A star scientist from The University of Nottingham's School of Biomedical Sciences has won a prestigious award for her work in the field of pharmacology.
Dr Jillian Baker has won the Novartis Prize, a leading award from the British Pharmacological Society for scientists in pharmacology under the age of 40. The award is a double whammy for the School of Biomedical Sciences as it's the second year in a row that a member of the School has won itâ€¦ last year it went to Professor of Neuropharmacology Vicky Chapman.
The award is based on published work. Dr Baker has published several papers, including some single author papers. Perhaps the most important of these was her clear demonstration that all of the beta-blockers in common clinical practice for cardiovascular disease were not as selective for the human beta-1 receptors as previously assumed. This prompted her to establish a team in Nottingham to generate better beta-blocker drugs and this recently secured £3million funding from the Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery initiative.
Dr Baker's award-winning research has provided completely new insights into the pharmacology of an important class of receptors in the human body called beta-adrenoceptors. These are targets for beta-agonist compounds used in asthma and in cardiovascular beta-blockers. She provided some of the first evidence for ligand-directed signalling at the beta-2 adrenoceptor, which allows specific drugs to target different intracellular signalling pathways via the same cell surface receptor. She has also shown that two receptors in this family have multiple binding sites for drugs.
Reacting to the Novartis Prize, Dr Baker said: "œI am stunned to receive such a prestigious award. I love basic science and really enjoy trying to understand how drugs and hormones stick to the outside of cells and change what the cells do. But, as I am a medic I am always also thinking about ways we could improve on our current drugs. I am therefore especially honoured by this prize as it recognises a contribution to basic science not just the clinical angle. Thank you very much to the British Pharmacology Society, and for all the support and mentoring I have received in Nottingham and from the Wellcome Trust."
Head of School Professor Stephen Hill said: â€œI am absolutely thrilled for Jill. This is a huge achievement for her, particularly when you consider that she has been completing her clinical training whilst performing her award-winning research. I am also delighted for the University, since Jill has undertaken all of her research in Nottingham and this is very much a â€˜home grown' achievement.
â€œOn a personal note, it is particularly pleasing for me to see an award that I won over 20 years ago pass into the hands of one of my own former graduate students. For the School of Biomedical Sciences to win such a prestigious prize two years running is a great testament to the strength in depth of pharmacology in Nottingham and the support that is in place for our stars of the future.â€
Dr Ted Bianco, Director of Technology Transfer at the Wellcome Trust, said: â€œThis is well deserved recognition of a clinical scientist, doing what clinical scientists do best: setting the research agenda around needs identified at the sharp end of clinical practice. Jill's work on drug discovery for selective beta-1 receptor inhibitors stems from a desire to treat heart disease in patients who currently can't be given beta-blocker therapy because of respiratory problems.â€
Dr Baker is a graduate in Medicine from The University of Nottingham. She works jointly as a Registrar in Respiratory Medicine in Queen's Medical Centre and a research scientist in the School of Biomedical Sciences. She obtained a PhD in Pharmacology from The University of Nottingham in 2004 funded by a Wellcome Trust Clinical Training Fellowship and is currently funded by a Wellcome Trust Clinician Scientist Award.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as â€˜world-leading' or â€˜internationally excellent'. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's â€œonly truly global universityâ€, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation - School of Pharmacy), and was named â€˜Entrepreneurial University of the Year' at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.