Professor Julian Blow, who works in the Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression at the University of Dundee College of Life Sciences, has been awarded a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award. These highly prestigious grants are given by the Wellcome Trust to outstanding senior researchers who are judged to be studying the most important and challenging research questions in biomedicine. In this second round of awards the Wellcome Trust has appointed 4 new junior investigators and 11 senior investigators across the UK.

Julian Blow is Professor of Chromosome Maintenance at the University of Dundee, Associate Dean of Research at the College of Life Sciences and Deputy Head of the Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression.The grant of £1.3m will support Professor Blow’s pioneering research studying the mechanisms controlling DNA replication. Before a cell can divide, it must copy the genetic information encoded in its DNA, a process called DNA replication. Because cells contain very large quantities of DNA, they use thousands of ‘replication forks’ – the machinery that copies the DNA – to ensure that all of the DNA is replicated. A large proportion the chemotherapeutic drugs currently in use to treat cancer target replication forks and the process of DNA replication. The work funded by the Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Awardwill use new knowledge about how DNA replication is controlled to provide a detailed understanding of how cells respond to replication inhibition. One important aim is to understand how cells recruit more replication forks onto the DNA in order to compensate for replication fork inhibition. The research will also address whether mutations in cancer cells affect how well they respond to replication inhibition,making them moresusceptible to chemotherapeutic drugs targeting DNA replication. Ultimately this work could lead to an understanding of why particular cancers are sensitive to particular chemotherapeutic drugs, which would allow these drugs to be given specifically to patients who will benefit most from them.

In response to the announcement of the award Professor Blow said,

”The proposed research is very ambitious but I am hugely excited by what we may discover and the possible medical application it may have. I am very grateful to the Wellcome Trust for agreeing to support me, and am pleased that they have confidence in my vision for how the research will develop. The award also reflects the strength of the biomedical research environment in Dundee, without which it would not have been possible for me to have done the research that underpins the award.”

Professor Mike Ferguson, Dean of Research at the College of Life Sciences said, “The Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Awards allow the furtherance of the work of scientists who have an excellent track record in their field of research. The grant is a tribute to Julian’s research history and will give him the flexibility and time to tackle even more important research into the health benefits of genetic research and genomics.”

Professor Angus Lamond, Director of the Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression said, “Julian Blow is a world leader in his research field studying how cells control the replication of their DNA. This Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award is a huge tribute to Julian’s success and paves the way now for Julian to carry out a really exciting new set of experiments that will have a major impact on cancer research”.

The Wellcome Senior Investigator Award will allow Professor Blow to appoint 3 post-doctoral researchers and fund his research over a period of 7 years.