7 May 2014

EMBO honours Sanger Institute researchers

Professors Julian Parkhill and Karen Steel elected members of the European Molecular Biology Organization

Julian Parkhill, elected to membership of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in May 2014.

Julian Parkhill, elected to membership of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in May 2014. [Genome Research Limited]

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute's member of Faculty Professor Julian Parkhill and Honorary Faculty member Professor Karen Steel have been elected to membership of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), an organisation of more than 1600 researchers that promotes excellence in molecular life sciences in Europe.

Election to EMBO Membership recognises research excellence and the outstanding achievements made by a life scientist. Previously only 50 members have been elected each year, but - to celebrate its 50th anniversary - the organisation has honoured 106 scientists from 17 countries.

Professor Parkhill is a leading microbiologist who has worked at the Sanger Institute since 1997, working then on the first pathogen genome sequence produced by the Institute - that of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Since that time, he has led the analysis of many bacterial genomes, from C. difficile and MRSA to leprosy and Black Death, and his science has been cited in more than 26,000 other research papers.

"I am delighted to be honoured by election to EMBO," says Professor Parkhill. "All my publications have been the product of strong collaborations with researchers from inside and outside the Institute. Ours is a global science to tackle global disease and this clearly also honours my many colleagues.

"EMBO unites researchers across Europe in molecular science and it is this science that underpins our genomic research on disease-causing organisms. As pathogen genomics is applied more pervasively in healthcare, we are harvesting the fruits of molecular biology research in previous decades."

" EMBO unites researchers across Europe in molecular science and we are harvesting the fruits of molecular biology research in previous decades. "

Professor Julian Parkhill

Professor Parkhill co-led research in which genome sequencing of MRSA was used to identify an outbreak of MRSA in a UK hospital and help to bring it to a close. Genomic studies in healthcare and community settings will transform our public health and infection control practice.

Those advances are founded on genomic studies such as those carried out by Professor Parkhill.

"Julian has been a leading figure in pathogen genomics for two decades and has probably contributed more high-quality open access data in these areas than anyone," comments Professor Gordon Dougan, Head of Pathogen Genetics at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. "He truly deserves this recognition and I am sure more accolades will follow."

Honorary member of faculty Professor Karen Steel is Professor of Sensory Function at the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases, King's College London. From October 2003 to October 2012, Karen led the Genetics of Deafness team at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, discovering of a new type of gene - a microRNA - called miR-96, implicated in progressive hearing loss in mice and humans.

"I am honoured to be named for election to EMBO among so many distinguished scientists," says Professor Steel. "It is only through collaboration that I am able to conduct my research and this award is really a reflection of the years of work conducted by my team at the MRC Institute of Hearing Research, at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and at King’s College London, as well as the support and insights of my colleagues around the world."

Professor Steel established the Institute's Mouse Genetics Programme that generates many new mouse mutants each year and screens them for indications of a wide range of diseases of importance in the human population. The screen includes signs of hearing impairment, and has led to the identification of several genes as being involved in deafness. The programme also serves the external scientific community by distributing the resulting mice lines and data around the world for further detailed study.

"Karen's work has contributed hugely to our knowledge of deafness and her leadership in the Mouse Genetics Project has provided the scientific community with an unparalleled research resource," says Dr Derek Stemple, Head of Mouse and Zebrafish Genetics at the Sanger Institute. "I am thrilled that EMBO has recognised the contributions of Karen and her co-workers, both to uncover the genetic basis of deafness and to mouse genetics in general."

Founded in 1964 to serve, what was then, the emerging discipline of molecular biology, EMBO today is an organisation of more than 1500 leading researchers that promotes excellence in the life sciences.

It seeks to support talented researchers at all stages of their careers, stimulate the exchange of scientific information, and help build a European research environment where scientists can achieve their best work. The annual nominations and elections ensure that EMBO membership remains at the forefront of life science research.

EMBO

EMBO is an organisation of more than 1600 leading researchers that promotes excellence in the life sciences. The major goals of the organisation are to support talented researchers at all stages of their careers, stimulate the exchange of scientific information, and help build a European research environment where scientists can achieve their best work.

EMBO helps young scientists to advance their research, promote their international reputations and ensure their mobility. Courses, workshops, conferences and scientific journals disseminate the latest research and offer training in techniques to maintain high standards of excellence in research practice. EMBO helps to shape science and research policy by seeking input and feedback from our community and by following closely the trends in science in Europe.

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the world's leading genome centres. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower medical science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease.

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The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. We support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. Our breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. We are independent of both political and commercial interests.

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