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UOA5 – Biological Sciences

Our Biological Sciences submission represents a progression of the remit of SIMBIOS, a centre for systems biology approaches, linking micro-scale processes to macro-scale, emergent patterns. The SIMBIOS inter-disciplinary ethos founded on a tight coupling of discipline expertise, experimental systems and theoretical modelling has required integration of biology, epidemiology and ecology with computational, statistical and mathematical modelling. This interoperation provides augmented, reciprocal benefit and has driven the development of innovative systems approaches which have been transferred, applied, adapted and specialized across disciplines. The unit is concerned with two main areas: (i) understanding mechanisms of disease progression and management; and (ii) food and drink bioscience. It combines the work of researchers with expertise in nanotechnology, microbiology, molecular and cell biology, medical biotechnology, computational and data modelling, bioethics and food & drink bioscience.

Our guiding philosophy links quality research to end users in response to national and international priorities and initiatives, for example: Cancer Systems Biology work with partner Universities, Medical Schools and practitioners on the characterization of cell signalling network dynamics in response to therapeutic interventions and oncological mutations and link network dynamics to patient profiles and gene transcription; tumour morphology characterization (based on CT thresholding work in SIMBIOS) linked to tumour grading; development of a multi-scale modelling and simulation framework linking cell signalling behaviour to tumour morphology; have demonstrated protein mutations linked to disease; designed, developed and commercialized new instrumentation used in biopharmaceutical research and industry; and contributed to the development of a new drug therapy. To ensure the sector relevance of our Food & Drink Bioscience research, we have established industrial collaborations with major companies; developed interactive software for the industry including, partnerships in Scottish Government/ EU funded consortia such as the Scottish Biofuel Programme (next generation biofuel from renewable resources); are the University hub for Scotland Food & Drink Skills Academy (recommends and develops training and education across Scotland for the industry); are a partner University for Interface Food & Drink (driving sector KE in Scotland); and through Food Innovation @ Abertay have supported >140 Scottish Food & Drink SMEs to innovate.

Future Strategy

The future strategy aims to integrate research activities into a single University-wide leadership (R-LINCS) to drive our discipline strengths and propose strategic research focused appointments, to support early career researchers, to fund proof-of-concept projects and staff training, and to contribute to the Graduate School to inculcate inter-disciplinary working. The unit will build on success in leveraging research excellence and funding through integrating our discipline strengths, application of interactive technologies and industrial partnerships.

Strategy to Impact

Our strategy is founded on an inter-disciplinary research culture where stakeholder and industry focused research is integrated and strengthened by fundamental research. This has been fostered through substantial investment in the development of a strong culture of interactions with stakeholders.

Exemplar case study

Development of a novel light-scattering instrument and applications for measuring molecular interactions and aggregation analysis, including protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions. 16 years of design and development research was translated into a marketed product – the PAM™Zero - a novel hand-held, low-cost protein aggregation monitor capable of detecting macromolecule aggregation in microliter sample volumes. Manufactured and sold through a spinout company, Norton Scientific Inc. (established in 2010), this portable instrument is used in commercial Quality Control and academic research and has been sold to a range of stakeholders e.g. drug development companies, for food safety and water pollution monitoring.