Leading microbiologist brings millions to North-east to protect public health

Thursday 18 October 2018

Leading microbiologist brings millions to North-east to protect public health
A senior researcher at RGU has been awarded around £1.5million in funding in a single week for public health related research projects, as part of her innovative work with microbes and industrial waste streams.

Dr Christine Edwards, from RGU’s School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, has spent the past year on a sabbatical dedicated to advancing a number of projects in line with her focus on cyanobacterial research.

In response to an Aquaculture initiative from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Dr Edwards led the development of a consortium which aims to deliver a rapid field test, so shellfish growers can protect the public health by detecting and eliminating toxins. This project has secured approximately £1.2million in funding.

Dr Edwards and her colleague Professor Linda Lawton have been collaborating closely with Queens University Belfast, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Food Standards Scotland, Scottish Shellfish Growers Association, Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, Comarty Mussels, West Country Mussels, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, and the Centre for Environment Fisheries & Aquaculture Science

In addition to its funding, the project has also recently been awarded in-kind resource support of £245k.

Dr Edwards said: “This is an exciting, multi-disciplinary project, which I believe will underpin new approaches to food and water safety well beyond this project.”

In the same week that this was announced, Dr Edwards was also awarded an Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KPT) with Scottish Bioenergy, worth £160k.

This KTP will see the two organisations collaborate to develop the knowledge and capability for increasing the value and usefulness of the waste biomass from the production of phycocyanin.

As Dr Edwards explains: “Phycocyanin is the protein complex used to create the blue colour in smarties and gin, and its creation leads to a certain amount of waste that we believe has untapped potential.

“By using certain food processing technologies, we can develop a versatile co-product platform and deliver high-quality products in a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) environment.”

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a UK-wide programme that has been helping businesses for the past 40 years to improve their productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base.

RGU has a longstanding history of collaborative innovation and knowledge-building in research, particularly with its world-leading role in biotechnology, which sees Dr Edwards and her colleagues utilise the university’s excellent facilities, such as state-of-the-art analysis and down-stream processing facilities.

Professor Donald Cairns, Head of RGU’s School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, said: “The announcement of Christine’s two grant awards is a sizable boost to the research culture at RGU and in the North-east.

“It is testament to her work as a prominent researcher using bioscience to address the challenges of tomorrow.”

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