May 20, 2011
Dr Len Stephens, Head of the Signalling ISP and Associate Director of the Babraham Institute, has today been elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. Dr Stephens is a leading authority on biochemical signalling pathways, studying how cells respond to signals and communicate with each other to ensure the healthy development of an individual.
His research has given profound insight into understanding the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway, which is fundamental to a great diversity of activities inside cells, such as cell growth, metabolism, movement, hormone action and the generation of immune responses.
Professor Michael Wakelam, Director of the Babraham Institute, said, “Len’s sustained body of work over 20 years has provided consistent, insightful observations into fundamental aspects of the PI3K signalling pathway and its role in normal physiology and disease. I am absolutely delighted that his significant contributions to the field have been recognised by election to the Royal Society. Len’s research is of direct relevance to understanding some of the key principles behind healthy ageing.”
The Royal Society is the UK’s leading scientific organisation, its Fellowship comprising over 1300 of the most distinguished scientists from the UK, the commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland. Today The Royal Society has elected 44 new Fellows and eight new Foreign Members.
Dr Stephens said, “I am delighted with this honour and the recognition it gives to the work my team has been involved with over the years at the Babraham Institute. We have recently been characterising important pathways controlling healthy immune function, which may be targeted pharmaceutically to either increase or reduce the immune response and may lead to new therapies to treat autoimmune inflammatory diseases.”
Research from Dr Stephens’ group published last month revealed how a type of white blood cell known as a neutrophil – which provides front line defence for the immune system – gets activated by antibodies. The findings bring new insight to how the PI3K pathway regulates the immune system and has implications for better understanding the basis of auto-immune inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. This may pave the way for new therapeutic strategies to prevent the inappropriate activation of immune cells that is seen in auto-immune disorders.
The Babraham Institute, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is a centre for studying the basic biology of signalling inside and between cells, supporting BBSRC’s mission to drive advances in bioscience to underpin pharmaceuticals and for better health and wellbeing.
Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC said, “This is a wonderful acknowledgement of the world-class research carried out by Dr Stephens and all of the BBSRC funded scientists elected; they have been elected to join the ranks of some of the world’s most eminent researchers. We are obviously delighted that over a quarter of this year’s Fellows have at some point received BBSRC funds to support their research. We aim to fund excellent research and it is clear that in these cases the work has proven to be world-class.”
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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. (www.babraham.ac.uk)
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: www.bbsrc.ac.uk
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes