Press release

The Royal Society and Wellcome Trust name first Sir Henry Dale Fellows

The Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust, two of the world’s most influential scientific organisations, today announce the inaugural recipients of a joint new fellowship scheme that aims to nurture future world leaders in the biomedical sciences.

Ten researchers from the UK and beyond have been awarded Sir Henry Dale Fellowships to tackle issues crucial to our understanding of the molecules and cells vital to life and our fight against some of our major diseases - from the mechanisms underlying how our cells divide and how we process sound to how influenza viruses circulate in Vietnam.

The fellowships were named after Sir Henry Dale (1875-1968), a Nobel Prize winner and one of the most eminent biomedical scientists of the 20th century. Sir Henry was formerly Chairman of the Wellcome Trust and President of the Royal Society. The fellowships aim to provide the brightest biomedical scientists with the best possible start to their independent research careers in the UK.

The combination of the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust places the fellowships among the most prestigious and attractive awards of their kind for outstanding researchers from the UK and around the world, reinforcing the UK's reputation as a premier location for outstanding biomedical research.

Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, says: "Science's greatest breakthroughs often come from early-stage researchers. Sir John Gurdon was last week awarded a Nobel Prize for work carried out 50 years ago when he himself was a newly qualified postdoc.

"This drives home the importance of providing the right support at the right time, which the Sir Henry Dale Fellowships offer. These new Fellows epitomise the Wellcome Trust's philosophy of funding the brightest minds with the best ideas, and we hope they will become the scientific leaders of the future."

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, says: "We are very excited to be announcing the first group of researchers to be awarded Sir Henry Dale Fellowships. They represent outstanding biomedical research and it's pleasing to know that these Fellowships ensure it's taking place here in the UK. We hope that with the support and guidance of the Royal Society and Wellcome Trust behind them, they will go from strength to strength."

This year's recipients include Bungo Akiyoshi, a Japanese researcher now based at the University of Oxford. Dr Akiyoshi will be studying chromosome segregation, a mechanism that occurs in all living cells each time they divide. Errors in this process lead to birth defects and diseases such as cancer. By studying the mechanism in the parasitic organism Trypanosoma brucei, Dr Akiyoshi hopes to better understand the molecular basis of this process and develop therapeutics for human sleeping sickness, a devastating disease in Africa caused by infection with the parasite.

Jennifer Bizley was also awarded a fellowship at UCL (University College London). Currently Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow and formerly a Wellcome Trust PhD student, Dr Bizley is now based at the UCL Ear Institute, where she is looking at how we process visual and audio information when listening in a noisy world. Such knowledge may contribute to new rehabilitation strategies for helping people with hearing disorders adjust to wearing cochlear implants and hearing aids.

Omer Dushek is a Canadian researcher based at the University of Oxford. Dr Dushek will be using an interdisciplinary approach that combines mathematical modelling and experiments to understand the activation of T cells, white blood cells that continuously patrol the body in search of evidence of infection and cancer. It is thought that manipulating T-cell activation may produce new therapeutics that target and attack specific infections and cancers.

A former Beit Memorial Fellow at the University of Manchester, Sarah Woolner is looking at how cells in the tissues of our bodies decide which direction to divide in. Cells dividing in the wrong direction can have lethal consequences: in embryos, tissues and organs fail to form properly and in adults it is associated with cancer.

The complete list of Sir Henry Dale Fellows is:

Dr Bungo Akiyoshi, University of Oxford
Elucidating the mechanism of chromosome segregation in Trypanosoma brucei

Dr Jennifer K Bizley, UCL
Listening in a noisy world: the role of visual activity in auditory cortex for sound perception

Dr Maciej Boni, University of Oxford
Epidemiology of human influenza in Vietnam

Dr Tiago Branco, UCL
Dendritic integration in the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus

Dr Omer Dushek, University of Oxford
Predicting efficient T cell activation with therapeutic applications

Dr Stephen C Graham, University of Cambridge
Molecular mechanisms of membrane trafficking in pathology and infectious disease

Dr Garrett Hellenthal, UCL
Inferring human colonization history using genetic data

Dr Christopher Rodgers, University of Oxford
Advanced human cardiovascular magnetic resonance spectroscopy

Dr Kevin Waldron, Newcastle University
Mechanisms of copper and silver toxicity in Staphylococcus aureus

Dr Sarah Woolner, Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research, University of Manchester
Mitotic spindle orientation and the mechanical tissue environment