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Coup for Norwich Science

Norwich is celebrating the appointment of one of the US’s top plant pathologists to work at the Sainsbury Laboratory (SL) in the Norwich Research Park. Professor Sophien Kamoun, originally from Tunisia, is a world expert in the fungus-like plant pathogen that causes potato late blight, the disease that was responsible for the Irish potato famine. Recruiting Sophien from Ohio State University is not only a fantastic coup for the Sainsbury Laboratory, but will undoubtedly strengthen the international scientific excellence of the Norwich Research Park.

Sophien has an outstanding career history, having worked in Paris, the University of California, Wageningen University (the Netherlands) and most recently Ohio State University. The Norwich Research Park will also be welcoming his partner and Ohio State University faculty Saskia Hogenhout who will be starting a senior fellowship at the John Innes Centre (JIC) to study insect-transmitted plant diseases.

"Sophien will be a wonderful colleague at the SL. He is a leader in the research community that studies the potato late blight pathogen, Phytophthora infestans, and also other Phytophthora diseases” says Jonathan Jones, head of the Sainsbury Lab, “I am absolutely delighted that we at the SL and JIC have been able to attract Sophien and his partner Saskia back to Europe from the US. With Sophien's recruitment, the UK will have unparalleled expertise in studying oomycetes, a unique and fascinating class of plant pathogen that also causes downy mildews and white rusts".

Sophien is expected to start moving his lab from the US in January 2007 and is excited by the prospect of moving to Norwich to work at the Sainsbury Laboratory. “I am thrilled about joining the Sainsbury Laboratory, which has a longstanding tradition as a hub for cutting edge plant research. My objective is to build on and contribute to this tradition.” He says, “I feel the timing is perfect. The availability of multiple genome sequences for Phytophthora and related species enables us to explore new research questions in ways that were unthinkable just a few years ago. I am also very much looking forward to strengthening my current collaborations with European colleagues as well as developing new ones.”

Chris Lamb, director of JIC also welcomed the news, “I am delighted that we have again competed internationally to bring to Norwich two outstanding young investigators working on exciting scientific problems of great potential significance to sustainability.”

Kamoun’s appointment is part of the planned growth of the Sainsbury Laboratory research portfolio which aims to recruit a further two Project Leaders to do research into new areas of plant biology based on plant-pathogen interactions. The institute was recently awarded a 5-year funding package of £17M by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation as part of its continued support for the laboratory.

Vicky Just | alfa
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