Wellcome Sanger Institute and UKRI

Sanger researcher backed through flagship fellowship

Dr Stephen Doyle has been awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship to explore the evolution of drug responses in parasitic worms

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Dr Stephen Doyle, who is a postdoctoral researcher in the Parasites and Microbes Programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, has been awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship.

The UKRI’s flagship scheme invests in outstanding individuals across the UK, identifying the research and innovation leaders of the future. This award will support Stephen to develop his career, while tackling the ambitious challenge of understanding the evolution of drug resistance in parasitic worms.

Stephen is studying the parasitic helminth Haemonchus contortus, which infects sheep and goats and causes a huge economic and animal health burden on the farming community around the world. While drugs against H. contortus are available, drug resistance is very common due to the parasite’s ability to evolve in response to selective pressure from drugs. H. contortus is a genetically tractable model parasite for understanding drug resistance in other parasites, including those that infect humans; these same drugs are used in mass drug administration campaigns to control helminths that infect over 1 billion people worldwide.

His group will use genomics to understand how this parasite changes over time in response to drug treatments, which could lead to a better understanding of not just H. contortus, but all helminth species, including how to treat and manage these parasites that infect both animals and humans.

This work will build on new and existing collaborations within the Wellcome Sanger Institute, with the Moredun Research Institute in Edinburgh – which focuses on infectious diseases of livestock, and with the University of Glasgow.

“I am delighted to have been awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship to study the genetic diversity and microevolution in helminths. Genomics offers new ways for detecting and monitoring these parasites, which will help understand how to better manage them. This award will allow me to work with a fabulous group of collaborators to develop open-access resources that will help the community.”

Dr Stephen Doyle, Postdoctoral researcher at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

There have been 90 UKRI Future Leaders Fellows announced. UKRI’s initiative aims to support the creation of a new cohort of research and innovation leaders who will have links across different sectors and disciplines. Awardees will each receive between £400,000 and £1.5 million over an initial four years. The grant supports challenging and novel projects, and the development of the individual, and can pay for team members’ wages, equipment and other needs.

“The Future Leaders Fellowships are UKRI’s flagship talent programme, designed to foster and nurture the research and innovation leaders of the future. We are delighted to support these outstanding researchers and innovators across universities, research organisations and businesses.”

Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation

“That businesses are hosting Future Leaders Fellows demonstrates the fellowships’ potential to create innovative solutions that can deliver transformational change for industry and wider society.

“The Future Leaders Fellows represent some of the most brilliant people working in the country. We’re supporting researchers from every background – from the arts to medicine, and the social sciences to engineering – helping them become the research and innovation leaders of the future.”

Kirsty Grainger, Director of the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships 

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