Meet our David Sainsbury Fellows

This page hosts all of the previous and current recipients of the David Sainsbury Fellowship awards.

2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 

2016

Dr Maria Duque Correa

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

David Sainsbury Fellow 2016 - 2019

Research interests: Maria's research interests include infectious diseases, host-pathogen interaction and immunology. These interests led her to study tuberculosis, Chagas disease and trichuriasis. Trichuriasis is a disease caused by infection with whipworms. Infection occurs via ingestion of whipworm eggs which, upon arrival to the gut, hatch and liberate larvae that burrows through the intestinal epithelium. Maria's research goal is to more fully understand the initial stages of the epithelia infection by the larvae, a crucial step that determines whether the worms are expelled or remain in the gut and cause chronic disease. During her David Sainsbury Fellowship, Maria will be developing a new model to study whipworm-gut epithelia interactions using organoids. Organoids are 3D cell clusters generated from gut tissue that have similar characteristics and function to the gut. In her model, organoids are injected with whipworm larvae, which will allow precise observation of the whipworms interacting with the epithelia. This technique will potentially replace mouse infection models and facilitate a better understanding of human disease. This knowledge will help to develop vaccines and discover drugs to fight whipworm infections. In the future, the organoid system could be applied to study the interaction of the epithelia with other parasitic worms that cause important neglected tropical diseases.

 

Biography: Maria completed her studies of Biology at the University of Antioquia in Colombia, where her undergraduate thesis focused on the role of macrophage activation in Mycobacterium tuberculosis control. She then went to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, USA to work as a research associate in projects investigating the effect of age on macrophage and dendritic cell responses during cancer. Afterwards, Maria undertook a PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, Germany. Her PhD thesis studied the role of macrophage arginase in granuloma immunopathology during M. tuberculosis infection. Since 2014, she has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Sanger Institute supported by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship. Currently, her research focuses on understanding the host-pathogen interaction of intestinal epithelia and whipworms (Trichuris sp)

 

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NC3Rs grant: NC/P001521/1

Lab page: Berriman Group

Contact: Email

Dr Riccardo Storchi

University of Manchester

David Sainsbury Fellow 2016 - 2019

Research interests: The fundamental challenge that drives Riccardo's research is understanding how animals and humans make use of their visual systems to survive. In particular, Riccardo wants to answer the following questions:

  1. What kinds of information does the visual system extract from the environment, and how are they encoded along the visual pathways?
  2. How are these encodings affected by the spectral composition and intensity of ambient light?
  3. How does this information drive or modulate spontaneous behaviours?

To address these questions, Riccardo uses the mouse as a model system for vision and behaviour. In his previous work, he focused on questions one and two. During the David Sainsbury Fellowship, Riccardo will address questions one and three. Answering these questions will lead to important practical applications, including the design of higher throughput behavioural tests to assess vision in mice, which have the potential to reduce the number of animals required to measure significant effects. This could in turn facilitate the development of better treatments for retinal degeneration, as well as provide physiologically grounded principles for lighting design and safety assessments. It also has the potential to extend our understanding of mouse spontaneous behaviour, which is assessed in a wide range of basic and preclinical research including anxiety, depression and memory disorders. 

 

Biography: Riccardo graduated in Biomedical Engineering at Polytechnic School of Milan (AA 2005/2006). He then obtained an MSc in Computational Neuroscience & Neuroinformatics at the University of Manchester (AA 2008/2009) and a PhD in  Neuroscience at the University of Modena and Reggio (AA 2010/2011). Since September 2011, he has worked as Research Associate in the Rob Lucas Lab at the University of Manchester. 

 

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NC3Rs grant: NC/P001505/1

Lab page: Lucas Group

Contact: Email

Dr David Turner

University of Cambridge

David Sainsbury Fellow 2016 - 2019

Research interests: David is interested in understanding, quantitatively, cell decision-making processes during early development. He uses mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) to study these processes in a model system where cells are faced with choices similar to those that exist in physiological environments in a simple, tractable, measurable system: the Gastruloid system. 

Gastruloids are aggregates of mESCs generated in non-adherent culture, which are able to effectively recapitulate many of the processes of early mammalian development such as symmetry-breaking, polarisation, gastrulation-like movements and the development of the three embryonic axes. Crucially, Gastruloids are easy to generate, can be experimentally manipulated with ease, and can be used to ask questions which are exceptionally difficult or impossible to address in the embryo. David is currently using the Gastruloids to probe the processes governing symmetry-breaking and pattern formation during mammalian embryogenesis, specifically those involved in left-right asymmetry. As only animal models exist to study left-right asymmetry, Gastruloids are able to greatly reduce and eventually replace the requirement of mouse embryos for this work.

 

Biography: David received his BSc in Pharmacology from the University of Liverpool in 2006 and then undertook a PhD with Professor Michael White, also at Liverpool, studying the regulation of NF-kB signalling in live-cells. He was awarded his PhD in 2011 and began his postdoctoral work with Professor Alfonso Martinez Arias in the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge. His work in Cambridge is focused around using quantitative approaches to understand how mouse embryonic stem cells interact and signal to each other to specify and control decisions about their fates and organization in development and homeostasis. Towards the end of 2016, David was awarded an NC3Rs David Sainsbury Research Fellowship to study left-right asymmetry during mammalian development, using the in vitro Gastruloid model system.

 

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NC3Rs grant: NC/P001467/1

Lab page: Martinez-Arias Lab

Personal page: David Turner

Contact: Email

2015

Dr Alessio Vagnoni

MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

David Sainsbury Fellow 2015 - 2018

Research interests: The main goal of Alessio's research is to better understand the mechanisms of neuronal ageing in vivo. He is particularly interested in studying how macromolecules, proteins and organelles, especially mitochondria, are trafficked within neuronal axons and how this process is regulated over the lifetime of an organism. This is an exciting although complex biological problem that requires a multifaceted approach in order to be properly addressed. Alessio uses the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and murine models to study how axonal transport is regulated in space and time in the peripheral nervous system of these animals. During his Fellowship, Alessio will further develop and validate Drosophila as an alternative to mammalian models in ageing research, taking advantage of the fruit fly’s short lifespan and transparent wings, which make it easy to observe intact neurons as they age, allowing him to gather information in real time. By combining in vivo imaging studies in whole organisms with the use of stem cell-derived neuronal cultures, his aim is to discover evolutionary conserved regulatory nodes of axonal transport in ageing neurons. The knowledge gained from studying the mechanisms that underlie neuronal ageing will have significant implications for our understanding of age-dependent neurological disorders.

 

Biography: Alessio graduated from the University of Pavia and IUSS (Pavia, Italy) with a Master’s degree in Genetics and Molecular Biology. He then relocated to the MRC Centre for Neurodegeneration Research (King's College London) where he obtained a PhD in Neuroscience. Here, Alessio studied axonal transport of organelles and signal transduction using cultures of rodent primary neurons as a model. In 2012 Alessio moved to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC-LMB, Cambridge, UK) to study transport of organelles in the Drosophila nervous system while developing an interest in neuronal ageing. As an NC3Rs David Sainsbury Fellow, he will divide his time between the MRC-LMB and University College London to study axonal transport and neuronal ageing in Drosophila and mouse neurons.

 

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NC3Rs Grant: NC/N001753/1

Lab page: Bullock Lab

Personal page: Alessio Vagnoni

Contact: Email

2014

Dr David Hill

Newcastle University

David Sainsbury Fellow 2014 - 2017

Research interests: The principal goal of David's current research is to develop models that replace the use of mice for the investigation of melanoma, specifically, by creating a 3D human skin equivalent model that recreates the precise environmental conditions of the skin to model early stages of melanoma development and progression; as well as a zebrafish model that mimics metastasis of melanoma in the human body during later disease stages. When fully developed, these models will be used to answer important biological questions and generate crucially required novel treatment strategies for melanoma. David's research focuses on a special subpopulation of tumour cells that are able to self-renew and drive tumour progression through utilisation of a key cell survival mechanisms called autophagy. Therefore, targeting autophagic signalling may provide novel therapeutic strategies with improved clinical outcome for patients with metastatic melanoma.

 

Biography: After completing his PhD at Newcastle University in 2010, David moved to Sydney, Australia where he worked as a post-doc for 2 years before returning to Newcastle to pursue an academic research career. He was awarded the NC3Rs David Sainsbury Fellowship in 2014, and is currently developing two novel mouse replacement models of melanoma invasion and metastasis to study autophagy in melanoma stem-like cells. Since starting his fellowship, David has published a validated full-thickness skin equivalent model in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, which was highlighted and chosen as a cover image; he has organised a satellite symposium for ‘Future Leaders in Dermatology’ at the European Society of Dermatological Research annual meeting; and was awarded ‘Young Investigator of the Year’ by the British Society of Investigative Dermatology.

 

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NC3Rs grant: NC/L002000/1

Lab page: Dermatological Sciences Research Group

Personal page: David Hill

Contact: Email

Dr Alessandro Poma

UCL

David Sainsbury Fellow 2014 - 2017

Research interests: Alessandro’s research interest is in synthesising and characterising polymeric nanomaterials capable of acting as antibody substitutes for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. The target he is currently addressing is the avian influenza virus H5N1, for which he is developing a point-of-care device or diagnostic assay that will not rely on the use of animal-derived antibodies and antisera for its development.

 

Biography: Alessandro obtained his MSc degree in Pharmaceutical Technology and Chemistry at the University of Palermo in 2009. In 2013 he completed a PhD at the Leicester Biotechnology Centre with Prof. Sergey Piletsky with a thesis on the “Automatic solid-phase synthesis of molecularly imprinted polymeric nanoparticles (MIP NPs)”. Until September 2014 Alessandro worked with Dr N.W. Turner at the Open University (Milton Keynes) on the development of hybrid DNA and aptamer-MIP and MIP NPs for diagnostic applications. In 2014 he was awarded a David Sainsbury Fellowship from the NC3Rs and for the next three years will be working between University College London (Prof. Giuseppe Battaglia) and University of Leicester (Prof. Sergey Piletsky) on the synthesis of MIP NPs as non-animal antibody substitutes for virus detection.

 

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NC3Rs grant: NC/L002175/1

Lab page: Battaglia Research Group

Contact: Email

Dr Ivana Poparic

King's College London

David Sainsbury Fellow 2014 - 2017

Research interests: Ivana’s primary interest is in the genetics of hereditary neuromuscular disorders. Currently, she is developing a zebrafish embryo model of Duane Retraction Syndrome (DRS). This is a type of squint characterized by abnormal wiring of the nerves that control eye movements, and is caused by mutations in the CHN1 gene. Ivana has created several zebrafish lines carrying CHN1 mutations, which will allow her to study the development of disorder phenotypes. Due to their transparency, zebrafish embryos are an excellent model to study both neuroanatomy and eye movement, and offer significant advantages over traditional mammalian models of DRS. In addition, using live imaging techniques, Ivana is able to further reduce the number of zebrafish used in her studies. She is currently using her model to map out abnormal nerve development in DRS and testing the functionality of the ocular motor nerves.  This will allow her to create a database of disease phenotypes which can be used to further research into genetic ocular movement disorders.

 

Biography: Ivana is an NC3Rs David Sainsbury Fellow based at the Department of Developmental Neurobiology, King’s College London. She received her PhD in molecular medicine from Medical University Graz, Austria for a dissertation on the role of FHL1 in myopathies. She also holds an MSc in molecular biology from University of Zagreb, Croatia.

 

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NC3Rs grant: NC/L002264/1

Lab page: Guthrie Group

Personal page: Ivana Poparic

Contact: Email

2013

Dr Maria Eugenia Herva

Cambridge University

David Sainsbury Fellow 2013 - 2016

Research interests: Maria's interest is in neurodegenerative disease, specifically Parkinson's, and the potential of repurposing existing drugs for the treatment of Parkinson's.  During her Fellowship, she developed a fast and reliable method of forming alpha-synuclein aggregates, which can be used as a high throughput assay to screen for drugs with anti-aggregating properties. This in vitro assay has the potential to greatly reduce the time and number of animals required to develop a new treatment for Parkinson's Disease. Maria is also interested in the prion-like spread of alpha synuclein and is working on a transgenic mouse line that will help to better understand if and how the aggregated alpha synuclein spreads from the periphery to the brain. Maria's main goals are to try to understand the pathological processes happening within and between the cells after being challenged with alpha-synuclein fibrils and to find compounds to stop or prevent that pathology.

 

Biography: Maria is a molecular biologist with broad expertise in biochemistry and cellular biology. She obtained her PhD in Spain in the field of prions under Dr. Torres and continued her work during a postdoc in the US with a prion pioneer, Dr Charles Weissmann. Maria then moved to the UK and changed fields from prions to Parkinson’s disease, joining the labs of Dr Spillantini and Dr Barker. Maria became more interested in drug discovery and obtained the David Sainsbury Fellowship with the aim of developing an in vitro assay to screen existing drugs for potential to treat Parkinson´s disease. 

 

Next destination: Maria has now joined MedImmune, based in Cambridge, where she applies the knowledge and expertise she gained during her Fellowship to find treatments for Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases.

 

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NC3Rs grant: NC/K00199X/1

Lab page: Spillantini Group

Personal page: Maria Eugenia Harva

Dr Juliane Liepe

Imperial College London

David Sainsbury Fellow 2013 - 2016

Research interests: Juliane is studying the signalling processes that are related to the immune response, with a focus on the innate immune response. After an injury, parts of the immune system are activated, which leads to specific immune cells leaving the blood vessels and migrating through the tissue to the site of the injury. Juliane investigates the migration of these immune cells, more specifically macrophages and neutrophils, which are the first layer of defence of the immune system in humans. It is still not fully understood which signals drive these cells towards the injury, how these cells migrate, and what these cells do once they reach the site of injury. To answer these questions, Juliane use an integrative approach, combining mathematical modelling and in vivo imaging studies. She is now developing diverse in silico tools to understand immune cell signalling. This will enable researchers to perform initial experiments in silico before using animals, which has the potential to reduce the numbers of zebrafish and rodents necessary in drug development by predicting their effect much earlier in the experimental process.

 

Biography: Juliane studied Biochemistry at the University of Potsdam (Germany). During her University education, she was a research assistant in the Non-linear Dynamics group (University Potsdam, Germany) and in the Protein Biochemistry group (Universitaetsmedizin Charite Berlin, Germany). In 2009 Juliane joined the 1+3 years Wellcome Trust PhD programme in Theoretical Systems Biology at Imperial College London, which resulted in her PhD thesis “Novel descriptive and model based statistical approaches in immunology and signal transduction”. After completing her PhD, Juliane was awarded the NC3Rs David Sainsbury Fellowship to investigate systems related to the immune response by developing mathematical and computational tools and models.

 

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NC3Rs grant: NC/K001949/1

Lab page: Theoretical Systems Biology Group

Personal page: Juliane Liepe

Contact: Email

2012

Dr Adrian Biddle

Queen Mary University of London

David Sainsbury Fellow 2012 - 2015

Research interests: Adrian's research interest is in non-genetic cellular heterogeneity in cancer, and how such heterogeneity might be responsible for therapeutic resistance. He is particularly interested in the plasticity of heterogeneous cancer cell sub-populations, the molecular mechanisms driving plasticity, and how plastic sub-populations can be modelled in vitro. These in vitro models have the potential to significantly reduce the number of animals used in cancer drug development. Adrian organises the London in vitro cancer and stem cell models club. If you are interested in joining the club mailing list, please contact him directly.

 

Biography: Adrian obtained his BSc in 2003 from the University of Bristol. He then spent a year working on cancer therapeutics at Dartmouth College, before studying for a PhD on the topic of nuclear reprogramming under the supervision of Professor John Gurdon at Cambridge University. Adrian obtained his PhD in 2008 and began postdoctoral work on cancer stem cells with Professor Ian Mackenzie at Queen Mary, University of London. In 2012, he obtained an NC3Rs David Sainsbury Fellowship that enabled him to establish an independent research programme around the theme of cancer stem cell heterogeneity and plasticity in cancer. As part of this Fellowship, Adrian spent three months working with Dr John Stingl at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.

 

Next destination: Adrian is now a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, where he continues to further his research on the plasticity of cancer cells using in vitro models.

 

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NC3Rs grant: NC/K500495/1

Lab page: Centre for Cell Biology and Cutaneous Research

Personal page: Adrian Biddle

Contact: Email

Dr Adjanie Patabendige

University of Liverpool

David Sainsbury Fellow 2012 - 2015

Research interests: Adjanie is a neurovirologist by training and has always been fascinated by the physiology of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), and its important role in protecting the central nervous system from pathogens and toxins. There is a lack of relevant in vitro human models to study the interactions of viruses with the BBB during brain infections. Therefore, most studies are reliant on using animal models. To reduce the reliance on animals, Adjanie has been developing a physiologically relevant flow-based human BBB model to study neuroinvasive viruses and test potential therapeutic drugs. She is particularly interested in flaviviruses, such as Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and West Nile Virus (WNV) for which there are currently no effective treatments. 

 

Biography: Adjanie received her undergraduate degree and PhD from King’s College London, where she developed an interest in studying the physiology of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). She continued working at the BBB group at King’s College London, in collaboration with several pharmaceutical companies to study the permeability of drug candidates on the porcine BBB model that she optimised during her PhD. Soon after this, Adjanie was offered a postdoctoral position at the University of Liverpool to develop a static human BBB model to study viral encephalitis. To obtain further funding to develop her research on investigating the mechanisms of virus entry into the brain, and to establish more physiologically relevant human models, Adjanie successfully applied and was awarded one of the inaugural David Sainsbury Fellowship from the NC3Rs in 2012. As part of her fellowship, Adjanie has spent a year working with her collaborators at the Peter Doherty Institute, University of Melbourne and Monash University, Australia to gain further experience on flavivirus pathogenesis and identify mechanisms involved in brain invasiveness.

 

Next destination: Adjanie was appointed as a tenure-track fellow at the University of Liverpool in 2014 and will be continuing her research on studying the interactions between neuroinvasive flaviviruses and the human BBB in collaboration with her international colleagues.

 

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NC3Rs grant: NC/K500525/1

Lab page: Brain Infections Group

Dr Claire Richardson

Newcastle University

David Sainsbury Fellow 2012 - 2015

Research interests: Claire's area of interest is in refining disease studies to improve the welfare of laboratory animals. The focus of her NC3Rs David Sainsbury Fellowship was on combining clinical scoring techniques with automated behavioural analysis systems in the study of fatigue in mouse models of chronic liver disease.

 

Biography: Claire is originally from Canada where she studied biology at Dalhousie University as an undergraduate. She then moved to the UK to carry out a veterinary degree at Edinburgh University. Upon graduation, she worked as a laboratory animal veterinarian in a university environment for five years providing veterinary care for a range of animal species, and getting involved in teaching on courses for new scientists and students. Claire became increasingly interested in laboratory animal welfare in this role and decided to undertake a PhD on the welfare of mice involved in disease studies, funded by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW). Claire's postgraduate studies were a particularly busy period for her as both of her sons were born whilst she was a PhD student. Claire was successfully awarded an NC3Rs David Sainsbury Fellowship in 2012.

 

Next destination: Claire is currently analysing and writing up the final studies from her Fellowship for publication. She is also enjoying returning to teaching and hopes to continue to work in the field of animal welfare research and education. 

 

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NC3Rs grant: NC/K500513/1

Lab page: Centre for Behaviour and Evolution

Personal page: Clare Richardson

 

Dr Amanda Tatler

University of Nottingham

David Sainsbury Fellow 2012 - 2015

Research interests: Amanda's research is focused on the mechanisms of tissue remodelling and the role of TGFβ in a variety of respiratory diseases including asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and viral infections. She is particularly interested in the role airway smooth muscle cells play in promoting asthmatic airway remodelling through TGFβ activation and how epithelial cells may promote fibrotic changes in the lung via TGFβ. Amanda currently holds funding to develop a novel ex vivo “breathing” lung slice model (Asthma UK funded, PI) and to investigate the role of Elk1 as a master regulator of fibrogenesis and remodelling (MRF funded, PI). She is also involved in a multidisciplinary project to develop new in silico models of asthmatic airway remodelling (MRC funded, Co-I).

 

Biography:  Following completion of her Ph.D in 2010, Amanda was awarded a Royal Society travel fellowship to enable her to undertake a period of post-doctoral training at the Lung Biology Centre, University of California San Francisco in 2011. Following her return to the UK she was awarded an NC3Rs David Sainsbury Fellowship to investigate the role of bronchoconstriction in the development of asthmatic airway remodelling utilising cutting edge techniques such as the precision cut lung slice model and hyper-polarised gas magnetic resonance imaging. As part of this fellowship, Amanda spent six months working at Harvard Medical School, furthering her knowledge of the precision cut lung slice model and learning new techniques to complement her research. 

 

Amanda currently sits on the committee of the British Association for Lung Research as Meetings Secretary, the Web Committee of the Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology Assembly of the American Thoracic Society and on the scientific committee of the British Lung Foundation. She is also a STEM ambassador and participates in activities to encourage young people into STEM careers.

 

Next destination: In 2015,  Amanda was awarded the Joan Bending, Evelyn Bending, Mervyn Stephens and Olive Stephens Memorial Fellowship (co-funded by Asthma UK and Medical Research Foundation). She is currently a Senior Research Fellow within the Division of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Nottingham, where she continues her research into tissue remodelling in respiratory disease. Amanda also continues to act as a 3Rs ambassador, working with colleagues in the University of Nottingham to embed the principles of the 3Rs in undergraduate and post-graduate research projects. 

 

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NC3Rs grant: NC/K500501/1

Lab page: Respiratory Research Group

Personal page: Amanda Tatler

Contact: Email