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Borysiewicz Biomedical Sciences Fellowships

The Borysiewicz Biomedical Sciences Fellowship Programme

The Borysiewicz Biomedical Sciences Fellowships have been developed in honour of Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, a pioneer in the biomedical sciences, who as Vice-Chancellor of the University led and shaped the development of key provisions for Cambridge’s postdoc community.

Postdoctoral researchers are the engine that power research in the biomedical sciences and are in a unique position to shape the future. It is the aim of the Borysiewicz Fellowships to provide career enhancement to support outstanding researchers seeking to shape the future for the betterment of society.

The Borysiewicz Fellowships will take outstanding Cambridge postdocs and develop them into motivated, strategic future leaders ready to pursue a range of global questions and problems. The programme will provide a unique mixture of purposeful and outcome-driven engagement opportunities for postdocs both within and outside their area of expertise, which will develop their skills as leaders and lead to a chance to pursue truly independent work on novel ideas.

In the first year, Fellows will embark on a set of flexible, outcome-driven trainings and experiences intended to develop leadership and teamwork skills. In parallel, Fellows will spend time in small groups, pursuing a Global Challenge in collaboration with mentors and experts from industry, enterprise, policy, government and academia leading to a tangible output. This will be completed alongside a Fellow’s existing research contract.

Fellows will then have the opportunity to bid for a period of independent time to pursue their own work. The projects can be anything from a conventional research project, to starting a business, to political or civil society-engagement.

 

The 2018 Cohort

The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs is proud to announce the first nine recipients of the Borysiewicz Biomedical Sciences Fellowship programme.

 

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Dr Paulo Amaral

I am a post-doctoral researcher at the Gurdon Institute, in the group of Professor Tony Kouzarides.

I am trained as a Biochemist (MSc) and Molecular Genetics (PhD), and my research focuses on the control of the activity of the genome in cancer cells and in organism development. I specialized in dissecting the roles of so-called noncoding DNA and the functions of the plethora of RNA molecules produced from it. In my post-doc, I am exploring the intersection between these regulatory RNAs and epigenetic mechanisms in cancer and pluripotent stem cells.

In addition to teaching and public engagement activities, I recently initiated a project to apply focused biochemical approaches to treat problems of major clinical relevance, such as drug overdosing.

With the training and experience offered by the Borysiewicz Biomedical Fellowship, I intend to further develop relevant ideas into feasible goals and drive them to fruition, whilst building the leadership skills necessary to become an independent researcher.

 

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Dr Mireia Crispin

I am a Research Fellow at Trinity College and at Cancer Research UK, Cambridge. I hold a PhD in Particle Physics from the University of Oxford, an MSci in Physics from the University of Valencia, and a BA in Music from the Conservatorio Superior de Valencia.

My research interests lie at the intersection between data science and the natural sciences: I work on computational models based on medical imaging data for personalised cancer treatment. A physicist by training, I previously worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and at CERN in Geneva.

I was co-Chair of the Science and Education Policy Association of New York, working to bridge the gap between scientists and policymakers, an area that I would like to explore further as a Borysiewicz Fellow. My research and outreach efforts have been recognised with awards from the New York Hall of Science, the University of Oxford, the Spanish Government, Winton Capital and Springer, among others. 

 

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Dr Dilrini De Silva 

I am a Research Associate in Bioinformatics at Cancer Research UK, Cambridge Institute with an interest in public health and translating genomic research to the clinic. Through the Borysiewicz Fellowship, I look forward to improving access to genomic technologies for better patient outcomes in LMICs.

Prior to joining CRUK I designed and performed large-scale computational analyses of pathogen DNA sequencing data for tracking transmission and antimicrobial resistance at the Modernising Medical Microbiology Consortium, University of Oxford. I graduated with a Masters and PhD in Bioinformatics from Queen Mary, University of London and an undergraduate degree in Biotechnology from Bangalore University, India.

I also co-founded Theme Institute, a not-for-profit think tank in my home country Sri Lanka and develop its training portfolio under the themes of Health, Education and Technology. I also serve on the board of the Association of Professional Sri Lankans in the UK and develop its Cancer Relief Network. 

 

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Dr Johnny Habchi

I am currently a Research Scientist in the Centre for Misfolding Diseases and Head of R&D in Wren Therapeutics Ltd. Here I orchestrate a drug discovery programme with the aim to generate transformative treatments for protein misfolding diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Originally from Lebanon, I hold a PhD in protein science from Aix-Marseille University where I investigated the replicative machinery of newly emerging viruses. Since 2012, I am a researcher at the University of Cambridge where I set up an interdisciplinary research programme that has contributed towards a paradigm shift in drug discovery against Alzheimer’s diseases.

During my 10 years as a researcher, I have authored more than 35 publications with more than 800 citations and have built a strong expertise in research design, team management and science communication.

I have a deep interest in translating foundational research in the field of global health challenges into efficacious interventions to promote health and prevent diseases that have a significant impact on societies. 

I am confident that the training that will be provided by the Borysiewicz Biomedical Sciences Fellowship will allow me to occupy a forefront position in tackling global health challenges by strengthening my leadership skills and by broadening my understanding on how to influence people and respond effectively to unanticipated challenges.

 

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Dr Luke Meredith 

I am a post-doctoral research fellow based at the University of Cambridge, working as a molecular virologist with Prof. Ian Goodfellow.

In 2015, I joined the West African Ebola outbreak response in Sierra Leone, initially as part of the PHE diagnostic response, then subsequently as part of a clinical research team evaluating diagnostic tests. I then spent several months running the Ebola Outbreak Sequencing Service, providing real-time sequencing support to the response, enabling rapid characterisation of EVD cases during the epidemic.

Following the epidemic, I helped establish the University of Makeni Infectious Disease Research Laboratory, a legacy teaching and research laboratory which facilitates research projects monitoring diversity and prevalence of infectious disease in and around Sierra Leone. As part of this work I have been developing portable sequencing packages, which can be deployed to developing countries to assist with both diagnostics and molecular epidemiology.

My goal with the Borysiewicz Fellowship is to develop collaborative projects with either national or international partners that will enable this technology to be deployed to those needing it the most, such as resource poor communities throughout West or Central Africa.

 

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Dr Alexander Patto  

I am a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellow in Jeremy Baumberg’s lab in the department of physics. My research focusses around developing low-cost methods of identifying bacterial contamination for use in low resource settings. Also I am CEO of WaterScope, a not-for-profit company through which my research has a clear route to impact. To date we have raised over £130,000 and completed our first field trial in one of the largest refugee camps in the modern world.

The first-year training platform in the Borysiewicz Fellowship which will run in parallel with my enterprise fellowship, will help prepare me for the next two years, which will be crucial in securing funding and ensuring effective project management and strategy as I begin to scale up the company. I am excited to be a member of the wider Fellowship community and believe I could share my unique experiences with other members within the fellowship. 

 

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Dr Velislava Petrova

I am a Postdoctoral Fellow at The Wellcome Sanger Institute where I study the role of genetics in the immune responses during infection and inflammation.

I was born in Bulgaria, but moved to the UK to complete a bachelor degree in Virology and Immunology at the University of Bristol. My academic journey continued with a PhD at the University of Cambridge where I used sequencing to study the evolution of antibody responses following virus infection and vaccination.

I am actively involved in a range of initiatives aimed to mentor and nurture young talent. My free time is dedicated to traveling and studying the science behind perfume-making.

I have a strong interest in science policy and global health and would like to use the fellowship to explore the most effective routes to raise awareness about the importance of vaccination. 

 

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Dr Christopher M. Proctor   

I received my B.Sc. in Interdisciplinary Physics from the University of Michigan in 2008. Following two years as a general scientist at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, I earned my Ph.D. in Materials from the University of California, Santa Barbara where I investigated loss mechanisms in organic photovoltaics (2015).

Subsequently I was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from Whitaker International to develop implantable bioelectronic devices for treating neurological disorders at the Ecole des Mines de St Etienne and am now continuing this work as a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge.

In my free time, I enjoy traveling and exploring the great outdoors.

I envision the Borysiewicz Fellowship programme will help me grow as a leader in research and innovation in the biomedical field and beyond.

 

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Dr Pietro Sormanni

I obtained a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Cambridge in 2016, following a MSc in Theoretical Physics from the University of Milan.

My research focuses on developing innovative data-driven technologies of rational antibody design to obtain antibodies against targets that have been challenging to access using conventional approaches. At the Centre for Misfolding Diseases, I am applying these technologies to generate novel opportunities for research, diagnostics, and eventually treatment of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

The outcomes of the numerous collaborations and industrial partnerships we have established are beginning to demonstrate that computational approaches can be applied alongside established procedures to streamline antibody development, and to offer time- and cost-effective novel alternatives.

As a Borysiewicz Biomedical Sciences Fellow, I am planning to build the framework necessary for the translation of this research programme from the academic setting towards biomedical applications, in order to see some of these ideas through completion.

 

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