Steven Spoel in the Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences awarded the Bayer Prize for Excellence

Dr Steven Spoel, a new member of Edinburgh Infectious Diseases from the Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences, is the winner of the Bayer Early Excellence in Science Award 2013.  He is the recipient of the €10,000 Biology prize for his work on how living cells translate environmental signals into changes in the expression of genes in plants.

The international Bayer Early Excellence in Science Award is presented to excellent young scientists in the early stages of their academic careers. The prizes are awarded by an independent scientific committee of the Bayer Science & Education Foundation.

Steven is a Royal Society Research Fellow and uses a systems biology approach to better understand how living systems respond to their environment. In reaction to external signals, such as pathogen infection, certain groups of genes are switched ‘off’ or ‘on’ in a coordinated way to redirect biochemical and metabolic pathways, ensuring the survival of single cells and whole organisms.  He has shown that these switches are controlled by specific gene activators whose stability and activity are tightly controlled by molecular mechanisms that may be conserved from plants to animals and humans. Understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms of coordinated gene expression can provide solutions for stabilization of crop performance in varying environmental conditions or for cancer treatment.

L:  Steven Spoel; R:  example of signalling pathways Steven studies, from Nature Rev Imm, 12, pp89-100, 2012

At the news of his award, Steven says:

It is a great honour to be awarded this prestigious award from the Bayer Foundation. All organisms are exposed to continuously changing environments and need to fine-tune gene expression programs to cope with these changes. Failure to do this is the underlying cause of many diseases. This award recognizes the importance of fundamental research on gene expression mechanisms in order to design novel strategies to prevent such diseases. Moreover, it provides excellent visibility for research programmes of the winning early career group leaders who are in the process of establishing themselves."

Very many congratulations!

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