Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health



Babraham scientists awarded inaugural Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards

Two Babraham scientists are amongst the first recipients of the inaugural Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards, which are providing £56 million of funding over 7 years for exceptional researchers addressing the most important questions about health and disease. The Wellcome Trust has appointed 27 Investigators (7 New Investigators and 20 Senior Investigators), based mainly at institutions across the UK, with awards ranging from around £1 million to £3 million. From a list of 750 applicants, 173 were selected to complete an application which was assessed by nine review panels. Fifty-five candidates were then invited to attend a “star chamber” of prominent researchers to pitch their scientific proposal. Dr Klaus Okkenhaug, a group leader at the Babraham Institute, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is one of the new investigators, awarded funding to support his research for five years. He said, “I am both delighted and grateful for having won this generous award from the Wellcome Trust. The award is testament to my team’s hard work and commitment to explore the immunological roles for the PI3K family of enzymes. Our research increases our understanding of how this ancient family of enzymes has been expanded and adapted through evolution to carry out new and interesting biological functions. “The research also has direct relevance for the development of new medicines that aim to alleviate autoimmunity and inflammation while at the same time maintaining strong immunity against infections.” Professor Wolf Reik, Associate Director of the Babraham Institute and Professor of Epigenetics at the University of Cambridge, is one of the Senior Investigators appointed in these inaugural Awards. He leads an internationally-leading team studying ‘epigenetic programming’ to understand the molecular signals and switches that ensure an embryo develops correctly into an adult. Greater understanding of the biology behind this ‘reprogramming’ may help to explain how epigenetic changes occurring during ageing can cause disease, since conditions like heart disease and autoimmune disorders may be associated with failure of epigenetic regulation. Professor Reik said, “I am delighted about this award which, with its flexible funding, will allow my laboratory to pursue long term goals in understanding the mechanisms and basic biology of epigenetic reprogramming.” Professor Michael Wakelam, Director of the Babraham Institute said, “We are delighted that two of our scientists have been awarded these highly prestigious grants, which will support fundamental research into the bioscience underpinning health. This is a clear recognition of the quality of science at Babraham.” Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said, "The Wellcome Trust Investigators, together with our existing Fellowship holders, represent some of the very brightest minds in biomedical science. They are seeking answers to challenging research questions that could potentially transform our understanding of the mechanisms of health and disease. We are demonstrating our confidence in these outstanding individuals by providing longer-term, flexible funding; in return, we expect that they will make significant advances in knowledge in their field and act as ambassadors within the research community, helping us achieve our aim of improving human and animal health." Contact The Knowledge Exchange Office Email: Tel:       +44 (0)1223 496206 The Babraham Institute Babraham Research Campus Cambridge CB22 3AT United Kingdom Notes to Editors: The Babraham Institute The Babraham Institute, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), undertakes international quality life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. The institute received £22.4M investment from BBSRC in 2010-11. The Institute’s research provides greater understanding of the biological events that underlie the normal functions of cells and the implication of failure or abnormalities in these processes. Research focuses on signalling and genome regulation, particularly the interplay between the two and how epigenetic signals can influence important physiological adaptations during the lifespan of an organism. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and healthier ageing. ( About BBSRC The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond. Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M, we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see:


7 June, 2011