Newton Prize highlights power of international collaboration

A project engineering bronchi to better understand the progression of asthma involving an Imperial academic has been shortlisted for the Newton Prize.

The annual £1m Newton Prize, celebrates pioneering partnerships between the UK and Newton Fund partner countries, and encourages new international collaborations to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

The 2019 Newton Prize includes awards for projects in China, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Imperial’s President, Professor Alice Gast, took over as chair of the independent Newton Prize Committee last year. The Committee, which includes experts in the development sector, the 2019 eligible countries, and science and innovation, reviews the shortlisted applications, along with feedback from expert peer reviewers, to choose the winners.

Professor Alice Gast said: “I have visited many research institutions across the globe and am impressed by the way meeting fellow researchers naturally sparks friendships, a sense of common purpose and meaningful collaborations. Working together across borders produces research and innovation making a profound difference to people’s lives and bringing lasting and positive change.

“The Newton Fund is a brilliant example of this in action, as it provides the support to bring researchers from the UK and countries around the world together to work on a broad range of important topics.”

Pioneering Science

Professor Ian Adcock, Professor of Respiratory Cell & Molecular Biology in the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial, is one of the leads on a project using pioneering science to better understand and treat diseases like asthma, which affects one in ten Filipinos. The project is shortlisted for the Newton Prize 2019 Chair’s Award.

Many people with asthma in the Philippines lack proper treatment, as inhalers can be prohibitively expensive and health centres often inaccessible.

Together with Professor Felicity Rose from the University of Nottingham and Jopeth Ramis, from the Technological Institute of the Philippines, Professor Adcock is engineering bronchiolar tissue and developing this as a highly adaptable 3D model to study airway pathologies and the role of mechanical forces in disease development, allowing much more accurate models on the progression of diseases like asthma.

Long term the team hope that the work will lead to a clinically relevant human tissue model of airway physiology, and a platform for testing new drugs to treat asthma.

Prize winners

The winners for each country are announced throughout January, with a London awards ceremony planned for 12 February.

Earlier this month, a project to improve the lives of urban citizens and elderly people won 2019 Newton Prize for China

Professor Sheng-feng Qin from Northumbria University, and Professor Cuixia Ma from the Institute of Software, Chinese Academy of Sciences, led the winning project which investigated how to apply big data and design principles to tackle urban transportation and the difficulties that elderly people face in cities around the world.

/Public Release. View in full here.