University of Dundee

New Blood for Life Sciences in Dundee: New Principal Investigators join CLS

10 Apr 2013

Between September 2012 and September 2013 nine new Principal Investigators will have joined the College of Life Sciences. Seven of the newly recruited Principal Investigators have already joined the College, with three more on their way later this year. They represent new appointments across a number different research divisions and units with expertise in cell and molecular biology, cell signalling, immunology, structural biology, parasitology and drug discovery.

Professor Mike Ferguson, Dean of Research at the College said, “The academic year 2012-2013 has been a particularly successful one for the College in terms of recruiting some of the best and brightest scientists from around the world to Life Sciences in Dundee.

“Between them the new researchers hold a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship, an MRC Career Development Fellowship, a Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Dale Fellowship, an RSE Personal Research Fellowship as well as grants from the BBSRC, EU, MRC and CRUK – a remarkable amount of awards, grants and funding.

“I’m delighted that we are continuing to build on Philip Cohen’s vision of creating “a critical mass” of life sciences expertise in Dundee. Dundee is increasingly attractive to international researchers because of our strong research community, our support infrastructure and our world-class technology platforms.

“The potential for cross-disciplinary collaboration, innovation and translation that these new recruits represent is hugely promising for the College. Their research funding and academic track records speak for themselves.”

Sarah McKim joined the Division of Plant Sciences from Oxford in September 2012 with a prestigious Royal Society of Edinburgh Personal Research Fellowship. Sarah investigates the regulatory networks underlying plant architecture. Building on her identification of an important role for a phase change transcription factor in internode elongation - a key agronomic trait which strongly affects yield – she aims to understand the genetic networks influencing plant architecture and apply this knowledge to crop breeding.

In November last year, Jens Janushke a Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Dale Fellow joined the Division of Cell and Developmental Biology from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Barcelona. Jens’ research uses Drosophila neural stem cells of the developing brain as a model system for studying asymmetric stem cell division. Asymmetric cell division is particularly important in stem-cell fate.

In February this year Yogesh Kulathu joined the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the University of Cambridge. His research aims to apply structural biology to study signalling, with a particular interest in uncovering ubiquitin signalling nodes in lymphocytes where the roles of ubiquitylation in adaptive immune responses are poorly characterised.

Also in February, Leonie Unterholzner, an MRC Career Development Fellow, joined the Division of Cell Signalling and Immunology from the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin. Leonie’s research asks the crucial question: How is DNA sensed as a 'stranger' signal during viral infection, and as a 'danger' signal in circumstances where the body's own DNA triggers an innate immune response?

In April and May 2013 the Division of Biological Chemistry and Drug Discovery will welcome Alessio Ciulli, a BBSRC Sir David Phillips Fellow and ERC Fellow, from Cambridge as Reader in Chemical & Structural Biology and David Horn as Professor of Molecular Parasitology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. David holds an MRC Project Grant and a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award.

Research in the Ciulli Lab is broadly in the field of Chemical and Structural Biology of Protein-Protein Interactions (PPIs) and is specifically concerned with studies of PPI ligandability to small molecule modulators. Of particular interest are protein interfaces recognising protein Post-Translational Modifications (PTMs) within multi-domain and multi-subunit protein complexes.

David Horn’s research uses novel high-throughput methods, and aims to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying antigenic variation and drug action and resistance in Trypanosoma brucei, the protozoan parasites which cause Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) and the livestock disease, Nagana.

Also in May, the Division of Plant Sciences will be joined by Piers Hemsley, from the University of Durham - a joint CLS, James Hutton Institute appointment. The main objective of Piers’ research is to characterise the role of protein S-acylation in important crop species and identify novel components and mechanisms involved in stress tolerance and development, with the aim of generating agronomically relevant data.

In October, Helen Walden will join the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitilation Unit from the CRUK London Research Institute. Helen’s research centres on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the choice of ubiquitin modification and on the recognition of substrates by the ubiquitylation machinery. She employs several disease-related models to address these, using a combination of X-ray crystallography and biochemical techniques.

And finally the College is delighted to welcome back Dundee Alumnus, Greg Findlay who completed his Biochemistry degree in 2001 and undertook his honours project with Tricia Cohen. Greg is leaving his Postdoctoral Research position in Tony Pawson’s Lab at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, in Toronto. His research focuses on understanding signaling mechanisms that regulate cell fate determination by analysing embryonic stem cell differentiation. He is expected to return to Dundee later this year or early in 2014.