Professor Rachel Lennon, Wellcome Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Science (spectacles) ..with Research Assistants (l to r) Maryline Fresquet (blond), Prof Rachel Lennon, Nikki-Moria Koudis (dark hair) Richard Naylor and Louise Hopkinson (rt) at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research are exploring how kidney cells work at the basic level. This could lead to new methods of treatment for patients with kidney disease...photograph by David Sandison/Wellcome.
The University of Manchester is among eight institutions to receive a share of £73 million in Wellcome funding to establish a Discovery Research Platform for Cell-Matrix Biology.
The scheme aims to improve understanding of how changes to molecular networks surrounding cells lead to tissue decline, with the potential to positively impact chronic diseases including cancer and fibrosis.
Scientists argue that discovery research has near limitless potential to transform our understanding of life, health and wellbeing and improve people’s lives.
Sometimes, however, researchers are faced with substantial practical, technological and methodological barriers which prevent the pursuit of exciting new discoveries in their field.
But by overcoming the barriers, researchers will be able to ask even more creative and boundary-defying questions.
Graham Lord, Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health at the University of Manchester, said: "Our success in this competition, one of only eight awards, is underpinned by the excellence in fundamental research at the University of Manchester. The Discovery Research Platform for Cell-Matrix Biology is built upon many years of discovery science at our institution and will accelerate the understanding of mechanisms that underpin tissue structure and lead to the development of new insights directly relevant to human health."
As a third of body mass, extracellular matrix surrounds cells, defines tissue architecture, and provides instructive signals for diverse cellular processes. Altered matrix is a hallmark of almost all genetic and acquired disorders leading to debilitating tissue degeneration and fibrosis. However, there are key conceptual and technical barriers to understanding how altered matrix leads to tissue decline. By innovating and improving technologies, this Discovery Research Platform aims to overcome these barriers and develop strategies to reprogramme the matrix and prolong tissue health.
Our success in this competition, one of only eight awards, is underpinned by the excellence in fundamental research at the University of Manchester. The Discovery Research Platform for Cell-Matrix Biology is built upon many years of discovery science at our institution and will accelerate the understanding of mechanisms that underpin tissue structure and lead to the development of new insights directly relevant to human health
Professor Rachel Lennon, Director of the Manchester Cell-Matrix Centre, said : "We have a bold vision to reprogramme extracellular matrix and prevent tissue decline. This exciting award will enable us to overcome major barriers that currently prevent the study of matrix in both time and space. We will share new tools and resources, and we aim to attract, inspire and nurture matrix researchers from diverse backgrounds."
Discovery Research Platforms will bring together researchers, teams and networks of collaborators to develop new tools, knowledge and capabilities, with the hope of accelerating progress for the benefit of the wider global research community.
Breaking down barriers to discovery research also relies on researchers being able to work in creative environments which include a diverse range of people and perspectives. Discovery Research Platforms will seek to deliver a positive and inclusive research culture that provides conditions for researchers to conduct their best work.
Michael Dunn, Director of Discovery Research at Wellcome, said : "Discovery research is essential to advancing our ability to understand and improve health. But in addition to researchers’ bold and imaginative ideas, we know that new tools, methods, and capabilities are also needed to unlock new avenues of research that can disrupt and transform the research landscape globally."
The funding is part of Wellcome’s pledge to spend £16 billion over the next ten years to help solve some of the world’s most urgent health challenges. This includes supporting discovery research to provide researchers with the time, freedom, and resources to take on challenging questions that improve understanding of life, health, and wellbeing.
Michael Dunn added: "As part of our commitment to fund curiosity-driven discovery research, we want to tackle some of the barriers and bottlenecks across fields which hold back progress and limit the ability of researchers to take on big, challenging questions. Discovery Research Platforms are a brand-new approach for Wellcome. By providing substantial support focused on specific research challenges, these environments have the potential to revolutionise fields and provide maximum possible benefit for researchers around the world. I am particularly excited that Discovery Research Platforms span such an exciting range of disciplines, showcasing our increasingly inclusive approach to funding."
Wellcome plans to convene all eight Discovery Research Platforms over the next year to encourage collaboration and the exchange of best practice between researchers and teams working in these environments.
Discovery Research Platforms are a part of Wellcome’s long-standing and enthusiastic commitment to funding fundamental science that shapes the world around us.