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£14.9 million award to MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit

The Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation Unit at the University of Dundee has had its funding for the next five years almost doubled to £14.9 million after an overwhelmingly positive review of its activities.

The MRC Council has approved a recommendation from its Physiological Systems and Clinical Sciences Board to provide an increased budget of £14.9 million over the five year period April 2007-2012.

The Unit received funding of £7.5 million for the period 2002-2007.

After a rigorous review which involved seeking the opinions of 30 international experts in the field, the MRC Council gave the highest possible 6.0 rating for the Unit's recent work and future proposals.

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The Council also approved the appointment of Professor Dario Alessi as Deputy Director of the Unit.

"This major new commitment from the MRC to the Unit in Dundee is a tremendous boost, and recognises the pre-eminence we have achieved in this field worldwide," said Professor Sir Philip Cohen, Director of the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit.

"The additional funding will allow us to expand our cutting-edge research programmes - which aim to understand the causes of global diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and Parkinson's - and to use this information to facilitate the development of drugs to treat these conditions in partnership with the six major pharmaceutical companies with whom we collaborate."

When the new positions awarded are filled, the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit will have nine Programme Leaders and 115 staff and account for 16% of the on-going research in the College of Life Sciences at Dundee.

Over the past five years some of the highlights of the Unit's research have included the explanation of how a tumour suppressor called LKB1 prevents cancers from forming, the validation of the enzyme PDK1 as a key target for the development of an anti-cancer drug, the discovery of why mutations in an enzyme called WNK1 cause an inherited hypertension syndrome and the identification of new drug targets to treat chronic inflammatory diseases.

The MRC Council also announced that Dr Nick Morrice, Head of Proteomics in the Unit would be promoted from Band 3 to Band 2 and Dr Kei Sakamoto, Head of the Unit's Molecular Physiology Laboratory from Band 4 to Band 3, both effective April 2007.

The Council also gave approval for the Unit to recruit a biologically-focused Programme Leader with significant X-ray crystallographic expertise, a position which has just been advertised.

Roddy Isles | alfa
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