Who got that cash?

December 8, 2006

To win a Wellcome Trust fellowship is rare, but to win three in a row is exceptional.

Andrew Tobin , professor of cell physiology and pharmacology at Leicester University, has just received his third fellowship in ten years. He will get £1.3 million over the next five years to cover salaries and core research into a family of proteins called G-protein coupled receptors.

Professor Tobin said: "It's quite unusual; the fellowships are very tough to get. But we used the previous ones well and were adventurous, and that's partly what the trust is looking for. If you're going to be well funded, then you have to take gambles."

The proteins he and his team work on - GPCRs - are involved in nearly every biological process in the body. There are about 700 types of these proteins, which sit on the outside of cells and relay information from other cells.

The work has attracted the interest of pharmaceutical companies looking for potential drug development because the proteins respond to many commonly used drugs, such as beta-blockers for heart disease and salbutamol inhalers for asthma.

Professor Tobin aims to find out what controls the activity of the proteins and whether they can be harnessed to change the way cells behave. This could lead to designing drugs that target the proteins on the surface of cancer cells in a way that will make chemotherapy more effective.

The team will also use the fellowship money towards research into malaria.

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