Dr Lorna Dougan awarded prestigious EPSRC fellowship

Dr Lorna Dougan from the School of Physics and Astronomy has been awarded a highly prestigious EPSRC Fellowship, with a value of £1.6 million (FEC).

The Fellowship will enable Dr Dougan to lead an ambitious new research program to 'Exploit engineered polyproteins in the modular design of robust, tuneable and biofunctional hydrogels'.

The development of innovative biomaterials offers enormous potential for addressing significant challenges in medical and healthcare technologies. As life expectancy increases, pioneering methods are needed to replace and restore tissues and organs in the body, to improve tissue engineering and to develop robust and responsive drug delivery approaches.

Dr Dougan’s Fellowship will allow her to create novel biomaterials for exploitation in medical and healthcare technologies. Her unique approach is to create polyprotein hydrogels which possess specific biological function capabilities, enabling dynamic changes in mechanical and structural properties in response to biomolecular cues. 

This will be achieved through a cross length scale, physics-based approach which will translate knowledge of the nanoscale biophysics of folded proteins to the mesoscale architecture and function of novel folded polyprotein hydrogels.

Continuing investment into biophysical and biomedical applications

Dr Dougan will work in collaboration with experimentalists, theoreticians and computer simulators at the University of Leeds, including Dr David Brockwell and other scientists in the Astbury Centre for Structural and Molecular Biology. The project will benefit from the University of Leeds continued strategic investment in core equipment of relevance to activities in biophysical and biomedical applications.

This includes investment in the Astbury Centre, which has received significant infrastructure support over the past year (>£17M), and investment in biophysical characterisation techniques, including single molecule force spectroscopy and particle characterisation. In the future, the project will be ideally placed within the new Bragg Research Centre for Advanced Functional Materials which represents an investment from the University of the order £89M.

To explore the impact of her research and its successful translation into Healthcare Technologies, Dr Dougan will benefit from the expertise of the EPSRC- funded Medical Technologies Innovation Knowledge Centre (IKC) at Leeds. Dr Dougan has also been selected for the Translate Mentorship programme, funded by HEFCE Catalyst Fund, which aims to develop the innovation skills and translational capability of the next generation of academic, industry and clinical researchers.

Dr Dougan will engage with the EPSRC funded Physics of Life network and she has been invited to organise a focused workshop in this area in 2018.

About EPSRC fellowships

An EPSRC Fellowship is a personal award, designed to provide the recipient with the necessary support to develop themselves as a leader of the future and to build a new team to explore a new research area. It allows the recipient to devote most of their time to a program of activities to deliver their proposed research vision. The EPSRC Fellowship will also provide Dr Dougan with the opportunity to act as an advocate for the STEM disciplines in general and EPSRC specifically.

Further information

For further information about Dr Lorna Dougan’s group, visit her website.

For more details about the Astbury Centre for Structural and Molecular Biology, visit the Astbury Leeds website.

To learn more about the EPSRC Physics of Life Network, visit the Physics of Life Network.

For further details about the Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge centre, visit the Medical Technologies IKC website.

Discover more about Translate Innovation.