Three researchers from the Department of Life Sciences, Nikolas Nikolaou, Nazia Mehrban and Scott Lovell, have been awarded funding from the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) for their work in biomedical and health research.

In March 2023, the Academy of Medical Sciences awarded more than £6.5 million worth of funding globally to help advance medical science, with over 40 Springboard Awards granted to biomedical and health researchers in their first independent post to help launch their careers.

Nazia Mehrban's research group design novel biomaterials for use in healthcare, including wound repair, functional tissue regeneration and device envelopes to minimise rejection. These are 'smart' materials, meaning they control cell behaviour and integrate with healthy tissue in the body, avoiding chronic inflammation. The materials Dr. Mehrban is developing have the potential to change the way we view and treat diseased and damaged tissues in patients.

'I'm delighted to have been a recipient of the prestigious AMS Springboard Awards and look forward to engaging with the network in developing my ideas,' Dr Mehrban said. 'As an early career researcher, this level of support is invaluable in setting up an independent stream of research and I wholeheartedly thank the AMS for giving me this opportunity!'

Nikolas Nikolaou’s research interests focus more on neurons - the specialised cells conducting the signals controlling our movements, thoughts, and sensations - and the diseases that affect them. To understand how a functional nervous system develops, Dr Nikolaou’s lab uses zebrafish as a genetic model system. Together, they aim to understand the mechanisms neural systems need during development, and how these connections are maintained throughout life.

'The AMS Springboard Award will provide valuable mentoring support. The funding will support my group's research over the next two years, helping us to understand how neuronal wiring is controlled by RNA regulators and how dysfunctions in such molecules can lead to neurological diseases,' said Dr Nikolaou.

Scott Lovell and his research group work at the place where chemistry, biology, and medicine meet. His primary focus is identifying drugs for the 85% of human proteins that are considered ‘undruggable’. To do this, he is developing a novel class of molecule known as a 'targeted covalent macrocycle'. With many undruggable proteins playing critical roles in pathology, this work could facilitate the development of new treatments for diseases such as cancer.

‘It is an honour to receive an AMS Springboard Award and I’m particularly excited to become a member of the Academy’s prestigious one-to-one mentoring programme,' said Dr Lovell. His research group will use the funding received from the award to support their work in identifying new drugs for some of the most devastating cancers.

Together with our partners, we are fortunate to be able to support this talented group of researchers doing excellent science. Our strategic ambition is to help create an open and progressive research sector. By investing in these individuals and teams, we are broadening the range of people and disciplines engaged in biomedical and health research, across all regions of the UK, and globally. We look forward to supporting our award recipients and seeing how their research has a positive impact on the health of people everywhere. - Dr Suzanne Candy, Director of Biomedical Grants & Policy at the Academy of Medical Sciences