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Exeter researcher wins prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize in Biological Sciences

Dr Thomas Richards from Biosciences at the University of Exeter is one of only five UK bioscientists to be awarded £100,000 from the Leverhulme Trust.

Every year the trust awards the prizes in recognition of researchers at an early stage of their career, whose work has already had a significant international impact, and whose future research career is exceptionally promising.

Dr Richards will use his award to develop new approaches to link genome data with methods to understand how microbial cells function in their environment. 

Dr Richards said:  “It is now considerably easier than it was to obtain the DNA sequence of an organism – its blue-print, but linking this data to how microbes interact with others, compete for nutrients, and cause disease in plants and animals is one of the next major challenges”.

In a very short period of time, Dr Richards has developed a world-leading reputation in understanding the role that changes in genome content has played in the evolution of a diverse groups of micro-organisms including important pathogens.

Dr Richards said:The Philip Leverhulme Prize is a fantastic accolade and I am very proud to receive it from the Leverhulme Trust, the organisation that also provided me with my first research funding as an Early Career Fellow. This prize provides me with a fantastic opportunity to take some risks and to come up with new approaches.” 

The University has a good track record in the Philip Leverhulme Prize; it also received two awards last year in Modern Languages and Astrophysics. Thirty prizes are awarded by the Trust across six broad disciplines each year and can be used for any research purpose. The prizes rotate between disciplines and each year the Trust focuses on a different set of research areas.

The Leverhulme Trust was established by the Will of William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers. Since 1925 the Trust has provided grants and scholarships for research and education. Today, it is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing over £60m a year.

Date: 27 November 2014

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