A chance discovery led cell biologist Stephen Royle away from neuroscience to cell division, with the chance to find out more about the basic processes that lead to cancer.
With the first Career Establishment Award from Cancer Research UK he will spend five years continuing his investigation of the protein clathrin, which he discovered to have a role in mitosis, the sharing of genes between two cells in cell division. Mutant forms of clathrin appear in human cancers.
The award, worth about half a million pounds, will also cover the cost of a junior postdoctoral scientist and a laboratory technician.
Dr Royle, 30, said the size and scope of the award would allow him to apply his work specifically to cancer.
He stumbled across the previously unknown role of clathrin while a researcher at the Medical Research Council's molecular biology laboratory in Cambridge. The laboratory's main focus is neuroscience.
"It's every scientist's hope that you're going to do something that's applicable to a disease," he said of his discovery.
Dr Royle moved to Liverpool University last year to pursue the new direction of his research. He is a lecturer there and will continue his teaching.
He hopes that at the end of five years "we will understand what clathrin is doing in cell division and that we can make some kind of inroads into discovering what these clathrin mutants are doing in cancer".
Cancer Research UK will make up to eight Career Establishment Awards each year, which go to principal investigators who are within three years of the start of their first academic post.