'The MRC is keen to focus money where research will most succeed'

August 18, 2006

Fellowship winner Mandy Drake is eager to learn why low birthweight babies have higher health risks as adults.

Mandy Drake, a paediatric endocrinologist, is one of four clinical researchers at Edinburgh University to have won a prestigious Medical Research Council fellowship. She said their new base, the £49 million Queen's Medical Research Institute, boosted their chance of success.

The MRC awards a maximum of ten clinical scientist fellowships a year - a four-year grant to help postdoctoral researchers become independent investigators.

Dr Drake; Bryan Conway, a specialist registrar in kidney disease; Moffat Nyirenda, a specialist in endocrinology and diabetes; and Gareth Stewart, a clinical lecturer with research interests in lung injury, repair and fibrosis, scooped this year's awards for Scottish scientists.

The QMRI brings together some 600 researchers investigating medical problems such as coronary heart disease, asthma and reproductive disorders.

"It will allow us to share ideas, with opportunities for collaboration," Dr Drake said. "The MRC is keen to give money to places where researchers will be well supported and there's every chance research will succeed."

She is investigating why babies with low birthweight have a greater risk of diabetes and heart disease as adults. "The risk appears to affect not only the child but can also be passed to subsequent generations."

During her fellowship, Dr Drake will explore the impact on the baby in the womb of overexposure to stress steroid hormones. These might be produced by a mother who is unwell or under stress, but they can be used to treat certain conditions.

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