University of Dundee

Sir Philip Cohen awarded £4 million for research on the immune system

10 May 2018

Following his recent Senior Investigator Award of £2.3million from the Wellcome Trust, Philip Cohen has now been awarded a new Programme Grant of £1.6 million from the Medical Research Council.

Both research awards are aimed at understanding how to control of the power of the body’s immune system to prevent autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, asthma, fibrosis and lupus as well as to enhance the power of the immune system to destroy cancers.

The research will build on new findings that have been made in the laboratories of Philip and Professor Simon Arthur, who is a co-applicant on the grant from the Medical Research Council. Simon’s lab is based in the Division of Cell Signaling and Immunology at the University of Dundee.

Philip said, “Just over ten years ago I realised that the same technology and know-how that I had developed to work out how insulin controls the body’s metabolism would also enable me to understand how the immune system works at the molecular level.  I therefore took the somewhat risky decision to abandon all my other research projects to focus on this new, but exciting, project about which I had little knowledge at the time. It has been a huge learning experience for me, and indeed I continuing to learn something new about immunity every day, but the effort has paid off with a number of novel and exciting findings that we will be building on with these new awards.

“I believe that there is a good chance that our research, together with my other collaborations with both academic laboratories and the pharmaceutical industry will eventually lead to the development of improved drugs to treat diseases immune diseases and cancers.”

Philip joined the University of Dundee in late 1971 and the first research grant he wrote was turned down in 1972 by what was then called the Science Research Council (now the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council).  He said, “My first successful grant application was funded in 1973 by the British Diabetic Association, which is now called Diabetes UK. This means that in 2023, when these new grants enter their final year, I will have received continuous funding for my research for 50 years. I am therefore most grateful to the funding agencies that have provided these grants over the years, most notably the Medical Research Council but also the Wellcome Trust and medical charities who supported my research when it was just getting underway and have continued to do so.

“Finally, I hope that these new awards will stop people asking me how I am enjoying my retirement!  , My lab continues to be very active and, with these new awards, the University of Dundee will have to put up with me until I am nearly 78!”