University of Dundee

Honours for Life Sciences researchers

11 Jun 2021

Researchers at the University of Dundee are among those celebrating being named in HM The Queen’s birthday honours.

David Gray, Head of Biology and Professor of Translational Biology at the University’s Drug Discovery Unit, has been given a BEM for services to the Delivery of Testing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jason Swedlow, Professor of Quantitative Cell Biology in the School of Life Sciences, has been awarded an Honorary OBE for his services to Biological Imaging, technology which measures the structure and function of cells and tissues. Professor Swedlow has helped pioneer this expertise in the UK and around the world.

Professor Gray helped establish Scotland’s central Covid-19 testing facility in support of the national response to the coronavirus pandemic. He had an integral role in the design and implementation of the Scottish testing centre, and also advised on operating procedures.

The centre, based at the University of Glasgow, was created in April 2020 and has since processed more than 13 million tests.

Professor Gray said, “This honour belongs to the entire amazing Glasgow Lighthouse team. It has been a privilege for me to work with them in delivering high quality and high throughput Covid diagnostic testing. I am grateful to them and for the support that my colleagues at Dundee have given me.

“However, the biggest thank you must go to my wife, Nicola. She kept our family fed, educated and mostly smiling, giving me time to be able to contribute to the testing centre. She is the one that deserves a medal.”

The Drug Discovery Unit, housed within the School of Life Sciences, houses a fully operational, fully integrated drug discovery group working across multiple disease areas. Professor Gray and colleagues collaborate with partners around the world to translate world-class biology research into novel drug targets and candidate drugs to address unmet medical need across two main areas of activity, Diseases of the Developing World and Innovative Targets Portfolio. 

David joined the DDU in 2010 as Head of Biology. He is responsible for a line team of more than 40 scientists with a diverse range of scientific expertise and is accountable for the quality and effectiveness of the biological experimental design and data that underpins all of the DDU portfolios of projects.

David has a specific responsibility as Principal Investigator on projects with Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) and Medicines for Malaria (MMV) plus is academic lead on the Innovative Targets Portfolio (ITP) that encompasses high quality projects in any therapeutic area where there is a clinical unmet need.

On receiving his Honorary OBE, Professor Swedlow said, “I was dumbfounded when I got the news. It was an overwhelming feeling, but I am so incredibly proud and honoured to be recognised in this way.

“I have been privileged to work with extremely talented, passionate colleagues at Dundee and with the global community of imaging scientists, who have come together to build a powerful, entirely new scientific community in just a few years.

“Only by working with such dedicated colleagues have I been able to achieve what I have, and I hope that this honour helps to bring further recognition to the biological imaging community and the breakthroughs we have achieved together.”

Professor Swedlow established his laboratory at the University of Dundee’s Wellcome Trust Biocentre in 1998.

He was awarded a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship in 2002 and named Professor of Quantitative Cell Biology in 2007. In 2011, he and his colleagues in the Open Microscopy Environment (OME) were named the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Innovator of the Year, and in 2012, he was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Professor Swedlow’s research focuses on cell division and the development of software tools to allow the accessing, processing, sharing and publishing of large scientific image datasets. He leads OME, an international consortium that develops and releases open source software for biological imaging, and is founder of Glencoe Software, which commercialises and customises OME technology for use in academic and biopharmaceutical research.

In February 2021, he was appointed as Programme Director at Wellcome Leap, which builds research programs to deliver breakthroughs in human health.  He leads the Delta Tissue Program, which aims to deliver capabilities for measuring and predicting outcomes for individuals with tuberculosis, glioblastoma and triple negative breast cancer.

He continued, “Bioimaging is about building a platform of imaging with a variety of applications, which is incredibly important normally, but particularly so in a world where vaccines are being developed.

“It is great to have recognition for this field because it is helping to discover new drugs, understand diseases and transform patient care all over the world. It is also evolving so quickly. We are doing things now that we simply could not have envisaged even five years ago. In a further five years our work will have completely transformed again, and that is what makes this field so exciting.”

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