Trust puts its funds and faith in youth

September 15, 2006

Wellcome revamp offers early-career independence, writes Anthea Lipsett.

New schemes to support promising young researchers were launched by the Wellcome Trust this week as part of its overhaul of fellowships.

The Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship, which is worth £250,000 over four years, is intended to give promising biomedical scientists unprecedented freedom at an early stage of their career. They will tackle key biomedical research questions either in UK laboratories or abroad.

Sohaila Rastan, director of science funding at Wellcome, said: "The 'Henrys' are the awards I'm most excited about. These are a new vehicle for getting the very, very, very best newly qualified PhDs independent really fast."

The fellowships would be customised to suit the researcher, and mentoring would be a key element, Dr Rastan said.

PhD training programmes for clinicians are also new. These will help medics start a career in research. Based in centres with a good reputation in research, clinical training or both, they will give basic and clinical research opportunities to clinical PhD students.

These will be for five students a year for five years from 2008.

Institutions will apply for money to cover things such as personal support for students and their travel and research expenses.

The trust hopes that the programmes will develop a new generation of clinically qualified researchers who will go on to ensure that basic research feeds into clinical practice.

There are also additional four-year PhD programmes, which universities will bid to run, and a partnership with the US National Institutes of Health whereby US researchers will spend a year of their PhD in Oxford or Cambridge university and UK or European students will visit one of the NIH labs. New flexible training sabbatical awards will allow researchers to move between labs for six months to a year, or build experience in a new discipline or emerging field with a fellowship of up to two years.

anthea.lipsett@thes.co.uk

WELLCOME AID

New schemes

* Sir Henry Wellcome postdoctoral fellowships

* PhD training programmes for clinicians

* Flexible travel awards. Travel sabbatical award of six months to one year paying research expenses only. Travel fellowship award of up to two years in length will pay salary and expenses

* Wellcome Trust-US National Institutes of Health four-year PhD programmes

Amended schemes

* Wellcome Trust four-year PhD programmes - competition for new programmes

* Research career development awards extended to four to five years. Awards will provide a basic salary, as determined by host institution, and research expenses.

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