Programme for Stacey Symposium on Alumni weekend released

The programme is now finalised for the 4th Stacey Symposium, taking place over the 50th Anniversary Alumni weekend on 4 September 2015. The programme features presentations from new members of academic staff, including a former undergraduate, and students representing Kent in in the global iGEM competition. To attend, please email Professor Mick Tuite ( and join with us as we look ahead to the next 50 years in the School of Biosciences.

Biological sciences at Kent: the next 50 years”

School of Biosciences, Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

13:30                         Introduction and welcome: Martin Warren (Head of School)

13:40 – 15:00           Session 1: Microbiology & Infectious Diseases

13:40               Jeremy Rossman “Filamentous influenza viruses: the shape of things to come?”

14:00               Tasos Tsaousis “Investigations on the evolution of parasites”

14:20               Mark Shepherd “New strategies to combat infectious diseases”

14:40               Colin Robinson ‘New platforms for the production of biopharmaceuticals in bacteria and microalgae’

15:00               Steffi Frank (Research Fellow) “Bacterial nanofactories – from nature to bioengineering”

15:20 – 15:50            Tea/coffee in the Stacey Building foyer (or outside weather permitting)

15:50 – 17:10           Session 2: Biomedical Sciences                                     

15:50               Jenny Tullet Understanding the building blocks of the fountain of youth

16:10               Peter Ellis “Reproduction on the farm and in the clinic”

16:30               Ben Goult “Stretching single molecules to understand how cancer cells move.”

16:50               Michelle Garrett “New drugs for cancer treatment”

17:10               Mark Wass “Tackling acquired drug resistance in cancer”


17:30 – 18:00           Session 3: The future….

17:30               Wei-feng Xue and the iGEM team

17:45               Philippe de Wilde (Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research) “Closing comments”


18:00 – 19:00           Drinks reception (Stacey Foyer/Howard Rogers Room)

Research Seminar: Codon usage is the major determinant of mRNA levels in Trypanosoma brucei

Professor Mark Carrington, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge

Wednesday 24th June, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 2

In trypanosomes, most or all protein coding genes are constitutively transcribed and there is little evidence for selective regulation of expression by RNA polymerase II. Thus, regulation of mRNA levels is largely post-transcriptional. We have developed a novel codon usage metric called the ‘gene expression codon adaptation index’ (geCAI) that is predictive of both relative protein abundance and relative mRNA abundance with a coefficient of determination of 0.84 and 0.55 respectively. The predictive capacity of this novel scoring metric was tested using GFP reporter gene expression. 22 synonymous GFP mRNAs were expressed in procyclic cell lines. Protein expression and mRNA levels were modifiable over a ~40-fold range. The range and expression levels were similar to the measured mRNAs per haploid gene copy for the transcriptome and thus geCAI score is sufficient to account for 50% of the variation observed in mRNA copy number. GFP mRNAs with low geCAI scores decayed more rapidly than those with high scores suggesting translational efficiency is the mechanism that produces the differences in mRNA steady state levels. The translational efficiency model was tested by selectively blocking translation of individual GFP mRNAs by insertion of a hairpin in the 5’UTR, this equalized steady state levels to that of high geCAI score GFP mRNAs. In contrast, inclusion of a short upstream open reading frame in the 5’UTR greatly decreased translation of GFP and decreased steady state mRNA levels to that of a very low geCAI score GFP mRNA. Thus, geCAI is a good predictor of mRNA levels and efficiency of translation is a major determinant of mRNA levels.


Research Seminar: Contractil ring proteins and cell wall synthases collaborate during fission yeast cytokinesis.

Professor Pilar Pérez, Instituto de Biología Funcional y Genómica (IBFG) CSIC/USAL, Spain

Wednesday 17th June, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

Cytokinesis requires assembly of a contractile actomyosin ring adjacent to the membrane which upon closure pulls the cell membrane to form a cleavage furrow. In fungi ring closure is also coordinated with the synthesis of a cell wall septum. Knowledge about the molecules anchoring the contractile ring to the membrane is very limited. Fission yeast paxillin homolog, Pxl1, is localized to the ring and is required for ring integrity and efficient cytokinesis. We will present data demonstrating that cooperation between Pxl1 and Bgs1, the enzyme responsible for primary septum formation, is required for: i) stable anchorage of the CAR to the plasma membrane before septation onset; ii) ring structure integrity; and iii) cleavage furrow ingression and septum deposition. Accordingly, Paxillin is essential when Bgs1 is depleted. In these conditions, contractile rings form but the lateral cell wall overgrows inwards without a defined cleavage furrow, and septa are not completed. During cytokinesis there is an increase of paxillin concentration at the ring that depends on the SH3 domain of the F-BAR protein Cdc15. Consequently, the absence of this domain mimics the phenotype of the lack of paxillin. On the other hand, the absence of paxillin is lethal when Cdc15 function is affected, with cells showing a large sliding of the CAR and deposition of septum wall material along the cell cortex in the absence of ring constriction. This suggests additional functions for both paxillin and Cdc15 proteins that couple ring constriction and septum wall synthesis. In summary, CAR anchorage to the plasma membrane through Cdc15 and Pxl1 together with Bgs1 activity, are necessary for CAR maintenance, and for formation of the cleavage furrow and the septum in fission yeast.



A Top 20 place in the Guardian University Guide 2016


The School of Biosciences has risen to 20th position in the ranking of 102 UK Universities by the Guardian newspaper. This latest good news follows our success in the REF 2014, placing Biosciences in the top 10 for Research Intensity.

In the most recent National Student Survey 2014, Biosciences was placed as one of the very best Schools in the UK.

We are ranked:

  • 1st in Biochemistry
  • 3rd in Biomedical Science
  • 9th in Biology for “Overall Student Satisfaction”

This excellent news confirms Kent’s position as one of the best research and teaching universities in the UK.

Bioscience Graduate wins KM Teacher of the Year Award 2015

kmtoty2The School of Biosciences, a sponsor of the KM teacher of the year event for 2015, is delighted to announce the overall winner of the Biosciences category was won by a Biosciences graduate, Richard Fulford, now a science teacher at Invicta Grammar School, Maidstone.

Richard will be planning a return visit to the School of Biosciences where he studied until graduating in 2006, along with a small group of students for a ‘hands on’ practical experience in the teaching labs at the school.

Fifty six finalists attended a glittering awards dinner on 19 May 2015 at historic Leeds Castle. Historian David Starkey, as guest of honour, was on hand to present the prizes. It was a reunion for Dr Peter Klappa who represented the School at the event, Peter had previously taught Richard during his studies at Kent!

The awards were organised by the KM Charity Team in partnership with the KM Group and members of the public. Pupils and colleagues were invited to nominate the best teachers in Kent and Medway.

Research Seminar: Fungal cell wall remodelling and antifungal drug tolerance.

Dr. Carol Munro, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen

Wednesday 3rd June, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

The fungal cell wall is a dynamic organelle that can change composition and architecture in response to environmental signals including treatment with antifungal drugs. The cell wall of the major fungal pathogen Candida albicans is composed of chitin, beta-1,3-glucan, beta-1,6-glucan and mannoproteins. The newest class of antifungal drugs, the echinocandins,target the cell wall by inhibiting beta-1,3-glucan synthesis. The echinocandins generally provide effective therapy but sporadic breakthrough infections caused by resistant Candida isolates have been reported. C. albicans acquires echinocandin resistance through point mutations in the FKS target genes. In addition C. albicans responds to sub-MIC echinocandins by up-regulating chitin biosynthesis through activation of cell wall salvage pathways that involve PKC and calcium/calcineurin signalling. Cells with elevated chitin are less susceptible to echinocandins in vitro as well as in Candida infection models.

The response of C. albicans to cell wall damage was investigated using transcript profiling, glycoproteomics and SILAC (Stable Isotope Labelling with Amino Acids in Cell Culture). Substantial changes in the cell wall proteome in response to chemical and genetic blockade of cell wall synthesis were identified. Several predicted CAZy enzymes that are involved in modulating and cross-linking chitin and glucan (Phr1, Phr2, Pga4, Crh11, Utr2) were among the cell wall proteins (CWPs) positively regulated in response to cell wall damage. The PKC cell wall integrity pathway MAP kinase Mkc1 and the transcription factor Rlm1 were important in the regulation of these proteins. A large number of CWPs remain uncharacterised. We are determining the potential roles of these proteins in host interaction assays, drug susceptibilty and virulence using gene disruption and overexpression strategies as well as gene expression analysis. In summary, alterations in the fungal cell wall can alter the susceptibility of C. albicans to echinocandin drugs in vitro and in vivo and can affect interactions within the host.

Research Seminar: Rethinking predator-prey dynamics: recognising that mortality and conversion vary with prey abundance.

Dr. David Montagnes, Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool

Wednesday 27th May, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

Predator-prey dynamics structure ecosystems, and most models assume predators grow by converting a set-percentage of ingested food into themselves and a set-percentage of the predator population dies at any one time; we fail to recognise that these percentages are influenced by the amount of prey available to the predator.  Common sense (and our initial work) suggests that animals are more likely to die when food is scarce, and if there is more food they may be more efficient at converting it into themselves.  I will explore these issues and how we will assess the complexities arising from prey-dependent conversion efficiency and mortality rate.


Stacey Symposium to be held during Alumni Reunion Weekend


All alumni and former staff are invited to the 4th Stacey Symposium “Biological sciences at Kent: the next 50 years” to be held on Friday Sept 4th 2015. The Symposium will be held in the School (Stacey Lecture Theatre) and will form part of the 50th Anniversary ‘Alumni Reunion Weekend’. Speakers will be recently appointed staff who will provide a forward look, emphasising both their research ambitions and how these will shape the School’s research for the “Next 50 Years”. The Symposium begins at 12:00 noon with a buffet reception.

The Symposium is held in honour of Professor Ken Stacey, the founder of the School of Biosciences at Kent who served as its Director until 1982. Under his leadership, Biosciences quickly became one of the most successful departments in the country, and he is remembered by many in the Kent community with great affection.

If you are interested in coming along please contact Mick Tuite  ( for further details.

Research Seminar: Dialogue between protein phosphatases controls progression through mitosis.

Professor Iain Hagan, Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, University of Manchester

Wednesday 20th May, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

Like many pathways that change cell fate, the mitotic cell division cycle is driven by a successive series of phosphorylation events that are driven by the sequential activation of a number of protein kinases. The gain or loss of CDK-cyclin kinase activities at each rate limiting step of the cycle gates the activation of downstream kinases to promote the phosphorylation cascades that drive the duplication and segregation of chromosomes. Despite this clear and prominent role for phosphorylation in cell cycle control and the identification and characterisation of over 20 cell cycle kinases, very little is known about the modulation of the phosphatase activities that are just as important as the kinases in regulating cell cycle progression. Without these phosphatases, there could be no cyclical gain and loss of phosphate on key targets and the cell cycle would rapidly stall. This seminar will describe how a coupling between the activities of Protein Phosphatase 1 (PP1) and Protein Phosphatase 2A, that account for over 90% of cellular serine/threonine directed phosphatase activity, provides the sequential delivery of phosphatase activities to drive cells through mitosis in fission yeast. Exploratory experimentation and sequence conservation between critical regions of these phosphatases indicate that the phosphatase relay we find in yeast is highly likely to be conserved throughout eukaryotes and function in a range of signalling contexts beyond the cell cycle.


Biosciences students shortlisted for Kent Student Awards

We are delighted to announce that three students from the School of Biosciences have been shortlisted for Kent Student Awards.

Two of the shortlisted students are postgraduates studying the MSc Reproductive Medicine: Science and Ethics. Gullalaii Yousafzai was shortlisted in the “Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community” category for helping the homeless, volunteering as an English teacher, raising awareness of hate crime and supporting asylum seekers through being a birth partner. Ihuoma Chizia Kejeh was shortlisted in the “Chancellor’s Employability Points Award” category for implementing a peer mentoring scheme for our suite of MSc courses in the School of Biosciences.

Our undergraduates are represented by Biomedical Science student Alexander Lamarque, shortlisted in the “Outstanding Contribution to the 50th Anniversary” category for establishing the first TEDxUniversityofKent event. This event, based on the popular TED talks concept, will will share ideas around the theme of ‘Milestones’ as part of the University of Kent 50th anniversary.

The awards are announced at a Gala Dinner on Friday 8th February. With immense pride, we wish our nominees every success!