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Using virus proteins to fight disease

Tuesday 19 January 2010

A University of St Andrews research group has won over £1 million funding to develop its work to understand the world's oldest known and most diverse family of viruses.

The Picornavirus Group, based in the University's Biomolecular Sciences Research Complex, is dedicated to the study of the Picornaviridae family of viruses. This family of viruses includes pathogens affecting humans and animals: from the common cold, to polio and foot-and-mouth disease - the latter costing the UK economy billions of pounds in recent years.

This funding is recognition of the progress already made at the University of St Andrews, where virus protein sequences have already been identified and developed for use in biomedicine and biotechnology. Such proteins have already allowed major advances in human gene therapies and the production of stem cells.

Building on this research, the Picornavirus Group will:

* Study foot-and-mouth disease virus replication within cells using a non-infectious form of the genome

* Further develop virus protein sequences for use in the co-expression of multiple proteins in both animal and plant cells

* Develop new biotechnological and biomedical applications arising from this work.

Professor Martin Ryan, who leads the group, said:

"Understanding how viruses multiply within cells enables development of new strategies to control virus infections. In the course of this work, we have learnt one of the major 'tricks' used by these viruses and have adapted this for use in biomedicine and biotechnology. This research funding will allow us to extend the applications for human gene therapies and other biotechnologies."

Funding comes from the Welcome Trust (£188,000), the Medical Research Council (£430,000), and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (£509,000).

The Picornavirus Group is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

 

NOTES FOR NEWS EDITORS: Professor Martin Ryan is available for interview on 01334 463403

 

Issued by the University of St Andrews

Contact Emma Shea, Communications Manager on 01334 462 109 or email Emma.Shea@st-andrews.ac.uk