Lincoln academic presents to politicians

Research by a University of Lincoln academic was chosen to appear in Parliament.

 Dr Enrico Ferrari, a senior lecturer in the School of Life Sciences, presented his research to a range of politicians and a panel of expert judges, as part of SET for Britain on Monday, 18 March.

The only national event of its kind, SET for Britain aims to encourage, support and promote Britain’s early-stage and early-career research scientists, engineers and technologists.

Dr Ferrari’s research focusses on the toxin clostridium botulinum, commonly known as Botox, and expanding its potential as a prodigious drug that could be used for the treatment of disorders such as cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s and chronic migraine.

The technique of refining the Botox protein has been patented by the Medical Research Council and it is thought to have a potential impact not only on the design of new therapeutics but also on protein immobilization and nanotechnology.

Dr Ferrari was entered into the Biological and Biomedical Sciences session of the event.

He said: “It is a great honour to have been shortlisted from hundreds of other applicants and I hope my research will have a great impact on managing chronic pain conditions.”

Andrew Miller MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said, “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers. These early career scientists are the architects of our future and SET for Britain is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”

John Pierce, Chief Bioscientist at BP, sponsors of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Gold award, said: “BP has supported SET for Britain for several years now and we continue to be impressed by the ingenuity and dedication of the UK’s young scientists. As a biologist, I am delighted that BP is sponsoring this particular award – traditionally engineering, physics, geology and chemistry have been the backbones of energy production, but we are increasingly seeing how biology impacts that. As a major UK recruiter and investor in research and development, we believe that we need to nurture the best technical talent to meet the world’s challenges.”

Beyond Botox: natural born killer or medical miracle?

Botox is best known for its use in cosmetic procedures, but this potent neurotoxin could be transformed into an extraordinary drug to treat a raft of debilitating conditions, a leading scientist will tell an audience at the University of Lincoln.

Synthesised by clostridium botulinum, Botox is the most deadly poison known to man, however, in tiny doses it is widely used as an effective anti-aging treatment. In injection form the toxin blocks the signals that tell muscles to contract, reducing the appearance of wrinkles.

Now scientists are working to expand the toxin’s potential as a prodigious drug that could be used for the treatment of disorders such as cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s and chronic migraine.

A scientist from the University of Lincoln (UK), who is working on refining the botox protein, will talk about its use in treating a broad range of neurological disorders in a free public lecture on 19th March, 2013.

Dr Enrico Ferrari, from the University’s School of Life Sciences, will also reveal the future avenues for turning this natural born killer into a therapeutic drug.

He said: “Many painkillers relieve pain temporarily and have various side effects. The selling point of this molecule is that the pain relief could last up to seven months, in a similar way that Botox injections last for several months. Engineering this kind of toxin has many uses and would be a major improvement in the quality of life for those people who suffer from chronic pain.”

Dr Ferrari joined the University in October 2012 after spending three years working with a group at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

Led by Professor Bazbek Davletov, the team developed a new way of joining and rebuilding elements of the clostridium botulinum neurotoxin in a way that eliminated the unwanted toxic effects. In its natural state 150 nanograms would be enough to kill a person.

Dr Ferrari said: “The re-engineered toxin has very similar characteristics so is still able to block neurotransmission release, but the paralytic effect is a lot less because we have discovered a way to impede the toxin from reaching the muscles.”

The lecture entitled Beyond Botox: molecular engineering and the design of new therapeutics takes place at 6pm on Tuesday, 19th March at the University of Lincoln’s EMMTEC auditorium. Registration starts at 5.30pm.

This talk is part of the University’s LincolnAcademy series of free public events. Places should be booked in advance by calling 01522 837100 or e-mailing events@lincoln.ac.uk