The Medical Research Council (MRC) has awarded a grant of almost £1.5million to researchers at the University of Dundee to carry out research on the mechanisms that prevent inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
The award from the MRC’s Infections and Immunity Board has been made to Professor Sir Philip Cohen. Sir Philip and his team have already made significant findings which have identified potential new targets for drugs to treat inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
The MRC grant will allow Sir Philip to develop the research over the next five years.
Commenting on the award Sir Philip said, “About six years ago I decided to change the field of my research to try and understand how the innate immune system not only defends the human body against infection by bacteria and viruses, but also how the deregulation of this system can lead to chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, such as Arthritis, Asthma, Colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis and Sepsis.
“I made this decision because I felt that the expertise and approaches that I had developed while solving how insulin regulates carbohydrate metabolism could be exploited to elucidate a very different biological control system that is also of great medical importance.
“Getting to grips with the complex field of immunology, with which I was previously unfamiliar, has been a huge learning experience, and I am still learning! However, over the past few years my decision to enter this field has started to pay off and my team are now making interesting discoveries that promise to revolutionise our understanding of this area.
“In particular, we have discovered key mechanisms that prevent the development of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and which have identified attractive new targets for the development of drugs to treat these diseases.”
Sir Philip is pursuing these developments with the Drug Discovery Unit in the College of Life Sciences at Dundee, as well as with pharmaceutical collaborators.
He said that the MRC’s long-term support had been key in allowing his research to develop, particularly into this new field after a long and extremely successful career in other areas of life sciences.
“I would like to thank the MRC for setting up the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit at Dundee in 1990 because it is the long term core funding uniquely provided to MRC Units that enables the scientists that work in them to tackle ambitious and challenging problems without worrying about where their next research grant will come from,” said Sir Philip. “It would have been extremely difficult to change my research to a field in which I had no previous track record had I not been working within an MRC Unit.”
In April this year, Sir Philip stood down as Director of the Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation Unit at the University of Dundee to concentrate full-time on his own laboratory research. At this point it was 21 years since Sir Philip became Director of the MRC-PPU and just over 40 years since he arrived in Dundee.
Since Philip Cohen arrived in Dundee in 1971, as well as becoming one of the world’s mostly highly cited biochemists and a leader in his field, he has been a major driving force in putting Dundee on the map in scientific terms. Not only did he establish the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit, the award-winning Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT) and the Scottish Institute for Cell Signalling (SCILLS) but he also played major roles in setting up the Wellcome Trust Biocentre and the Sir James Black Centre, all at the University of Dundee.
According to information published by the Institute for Scientific Information Philadelphia, he was the UK’s 3rd most cited scientist from 1990-1999, the world’s 2nd most cited scientist in “Biology and Biochemistry” from 1992-2003 and the world’s most cited biochemist from 1999-2009.
Notes to editors
For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century. www.mrc.ac.uk