Press release

Fellowship programme for newly qualified researchers extended following scheme’s success

Seventeen of the brightest newly qualified postdoctoral researchers have been awarded Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowships. They will be working in research areas as diverse as human obesity and insulin resistance, the spread of breast cancer, and how, as humans, we know that we ‘know’.

The announcement comes as the Trust's Board of Governors agreed to extend the scheme indefinitely beyond its initial five years in recognition of the success of the scheme, the exceptional quality of the candidates and the candidates' achievements to date.

The Fellowships are named after Sir Henry Wellcome, whose death 75 years ago provided the legacy that allows the Wellcome Trust to carry out its work today. They provide £250,000 over four years so that researchers can pursue important biomedical research questions, working in the best laboratories worldwide.

Among this year's new fellows is Dr Eris Duro from the University of Edinburgh, who will carry out part of his fellowship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, USA. Eris will be conducting research into meiosis, a special type of cell division that is necessary for sexual reproduction.

In animals, meiosis produces sperm and egg cells; in other organisms, such as fungi, it generates spores. Meiosis begins with one mother cell containing two copies of each chromosome and produces four daughter cells containing one copy of each chromosome.

Eris aims to understand in molecular detail how chromosomes are segregated during meiosis in such a way that daughter cells with half the number of chromosomes are produced. When errors are made during this process, sperm or egg cells with too many or too few chromosomes - which can lead to infertility and birth defects such as Down's syndrome - are produced.

Also receiving a fellowship is Michelle Leach from the University of Aberdeen, who will be looking at how the pathogen Candida albicans promotes infection. Michelle will be conducting part of her fellowship at the University of Toronto, Canada, and Duke University Medical Center, Durham, USA.

Candida albicans remains one of the most persistent yeast pathogens known to man. It causes infections such as oral and vaginal thrush and can lead to potentially fatal infections of the bloodstream and internal organs in cancer and transplant patients. To cause infections, Candida must be able to adapt to temperature fluctuations (in patients with fevers, for example), but how it does this is unclear and will form the focus of Michelle's work.

"Now in its fifth year, the Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme has recognised 86 of the UK's most exceptional newly qualified scientists," says Dr Candy Hassall, Head of Basic Careers at the Wellcome Trust. "We have already seen a number of high profile publications from these outstanding researchers, many of whom we expect to become leaders in their fields. We look forward to seeing how their research and careers develop over the years to come."

The support of outstanding researchers is one of the Wellcome Trust's key focus areas. The Trust believes passionately that breakthroughs emerge when the most talented researchers are given the resources and freedom they need to pursue important research questions.

Also awarded fellowships are:

Philip Ahern, University of Oxford
Study of the host immune-metabolic-intestinal microbiota interface using a model of obesity.

Thomas Akam, University of Oxford
The neural basis of goal directed behaviour.

Esther Arwert, London Research Institute, CRUK
A leading role for macrophages in breast cancer metastasis.

Betty Ying-Wen Chung, University of Cambridge
High resolution genome-wide analysis of small RNA mediated translational regulation.

Elena Dreosti, University College London
Development of function in asymmetric brain circuits.

Stephen Fleming, University of Oxford
Computational and biological foundations of metacognition.

Meng Amy Li, University of Cambridge
Interrogating the roles of miRNAs in entering and exiting ground state pluripotency in embryonic stem cells.

Kevin Maringer, University of Bristol
Unravelling the interplay between dengue virus and the host unfolded protein response and interferon pathways.

Jonathan O'Muircheartaigh, King's College London
The developmental basis of resting state functional networks, their anatomical and neuropsychological correlates in infants and toddlers, and their involvement in learning disorders.

David Owald, University of Oxford
Making memories in the mushroom bodies.

Laura Pearce, University of Cambridge
Investigation of the molecular basis by which mutations in SH2B1 lead to human obesity and insulin resistance.

Bridget Penman, University of Oxford
Epistasis and the genetics of disease resistance.

Irene G Romero, European Bioinformatics Institute, Cambridge
Comparative genomics of regulatory evolution.

Florian Stengel, Institute of Cancer Research
The assembly mechanism of higher order protein assemblies.

Alison Twelvetrees, London Research Institute, CRUK
The coordination of microtubule-dependent motors during axonal transport.