Biochemistry, UCL) made the front cover of October’s Biochemical Journal (vol. 476, issue 19) with his latest paper:

Crystal structure of zinc-α2-glycoprotein in complex with a fatty acid reveals multiple different modes of protein-lipid binding

A joint project with UCL Medicine and the University of Bedfordshire, it is a combination of work done on Professor Perkins’ new analytical ultracentrifuge, protein crystallography and recombinant proteins.

Citation: Lau, A. M., Zahid, H., Gor, J., Perkins, S. J., Coker, A. R. & McDermott, L. C. (2019) Crystal structure of zinc-α2-glycoprotein in complex with a fatty acid reveals multiple different modes of lipid binding. Biochem. J. 476, 2815-2834.
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Student Update: PhD Candidate Hugo Villanueva

PhD candidate Hugo Villanueva recently submitted his PhD thesis from BBSRC LIDo sponsored research in the lab of Dr Renos Savva. Hugo’s viva is scheduled for 5th December.

Hugo is the recipient of one of three competitive stipend awards – covering a three-month period – under the new LIDo initiative Innovation Placement Fund. Hugo is exploring how to translate research, and has connected with new, early-stage funder Revenant Bio, in order to learn the ropes and perhaps start his own venture in the life sciences area.

Posted by ubcg49z in News