Researchers shortlisted for major prize

Two projects led by Warwick researchers have been shortlisted for the 2019 Newton Prize, a prestigious award which celebrates outstanding international research partnerships aimed at tackling global challenges.

A project exploring innovative cancer drugs and one studying the impact of forced evictions on economically underprivileged women in Jakarta are among the final 20 which will now be reviewed by a panel of expert judges. A £1 million prize will be divided between the four winning projects.

The Newton Fund is part of the UK’s official development assistance. Its aim is to develop science and innovation partnerships that promote the economic development and social welfare of partner countries. For the 2019 Newton Prize, projects must have been developed in partnership with researchers in China, Indonesia or the Philippines.

  • Professor Peter Sadler (FRS) from the Department of Chemistry and Dr Pingyu Zhang from the College of Chemistry and Environmental Engineering at Shenzhen University in China, have been collaborating on a research project to explore innovative therapeutic approaches to the discovery of novel drugs to treat endemic and resistant cancers in China, especially nasopharyngeal cancers of the head and neck. They were invited to apply to the Newton Prize scheme in recognition of their innovative research and the high impact of their initial work.

  • This research venture began in 2015 when Dr Zhang was awarded a Newton International Fellowship in Prof. Sadler’s laboratory. Cancer is a significant challenge for health in China. 10,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every day, and China has 21% of all cancer patients globally. This research addressed an urgent clinical need for a new generation of anticancer compounds with novel mechanisms of action, which have fewer side-effects and which can combat resistance.

  • The research collaboration has broadened to include a new partnership with Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Research Centre and the Warwick Cancer Research Unit. This collaboration with a major cancer research hospital in China provides the possibility to trial new treatments for possible future use within the NHS.

  • Professor Juanita Elias from the Department of Politics and International Studies (PAIS) and Dr Chusnul Mariyah, Universitas Indonesia, have been shortlisted for their project on the gendered everyday political economy of kampung eviction and resettlement in Jakarta, which investigated women’s collective and individual lives and needs, the ways in which these shape and are shaped by the kampung ecology and economy, and the ways in which these are transformed upon eviction and relocation to social housing.

  • The project had two complementary streams: to conduct research into the gender impact of urban resettlement schemes for the poor in Jakarta and to develop policy recommendations that sought to address issues arising from that research; and to develop an academic partnership that would foster strong links between UK and Indonesian academic institutions.

Professor Pam Thomas, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Warwick, said “We are an international university committed to original research that tackles global problems. I am delighted to see two Warwick projects on the shortlist for this award, which recognises both the strong partnerships we have created in China and Indonesia, and the significant impact of the work.”

Professor Sadler said: “It is a great honour to have been nominated.

“In our Newton research, we discovered new ways of destroying cancer cells using light-activated drugs. The prospect of transferring our academic knowledge to pharmaceutical industries, of translating our discoveries into new treatments for endemic and resistant cancers world-wide, accelerated by collaboration with the thriving technological hub of Guangdong province and a major research hospital in China, is exciting.

“Our international collaboration will not only greatly hasten progress toward novel science through training and knowledge transfer, but also encourage our Newton Fellow, Dr Pingyu Zhang, in her role as an ambassador for women in science.”

The shortlisted projects have been peer reviewed and will be judged by the Newton Prize Committee, chaired by Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College. Professor Gast said:

]”I am very impressed by the pioneering ideas, collaborative research and potential impact of the shortlisted applications for the Newton Prize 2019. I look forward to working with my fellow committee members to select the overall winners. It will not be an easy decision.”

Notes:

1. The Newton Prize was launched in 2016 and is part of the broader Newton Fund. The concept for the Newton Prize was developed to demonstrate how UK partnerships with Newton Partner countries are solving global challenges. Each year it will be awarded for the best research or innovation that promotes the economic development and social welfare of Newton partner countries, DAC List Countries or addresses global challenges, aligning with and strengthening the Newton Fund’s overall objectives.

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