Professor David Blackbourn, former Head of the Department of Microbial and Cellular Sciences, takes on new role.
Professor Blackbourn’s research is focused on viruses that are responsible for causing cancer. In particular, how such viruses cause this insidious disease, evade the immune response and interact with the cell’s ability to repair damaged DNA.
He currently holds a three year £180,000 Leverhulme-Royal Society Africa Award, which is funding research into liver cancer in Ghana.
Liver cancer is the second most common cancer of men in Ghana and other African countries, in part due to widespread chronic infection with the hepatitis B and C viruses (the most common risk factor for liver cancer) and the consumption of poisonous aflatoxin - a carcinogen produced by mould on grain and nuts, crops which are part of the staple diet in many African countries.
The awarded project, entitled The role of aflatoxin in modulating the type 1 interferon response, aims to explore if the immune system that helps the body to fight liver cancer development is affected by aflatoxin.
Working in collaboration with colleagues in Ghana, Professor Blackbourn and his team will share their expertise in the field of virology to build the capacity of a Ghanaian laboratory, run by his former PhD student Dr Mohamed Mutocheluh. Money from the grant is also being used to purchase equipment for the lab.
Work on the project, which started last year, is ongoing and Professor Blackbourn plans to travel to Ghana next year and arrange for the team in Ghana to visit Surrey.
Commenting on his new role, Professor Blackbourn said: “I am very proud to have been appointed to this position and look forward to working together with my colleagues to build on the success of the School of Biosciences and Medicine and make it the best it can possibly be.”
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