Valerie O’Donnell appointed as Signalling programme honorary group leader

Valerie O’Donnell appointed as Signalling programme honorary group leader

Valerie O’Donnell appointed as Signalling programme honorary group leader

Key points:

  • Professor Valerie O’Donnell, Professor of Biochemistry at Cardiff University, has joined the Institute as an honorary group leader for an initial period of two years.
  • This appointment recognises Professor O’Donnell’s existing collaboration with the Institute through her co-leadership of the Wellcome Trust Bioresource, LIPID MAPS, which is housed at Babraham, and provides a foundation for scientific partnerships across the Institute’s research programmes.

Professor Valerie O’Donnell, from Cardiff University, has been appointed as an honorary group leader in the Signalling programme. In addition to her role at Cardiff, she leads the coordination of LIPID MAPS, a global online resource for lipid researchers. The Institute has had a close association with Valerie and LIPID MAPS for many years.  The Babraham Institute’s previous Director, Professor Michael Wakelam, was a co-lead, along with Dr Simon Andrews from the Institute’s Bioinformatics facility.  More recently, Dr Andrea Lopez from the Institute’s Lipidomics facility joined the team.  LIPID MAPS is currently are based across four institutions: Cardiff University, Swansea University, University of California San Diego and Babraham Institute where the databases are housed. 

In 2016, Valerie, together with Michael, and colleagues Ed Dennis and Shankar Subramaniam at University of San Diego successfully secured Wellcome Trust funding to continue the international open access resource LIPID MAPS which has a  long history of curating lipid structures and generating a globally used classification system for lipids. The resource also hosts several databases, tools, software and educational resources for lipidomics. Around 65,000 users access LIPID MAPS annually. Work is underway by the team to generate new resources and tools that will enable systems biology approaches to be applied to lipidomics data, in collaboration with partners such as WikiPathways and Rhea/UniProt. LIPID MAPS is an ELIXIR UK Bioresource. 

Professor Valerie O'Donnell
Professor Valerie O'Donnell

Professor O’Donnell’s own research focuses on understanding the bioactive lipids in circulating blood cells, in particular platelets. Since 2007, her group has identified large families of lipids made by platelets, neutrophils and monocytes, and shown their involvement in innate immunity, vascular inflammation, blood clotting, cardiovascular disease, and infection. As well as studying lipids, she has also developed new methods of measuring pro-thrombotic lipids on the surface of platelets and circulating cells. During the pandemic, she has been researching whether the lipid envelope of SARS-CoV2 could be a target for direct anti-viral approaches. Her research is currently funded by British Heart Foundation and BBSRC.

Reflecting on her new appointment Professor O’Donnell commented: “I am delighted to have this opportunity to work even closer with Babraham colleagues, especially Drs Simon Andrews and Andrea Lopez on the LIPID MAPS Biomedical Resource, and the recognition that the honorary group leader role brings to our collaborative efforts. I also look forward to learning more about lipid research at the Institute and developing new collaborations with biochemistry and signalling colleagues there.  Babraham has a stellar history in the area of lipid research, in particular phosphoinositides, which are also key mediators of vascular inflammation, and I am very keen to hear more about the work in this area”

Dr Simon Cook, Head of the Signalling research programme, said: “We are delighted to welcome Professor O’Donnell to the Institute in her new role as honorary group leader. There are some really exciting developments on the horizon for LIPID MAPS so we are looking forward to working closely together to not only see them come to fruition, but also take advantage of new tools to gain new insights into the big unanswered questions in signalling and lipidomics.”

The Institute’s honorary faculty programme is open for applications on a rolling basis. The Institute announced the first appointment to this programme of Professor Martin Howard in July 2020. Honorary appointees will spend time at the Institute, developing collaborations across the Institute’s research programmes, participating in joint grant applications for future work, and participating in the life of the Institute and wider campus. Interested individuals are invited to apply to the relevant Head of Programme (EpigeneticsSignalling or Immunology) to jointly develop a proposal.


Notes to Editors

Press contact

Honor Pollard, Communications Officer,         

Image description:

Main image: Representation of lipid bilayer, courtesy of LIPID MAPS

Inset image: Professor Valerie O’Donnell

Related resources:

The Institute’s Signalling research programme

News, 2 July 2020 Martin Howard joins the Institute as an honorary faculty member

News, 10 January 2019 ‘Phat’ on potential, Lipidomics is gaining Weight

News, 13 July 2016 Lipids resource maps out move to UK

About the Babraham Institute

The Babraham Institute undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation, immunology and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The Institute is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through Institute Strategic Programme Grants and an Institute Core Capability Grant, and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.