University of Dundee

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Success for School

10 Mar 2021

In the recent round of applications for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowships, the School had a 100% success rate! Over the coming months, three scientists from across the globe will commence their new research projects. Angus Cowan from Melbourne, Australia and Claudia Diehl from Aachen, Germany will join Professor Alessio Ciulli’s lab while Angela Harrison, also from Melbourne, will join Professor Angus Lamond’s team.

Professor Inke Nathke, Interim Dean of School said, “Supporting the next generation of scientists is one of the most important things we do and I am delighted to welcome these accomplished researchers into our School.”

A total of €328 million was awarded from the scheme to fund 1,630 excellent post-doctoral researchers working at universities, research organisations and companies across Europe and beyond.

Grant Davidson, from Research and Innovation Services explained “In total 11,573 proposals were submitted to the 2020 call. As in previous years, the UK was the most successful country, with 311 projects awarded to UK-based organisations. The UK success rate (15.4%) was higher than the overall success rate for the call (14.3%). Dundee’s success rate was 37.5%.”

The School has welcomed 17 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellows since 2014 and we look forward to welcoming more in the coming years as we remain eligible for the scheme run by Horizon Europe.

Meet our new Fellows

Meet our three new Fellows and read about why they chose Dundee, their experience of applying for a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship and what they will be researching.

Angus Cowan Profile

Why did you apply for the scheme?

“I applied for the scheme because it was a great opportunity to take the next step in my career towards becoming an independent researcher. It gave me experience in writing fellowship/grant applications and of course it will bring funding support for me to do some cutting-edge research.” 

Where are you coming from?

“I’ve been in Dundee for a year now, but I was previously working as a Postdoc for Associate Professor Peter Czabotar at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) in Melbourne, Australia, where I also did my PhD. I grew up in Melbourne and spent most of my life there before moving to Dundee.”

Why did you pick Dundee/Life Sciences?

“The School of Life Sciences in Dundee has an excellent reputation and I had seen Alessio give a great talk at WEHI on PROTACs, which I found very interesting, particularly from a structural biology perspective which is my area of expertise. A position was advertised to join his group in 2019 and the project sounded exciting and had an industry partner. I was working as part of an academia-industry collaboration at the time and really loved it, so I jumped at the chance and was fortunate enough to get the job. I also love Scotland, it’s a really beautiful country that I had visited a couple of times before and wanted to see more of.”

What was your experience of the application process?

“I started writing the application during the first lockdown last year. It was actually a good opportunity to really focus and decide where I wanted to take the project with Alessio’s guidance. Grant Davidson from Research and Innovation Services was instrumental in tightening up the proposal and making sure we had covered everything required. I learnt a lot and generally enjoyed the process.”

What is your research project?

“The levels of all of the different proteins found in our cells is controlled by a finely tuned balance between the rate of their synthesis vs. the rate of their degradation. This balance is called protein homeostasis. E3 ubiquitin ligases are proteins that flag other proteins to be destroyed, and are required for normal protein homeostasis. PROteolysis TArgeting Chimeras (PROTACs) are drugs developed here in Dundee and around the world that hijack these E3 ligases to destroy proteins they normally wouldn’t, for example proteins associated with diseases such as cancer. Currently, PROTACs only hijack a small percentage of the hundreds of E3 ligases present in our cells to degrade target proteins of interest (POIs) and recent research suggests that the E3 ligases we can currently hijack won’t be ideal for destroying every POI. The goal of my project, DELETER (DCAF ELigase Exploration TExpand degRadation), is to expand the number of E3 ligases we can hijack with PROTACs by exploring the structure and function a group of E3 ligases called DCAFs. As part of the Division of Signal Transduction Therapy and in collaboration with our industry partner Merck, we hope to eventually develop PROTACs that hijack these DCAF ligases to degrade POIs.”

 

Claudia Diehl Profile

Why did you apply for the scheme?

“The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship strongly supports interdisciplinary research and offers the applicant the chance to transition into a new research discipline. After working in transition-metal catalysis the past years, I desired to expand my scientific horizon in the direction of medicinal chemistry and the fellowship provides me the opportunity to join an outstanding team of interdisciplinary researchers focusing on targeted protein degradation.”

Where are you coming from?

“I am coming from Aachen, Germany, where I undertook my doctoral studies in the group of Franziska Schoenebeck at the RWTH Aachen University in the field of homogeneous transition-metal catalysis combining synthetic organic, mechanistic and computational chemistry. I came to the University of Dundee to join the group of Alessio Ciulli working on targeted protein degradation.”

Why did you pick Dundee/Life Sciences?

“The School of Life Sciences (SLS) at the University of Dundee offers an outstanding environment for carrying out interdisciplinary research and rapid professional growth. My supervisor, Alessio Ciulli, is a world recognized expert in the field of targeted protein degradation and his laboratory hosts expert scientists from medicinal chemistry and chemical structural biology, providing an excellent multidisciplinary research environment.”

What was your experience of the application process?

“The extent of support I received from the University of Dundee in the application process was impressive. I greatly appreciate the input I got from both my supervisor and the European Proposal Development Team on my fellowship application and I enjoyed the opportunity of putting together my own research proposal.”

What is your research project?

“Proteolysis Targeting Chimeras (PROTACs) are heterobifunctional small molecules capable of inducing degradation of a target protein. They consist of binding ligands to an E3 ubiquitin ligase and a protein of interest covalently connected by a linker unit. Rational PROTAC design is highly challenging and novel PROTACs are to date commonly derived from trial-and-error approaches, typically using simple linkers to connect the two binding ligands. My project aims at rationally designing and developing novel functional linker motifs to improve PROTAC mode of action and expand the range of degradable targets.”

 

Angela Harrison Profile 

Why did you apply for the scheme?

“My research so far has examined novel immune evasion and nuclear trafficking mechanisms used by proteins of important RNA viruses, including SARS-COV-2, Ebola virus and rabies virus. I was really interested in the proteomics technologies developed by Prof. Lamond and his team, and thought that applying these techniques to examine virus infection and virus-host interactions would be really exciting. The MSCA scheme was therefore an ideal fellowship to enable me to come to Dundee and learn from Prof. Lamond and his team. This will greatly expand my skillset and knowledge base, and help me to develop into an independent, multidisciplinary researcher.”

Where are you coming from?

“Melbourne, Australia. I completed my PhD last year in the lab of Dr Gregory Moseley in the Department of Microbiology at Monash University, and am currently working for Dr Kylie Wagstaff in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash University.”

Why did you pick Dundee/Life Sciences?

“I wanted to work with Prof. Lamond because he is an international leader in the field of cellular proteomics with proven expertise in applying innovative proteomic technologies to address important biological questions. The School of Life Sciences also has state-of-the-art equipment and facilities that will enable the success of the project. More generally, I was really excited by the opportunity to come to Dundee/Scotland and explore such a beautiful part of the world. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Scotland and the Scottish people (although I will have to invest is some warmer clothes..).”

What was your experience of the application process?

“The resources and assistance provided by the University of Dundee made the application process very straightforward. I also really appreciated the feedback given by Prof. Lamond and Grant Davidson on my proposal drafts.”

What is your research project?

“My research project will examine Nipah virus, a highly lethal virus for which there are no approved treatments or vaccines despite outbreaks occurring almost annually in Asia. I will focus on two highly multifunctional proteins of Nipah virus, V and M proteins, that have many critical roles in infection, including in immune evasion and virus assembly. Using the cutting-edge proteomics strategies developed by the Lamond lab, I will systematically analyse the molecular composition of distinct protein complexes formed and altered by these viral proteins to understand how Nipah virus exploits and remodels the intracellular host environment to benefit infection. This has the potential to provide unparalleled insight into Nipah virus infection, which will be of significant value for identifying possible targets for drug/vaccine development. The project will also establish these highly advanced proteomics approaches as valuable tools to study other important viruses of global concern.”

 

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