Wellcome Trust Investigator Award success for Simon Newstead
Dr Simon Newstead, Associate Professor in Membrane Protein Crystallography, has won a Wellcome Trust New Investigator Award in the recent round of applications.
PeT1 and PepT2 play key roles in mediated drug transport in the human body. The concept of peptide pro-drug transport is illustrated here
The funding will enable him to pursue an ambitious programme of research over the next five years that builds on his success in elucidating the structure of bacterial and eukaryotic plasma membrane transporters.
Simon will be using the new award to focus on understanding how the mammalian peptide transporters PepT1 and PepT2 carry out their physiological functions in the human body.
PepT1 and PepT2 are responsible for the absorption and retention of dietary protein in the form of small peptides. They also facilitate the absorption of many commonly prescribed beta-lactam antibiotics, making them attractive targets for improving the efficiency of drug delivery in the human body. A number of FDA and MHRA approved drugs have already been successfully modified so that they are recognised and actively taken up by PepT1 following oral administration.
Using state-of-the-art protein crystallography and biochemical analysis, Simon’s group will be probing how PepT1 and PepT2 recognise and transport peptides and drugs, so that they can be targeted more intelligently to use these transporters.
The Investigator Award also provides crucial infrastructure support for Simon and other structural biology groups in the department. The funds will build on the recent upgrade of the department’s crystallisation facility, which has been made possible by generous University contributions. The facility now includes LPC crystallisation robotics for membrane protein crystallisation, large capacity fermentation, UV optics for the crystal plate hotel and a new 4°C crystallisation cold room.
The Investigator Award support provides the last significant piece in the ongoing upgrade programme, says Simon. It will give researchers in-house capability to identify very small crystals for use on micro focus X-ray beam lines at the nearby Synchrotron, Diamond Light Source – an extremely valuable tool for identifying the successful crystallisation of eukaryotic membrane proteins.
Simon has been a group leader in the department for four years, starting as a Medical Research Council Career Development Award Fellow in December 2009. He took up the post of University Lecturer, now Associate Professor, in Membrane Protein Crystallography in April 2013 and is also the tutor in Biochemistry at Christ Church.