Press release

Outstanding new Wellcome Trust Investigators announced

The Wellcome Trust today announces the latest recipients of its New and Senior Investigator Awards, given to outstanding researchers asking the most challenging research questions in biomedicine.

The Investigators will be carrying out research that pushes the boundaries of our understanding of health and disease and has the potential to lead to improvements in our wellbeing. They will be looking at a diverse range of topics, including the mechanisms underpinning asthma, the lifecycle of the hepatitis C virus and the structure and function of ribosomes ('factories' within our cells that translate the information contained in DNA into the proteins that make up our body).

The Trust has appointed 15 Investigators (four New Investigators and 11 Senior Investigators) in this, its second round of awards. The Investigators are based at institutions across the UK, from Cardiff to Cambridge and from Leeds to Dundee. The awards range from £500,000 for three years to more than £3 million for seven years.

Investigator Awards provide funding for scientists who have an excellent track record and are in an established post. The awards offer the flexibility and time to enable them to tackle important research questions.

Wellcome Trust Investigators will help the Trust tackle its five major challenges, as set out in its Strategic Plan: maximising the health benefits of genetics and genomics; understanding the brain; combating infectious disease; investigating development, ageing and chronic disease; and connecting environment, nutrition and health.

The recipients include:

Professor Derek Jones (New Investigator)
Professor Jones, a physicist in the School of Psychology at Cardiff University, will focus on the development and application of 'tractometry', a non-invasive MRI-based approach to obtaining detailed information about the microstructure of white matter, the connections that carry information between different regions of the brain. Professor Jones believes that this approach will become commonplace in all neuroimaging studies alongside functional imaging of grey matter, where the information is processed, and will be instrumental in advancing our understanding of the brain in health, development and disease.

Professor Mark Harris (Senior Investigator)
Professor Harris, from the University of Leeds, seeks to achieve a comprehensive understanding of key events in the lifecycle of the hepatitis C virus, with the ultimate goal of developing new antivirals. The questions that underpin his vision involve defining in molecular detail the processes by which the virus genome is replicated and packaged into virus particles, and determining how these events are coordinated.

Professor Rose Zamoyska (Senior Investigator)
Professor Zamoyska, an immunologist at the University of Edinburgh, will be attempting to answer the question: how do genes involved in the regulation of T cell responses contribute to autoimmunity? T cells are key components of the immune system; they recognise and attack infected cells, but failure to regulate their activity can mean they attack healthy cells, leading to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Professor William Cookson and Professor Miriam Moffatt (Joint Senior Investigators)
Professors Cookson and Moffatt from Imperial College London will be using the latest genetic and genomic tools to uncover the basic mechanisms that cause childhood asthma. Asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood, but its causes remain unknown. Their aim is to translate this knowledge into new treatments for patients with the respiratory disease.