The Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology received a £4 million research donation from Chinese health giant Infinitus which includes a contribution to the construction of the Department’s new building in West Cambridge. The grant is in support of the new Cambridge Infinitus Research Centre (CIRCE) headed by Profs Clemens Kaminski and Alan Tunnacliffe.
CIRCE aims to analyse the biological activity of polypeptides and polysaccharides derived from plants and fungi. 25% of all modern medicines are derivatives of natural products and a major focus in CIRCE will be the study of molecular regulators of protein homeostasis in treatment of protein misfolding diseases.
CIRCE has begun operations ahead of the departmental move. Dr Gabi Kaminski Schierle, head of the Molecular Neuroscience Group in the Department, acts as CIRCE’s Director of Operations. Gabi brings expertise in the molecular pathology of neuronal degeneration and oversees overall operations in the Centre. Dr Chiara Boschetti, an expert in molecular biotechnology, heads biological research activities. With collaborators from other internationally ranked research establishments, the CIRCE research team will use state-of-the-art molecular biology and imaging technologies together with high-throughput screening methods to discover functional peptides from naturally derived products and to characterise their mechanism of action at the organism, cellular and molecular levels.
Prof Clemens Kaminski says: "I am absolutely thrilled to think of the opportunities that CIRCE will bring to us and our department. Infinitus is a world leading biotechnology company and I have been greatly impressed with their vision and enthusiasm to drive this exciting new venture forward. The importance of learning from nature on how to design molecules that might combat disease is exemplified through this year’s award of the Nobel prize in Medicine to Chinese researchers who discovered Artemisinin, a drug that is wholly derived from plants, and that constitutes the most effective we have against malaria."