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Flatworm research team led by Welsh scientist gets PS3.7m award.

THE Wellcome Trust, the UK's largest private funder of biomedical and veterinary research, has awarded a five-year, PS3.7m Biomedical Sciences Strategic Award to an international team of scientists from the UK, Germany, France and the USA led by Professor Karl Hoffmann at Aberystwyth University.

The project entitled "The Flatworm Functional Genomics Initiative (Fugi)" will develop gamechanging research tools for the study and manipulation of parasitic flatworm species responsible for the devastating diseases echinococcosis (hydatid disease) and schistosomiasis (bilharzia), and is set to propel flatworm research into the 21st century.

Professor Hoffmann said: "We are incredibly pleased that the Wellcome Trust has selected our team to develop these cutting-edge resources, which will revolutionise our ability to study and manipulate parasitic flatworms including blood flukes and tapeworms.

"Creation of these molecular and cellular tools will attract new investigators into our field and increase the rate and number of significant biological discoveries; many of which will lead to the identification of novel control strategies.

"Parasitic flatworms cause some of the most debilitating infectious diseases on our planet and are responsible for significant and oppressive burdens in both humans and livestock.

"While existing control is primarily based on chemotherapy, there is a real risk that this strategy is unsustainable due to the generation of parasites resistant to the limited drugs currently being used." Significant investment by the Wellcome Trust in flatworm genome sequencing projects over the past 20 years has provided a critical boost for research in this neglected area.

These initiatives are beginning to transform the field of helminthology (the study of parasitic flatworms) and offer hope that new strategies for controlling these infectious diseases will soon be identified. Dr Michael Chew, Science Portfolio Advisor at the Wellcome Trust, said: "Parasitic worms cause serious illness and long-term disability throughout the developing world, yet progress on new treatments and vaccines has been frustratingly slow.

"Fugi is set to change this, by enabling scientists to manipulate flatworm genes in the lab for the first time. The ultimate aim is to identify chinks in the flatworm armour that could be targeted with new medicines that help eradicate the devastating diseases they cause."

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 2, 2015
Words:365
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