Professor Davide Calebiro

The University of Birmingham has been awarded £1.78 million by the Wellcome Trust for research aimed at finding new therapies to treat diseases such as heart failure, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders.

The Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship funding has been awarded to Davide Calebiro, Professor of Molecular Endocrinology in the Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research and principal investigator at the Centre of Membrane Proteins and Receptors (COMPARE) at the Universities of Birmingham and Nottingham.

The funding will be used to investigate the function of a special family of proteins called ‘G protein coupled receptors’ (GPCRs), which play a vital role in how cells in the body communicate with one another.

Forty per cent of all prescribed drugs ‘target’ these receptors to treat widespread diseases, including heart failure, diabetes, hypertension, asthma and Parkinson's disease.

The team will use innovative microscopy methods, which they themselves have developed though previous pioneering research, that will allow them for the first time to directly visualise individual receptors as they work in living cells.

Professor Calebiro said: “By investigating how these receptors work on the surface of our cells, we aim to unlock the answers to fundamental and still open questions about how they produce specific effects in our body.

“To achieve this, we will use cutting-edge microscopy technologies that can visualize these events in unprecedented detail which will give previously unimaginable insights into G protein-coupled receptor function.

“We will investigate this under normal conditions and in cell models of heart disease, with the ultimate goal of developing new strategies to control the function of these vital receptors, which we hope will pave the way to more effective drugs for a wide variety of diseases including heart failure and diabetes.”

The research will be carried out over the next five years and will be conducted in cooperation with an international team of scientists, with key involvement from COMPARE.