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New awards enable researchers to FLIP from one environment to another

New awards enable researchers to FLIP from one environment to another - 9 January 2013. iStockphoto. Thinkstock.

Funding has been announced for three Flexible Interchange Programme (FLIP) awards, which offer individuals the chance to move between different organisations, disciplines and sectors in all stages in their careers. The awards support the movement of people into new environments to exchange knowledge, technology and skills.

The three awards offer benefits not only to the 'interchanger' who experiences the new environment but also to the selected partner organisations. The researchers receiving funding will share skills and knowledge with small businesses, large industry partners and different departments within their own universities.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director, Innovation and Skills, said: "We have been impressed with the breadth of applications and the myriad benefits that these first interchanges will offer. And there is still room to broaden the scope. FLIP can fund time spent in a wide range of settings, such as interchanges between the academic base and professional services, or technology transfer offices. These first awards highlight the many advantages gained by stepping outside of your own environment and we look forward to seeing where FLIP will take bioscience research in the future."

The three funded interchanges reflect a variety of ways in which new experiences can offer huge benefits to research.

Professor Ian Graham's FLIP funding will allow the University of York's Centre for Novel Agricultural Products to build on its existing strengths in industrial biotechnology, in particular exploring the potential of high-value, useful chemicals from plants. The interchange will enable a pharmaceutical industry expert from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to engage with biorenewable-based activities at the university, bringing specialist knowledge and bridging the gap between academia and industry.

The funding will also help to train academic staff and students in vital practices used by industry to make their research more valuable to the UK economy, as well as offering GSK important insights into the universities expert knowledge.

Professor Emma Raven, from the University of Leicester, has been awarded funding to exchange knowledge in different research environments and at the Research Complex at Harwell.

The interchange will enable the development of a detailed picture of heme's role as a regulatory molecule within cells. Heme is the form of iron employed in many biological systems, most famously in hemoglobin. Understanding its role in regulation is a complex biological puzzle that will require a multidisciplinary effort across many areas of science.

The FLIP funding will allow her to undergo a period of knowledge exchange in three new and different environments to learn and develop new methodologies in bioinformatics, proteomics and protein expression. This will allow a broad expansion of skills and embed this new expertise within her laboratory.

Dr Paul De Sousa's team at Edinburgh University has received funding to transfer knowledge and skills that will further the development of a novel technology to separate human stem cells from specialised cells originating from them. Stem cell manufacturing for industrial and clinical purposes requires technology for cell processing which does not damage or alter cells unpredictably or permanently. Unlike existing approaches the new technique does not rely on probes that may alter cell behaviour. The probe-free separation technology has applications in the isolation and processing of stem cells for industrial drug discovery and cell manufacturing for clinical application.

In order to realise its full potential the technology needs to be combined with industrial and clinical knowledge, as well as new skills in acquiring funding for its development.

The expertise will be shared through interchanges with two partners: firstly to Heriot Watt University, the collaborating institution which engineered the device, and then Roslin Cells Ltd, a company whose remit is to facilitate industrial and clinical translation of stem cell research.

The initial research at Edinburgh University received funding from the Bioprocessing Research Industry Club (BRIC) and this new funding will help to move this research closer to a commercial product that could impact on the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of stem cell manufacturing.

The deadline for the next round of applications of the BBSRC (FLIP) is January 22nd 2013. For more information on FLIP, or to apply for the next round of funding before 22nd January, visit: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/flip

ENDS