University's fungal research group officially recognised with MRC Centre status

University's fungal research group officially recognised with MRC Centre status

The University of Aberdeen's reputation for ground-breaking fungal research has seen it afforded the prestigious status of an official UK centre of excellence.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) has awarded MRC Centre status for Medical Mycology to the University’s Aberdeen Fungal Group.

This new MRC Centre for Medical Mycology (MRC CMM) at the University of Aberdeen will spearhead innovative research and training to generate knowledge that will improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of fungal diseases.

This Centre is the first MRC Centre dedicated to the field of medical mycology and is the first time that the University of Aberdeen has been awarded an MRC Centre status. There are only 22 MRC Centres in the UK.

Fungi infect a quarter of the world’s populations. Mostly these infections are superficial and non-life threatening, such as dandruff or thrush. However, fungal infections also cause the death of around 1.5 million people worldwide every year. The rise in the prevalence of these lethal infections is attributed largely to HIV/AIDS and the increased use of modern medical techniques, such as treatment with immune suppressive medicines. 

Despite the major medical impact of these fungal infections, medical mycology is a historically underfunded area of research, representing only a small percentage of both the UK and US governments’ infectious disease budgets.

The new MRC Centre for Medical Mycology represents a joint £6.5m investment by both the MRC and the University of Aberdeen.

University of Aberdeen Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Ian Diamond says: “The awarding of MRC Centre status to our already distinguished Aberdeen Fungal Group is testament to their world-leading research and learning they are already renowned for.  The University is investing in this new Centre in partnership with the MRC because we are convinced that they will continue to make huge strides forward in this field to the benefit of science and society.”

Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the MRC, said: “Fungal diseases can cause serious illness and death in patients with vulnerable immune systems and present a major challenge to healthcare providers. The Medical Research Council recognises further research is a priority and alongside the University of Aberdeen will create a centre renowned for its mycology research. The centre will build upon work by the University’s well-established Fungal Group and increase capacity for medical mycology to turn basic scientific discoveries into clinical advances that will save lives.”

As well as enhancing the Aberdeen Fungal Group’s existing world-leading interdisciplinary research with the appointment of new researchers, the centre will also be responsible for training the next generation of experts in this field and ensuring the work carried out has real impact on the medical and pharmaceutical industry. Another area of focus will be raising the awareness of fungal diseases and the associated research in this field among the general public and the medical community through a variety of public engagement and outreach activities.

Director of the new centre, Professor Gordon Brown said: “This award will enable us to take advantage of, and grow, our existing strengths to create a world-leading centre of excellence. Our vision is to facilitate innovative, interdisciplinary research and training that will tackle the ambitious challenges required to substantially advance our understanding of fungal pathogenesis and host immunity, generating knowledge that has the potential to improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of fungal diseases.” 

Professors Neil Gow, Alistair Brown and Adilia Warris are to be co-directors of the new centre.

Studentships

Fully funded four year MRes/PhD Studentships in Medical Mycology, to start in October 2016 are open for applications. Full details can be found here: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/clsm/graduate/research/mrc-medical-mycology

Author
Euan Wemyss

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