St Andrews scientists have been awarded over £1 million to study viruses that cause mumps and croup in humans, kennel cough in dogs and the fatal Newcastle disease in chickens.
The five-year funding will allow Professors Garry Taylor and Rick Randall from the University’s Centre for Biomolecular Sciences to study how these viruses attach and fuse to cells, how new virus particles are released from infected cells and how these viruses subvert the normal immune response. In the longer term, they will study the proteins involved in viral replication and assembly.
Professor Taylor said, “Securing this grant underlines our solid reputation on the global stage and we hope that our study – the only one of its kind in the UK – will lead to new therapeutic possibilities as well as contributing to our fundamental understanding of viral infection”.
Using a range of biophysical techniques such as X-ray crystallography and NMR, they hope to visualise these key events of infection in atomic detail. Their studies on one of the proteins on the surface of these viruses have already led to the development of inhibitors that show great potential as drugs for the treatment of childhood respiratory disease. Most viruses have the ability to switch off, or dampen down, the normal immune response. They do this in quite a remarkable way, by encoding proteins that interfere with normal signalling pathways in the cell. This new study will examine the complex associations made between such viral proteins and their cellular partners.
The Wellcome Trust grant will fund three postdoctoral fellowships and a technician for five years, together with the consumable costs and equipment. In the award letter, the Trust stated, “The Funding Committee agreed that the assembled group of researchers was very strong scientifically, supported by excellent facilities at St Andrews and that the research proposed would deliver results which would be important for basic science.”
The Wellcome Trust is an independent research-funding charity established in 1936 under the will of tropical medicine pioneer Sir Henry Wellcome. The Trust’s mission is to promote research with the aim of improving human and animal health and it currently spends more than £400m each year.
NOTE TO EDITORS – PROFESSOR GARRY TAYLOR CAN BE CONTACTED ON TELEPHONE 01334 467301 OR EMAIL GLT2@ST-ANDREWS.AC.UK
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