Tocris Bioscience Prize 2009

Tocris awards prize for pharmacology research

Important new research within the cell signaling research theme that may help with heart attack, thrombosis and stroke, has been awarded the Tocris Bioscience prize. Chris Williams and Shaista Nisar, both PhD students at the University of Bristol, were selected as the best pharmacology research students of their year, each winning a cash prize and a certificate.

Vascular disease is the largest single killer in the UK, accounting for about 200,000 deaths per year, and over 2 million people currently suffer from thrombosis-related vascular disease.

Chris Williams' PhD focused on developing a model for the genetic analysis of thrombosis using zebrafish. "Much research in the field has been focused on trying to improve on current drugs and also exploring novel therapeutic targets," said Williams. "However, despite the recent mapping of the genome, much of it is still to be explored. This is where the zebrafish plays a role." The ultimate goal for Williams' zebrafish model is to study the role of previously unstudied genes that have been implicated in cardiovascular disease through genetic screening studies in patients.

Shaista Nisar's PhD focused on P2Y G-protein-coupled receptors, which are found on the surface of circulating platelets. These receptors are vital for preventing excessive bleeding when blood vessels are damaged, however when inappropriately activated can lead to hypersensitive platelets, vessel occlusion and potentially, heart attack or stroke. For these reasons, these receptors are important therapeutic targets for antithrombotic drugs. Key findings to arise from Nisar's research are the identification of novel interactions between P2Y receptors and NHERF proteins, which are molecular scaffolds.

"We have shown that NHERF proteins are critical for P2Y receptor regulation, an observation which may contribute towards development of novel ways to manipulate P2Y receptor activity," said Nisar.

Laurence Ede, Tocris' Managing Director, said, "It is a great pleasure to be able to present this award on behalf of Tocris Bioscience. We are pleased to continue our long tradition of links with the University of Bristol and I am particularly delighted that insight gained from these studies may pave the way for new drug design and potential future therapies".

The Tocris Bioscience prize is awarded annually to the best final year pharmacology PhD student at Bristol University, as selected by the department. Consisting of a cash award and certificate, the prize reflects the close links between the two organizations and their shared commitment to excellence in life science research. Tocris Bioscience products are used by scientists carrying out research in fields such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, endocrinology, metabolic disease, neurological disease, pain and inflammation, and respiratory disease.

About Bristol University Pharmacology Department

University College, Bristol opened in October 1876 with two professors, five lecturers and 99 students. It was the first college in the country to admit men and women on an equal footing.

Today, Bristol is one of the leading universities in the country, with approximately 12,000 undergraduate and 6,000 post graduate students. The University organizes its academic affairs in some 45 departments and 15 research centres, arranged in six faculties.

The Pharmacology Department itself is one of the most successful in the UK and enjoys an international reputation for its research in neuropharmacology and cell signaling.

For more information about Bristol University please visit the website www.bris.ac.uk.

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