A promising young researcher at The University of Nottingham has been awarded a prestigious national fellowship to support her work investigating the molecular biology of hepatitis C virus.
Dr Catherine Jopling, of the University’s School of Pharmacy, has received more than £1 million in funding over five years from a David Phillips fellowship given by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
Dr Jopling said: “I’m delighted to have been awarded this fellowship. It will be enormously helpful in allowing me to set up my own group and to pursue this exciting research.”
The fellowship will cover her salary and provide research funding to allow her to continue with work started while a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University in the US looking at micro-RNAs, tiny molecules that play a major part in controlling gene expression in cells.
Dr Jopling’s research focuses on miR-122, a specialised liver microRNA which interacts with hepatitis C virus (HCV) in an unusual way and plays an important role in helping the virus to replicate itself, an essential part of the viral life cycle.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infectious disease which currently affects around two per cent of the population. The infection can go undetected for a long period of time because it often produces no or few symptoms but as the disease becomes more chronic it can lead to serious scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and even cancer.
Dr Jopling’s research looking at how HCV hijacks miR122 to help in its attack on the liver has been recognised by the BBSRC because of the important role it plays in developing our understanding of gene expression and the basic biology of microRNA activity. In the future, the work may also have implications for medical advances — if more can be understood about the process by which HCV replicates and spreads, new drugs which act by blocking this action could be developed to help halt the progression of the disease.
The BBSRC awards six to 10 David Phillips fellowships a year to young scientists who have shown huge potential in their early research work and allows them to become well established in their chosen field.
Dr Jopling carried out her PhD from 1998–2001 at the University of Leicester, before obtaining a Wellcome Trust International Research Fellowship, which allowed her to work as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University. The fellowship provided a further year of funding to return to a UK-based lab and she spent a year working at the University of Cambridge. She joined Nottingham in 2007 as part of the RNA Biology Group in the School of Pharmacy.
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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 ‘world-leading’ or ‘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 ‘only truly global university’, 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 ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.