• Fostering Scientific Links Between the UK and Japan

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Fostering Scientific Links Between the UK and Japan

Jun 21 2010

University of Nottingham scientists are to collaborate with their counterparts at two leading Japanese universities in the search for a better understanding of E.coli, a prevalent bug which can be fatal. Dr Dov Stekel and Dr Jon Hobman have won a £23,000 Japan Partnering Award from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), a prestigious award set up to bring together leading researchers and foster long-term relationships between the UK and Japan.

Dr Stekel and Dr Hobman will collaborate with research teams led by Professors Naotake Ogasawara and Shigehiko Kanaya at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, and Dr Toru Tobe at the University
of Osaka.

E.coli is a species of bacterium found in the intestines of animals and humans. Some strains can survive ingestion and establish themselves in the gut, causing infection and a variety of diseases including cystitis, meningitis and diarrhoea. E.coli is usually transferred to humans by ingesting contaminated water, or contaminated food, such as meat, which has not been cooked properly. Variants such as the 0157 strain are potentially fatal. In the UK’s worst recorded outbreak, 20 people died over a period of weeks in 1996-7 after attending a church lunch in Strathclyde, Scotland.

Dr Stekel, Associate Professor of Integrative Systems Biology, in the School of Biosciences, said: “We are very excited about this award. The Japanese groups have developed some cutting-edge experimental technologies and we are very much looking forward to working with them to the benefit of all our groups. The award creates an opportunity to make significant progress in our understanding of how these organisms survive, colonise hosts and cause disease.”

The Japan Partnering Awards are run jointly with the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) to support scientists in the field of systems biology. Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive of the BBSRC, said: “Modern bioscience demands international collaboration. By working together across international borders we can generate faster progress and higher quality science than we can alone. This scheme, and the close relationship between BBSRC and the JST, allows us to foster and build links between UK and Japanese researchers.” This year’s awards have been made to four UK research groups — at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and Nottingham — and their Japanese counterparts. The title of the Nottingham project is ‘Dynamic mathematical modelling of diversification of transcriptional regulatory networks underlying the genetic variation of E. coli species’.

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