UK’s Aston University receives £10m to establish holistic membrane research centre

Article by Amanda Jasi

ASTON UNIVERSITY, UK will use £10m (US$12.8m) awarded by funder Research England to establish the Aston Institute for Membrane Excellence (AIME). An interdisciplinary group spanning biology, chemistry, and physics, it will use holistic investigation to develop novel biomimetic membranes.

Membranes are important in many sectors. Synthetic polymer members are key to the US$100bn/y water purification industry, while in the medical sector, the world’s top ten bestselling human drugs target proteins in biological membranes.

The Birmingham-based AIME team will focus on developing bio-inspired, highly selective polymer structures for use in water purification and remediation, pharmaceuticals, and protein separation to help study potential drug targets. Centre leader and biotechnology professor Roslyn Bill said: “We will address intractable scientific challenges in health, disease, and biotechnology, combining our world-class expertise in polymer chemistry and membrane biology to study membranes holistically.”

Bill also leads the Aston Centre for Membrane Proteins and Lipids (AMPL), where researchers study the structure and function of membrane proteins and associated lipids towards improving biotechnology and paving the way for new drug discoveries.

Bringing together two groups at the university that have already started collaborative research, AIME will be co-led by Paul Topham. He is head of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry and leader of the Aston Polymer Research Group (APRG), which investigates the behavior of block copolymers at nanoscale, as well as polymer technologies for membranes.

AIME will initially comprise eight researchers from AMPL and APRG but is set to grow further to include additional academics, research fellows, post-doctoral research assistants, PhD students, a research technician, and a business development manager. The team at the institute will also work with colleagues at Aston to build a comprehensive community focused on all aspects of membrane science.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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