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New project targets food spoilage biofilms

12 December 2023

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Dr Laura Nolan from the Quadram Institute is to lead a new project to help combat food spoilage, after receiving a Future Leader Fellowship from UK Research & Innovation.

Dr Nolan will lead research into Pseudomonas bacteria, which are the commonest cause of spoilage in animal and plant-derived foods.

The project will focus on how these Pseudomonas forms resilient communities called biofilms. While it is known that food spoilage bacteria form biofilms on food, we know very little about biofilm development and bacterial interactions in these communities, and how all of this contributes to food spoilage

By understanding how Pseudomonas biofilm communities survive and thrive, improved processes to tackle biofilms can be developed, and so combat food spoilage.

These controls are much needed; around a third of all food produced globally is lost or wasted. Cutting food spoilage would improve the sustainability of food production and reduce the economic costs to producers and consumers of this wasted food.

Dr Nolan is one of 75 new Future Leaders Fellows announced by UKRI, who collectively will benefit from £101 million to tackle major global issues and to commercialise their innovations in the UK.

UKRI’s flagship Future Leaders Fellowships allow universities and businesses to develop their most talented early career researchers and innovators and to attract new people to their organisations, including from overseas.

UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “UKRI’s Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with long-term support and training, giving them the freedom to explore adventurous new ideas, and to build dynamic careers that break down the boundaries between sectors and disciplines.

The fellows announced today illustrate how this scheme empowers talented researchers and innovators to build the diverse and connected research and innovation system we need to shorten the distance between discovery and prosperity across the UK.”

Dr Nolan completed her PhD on biofilm expansion in Pseudomonas aeruginosa at the University of Technology Sydney, before moving to the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection at Imperial College London supported by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship. Here her focus was on biofilm development in medically relevant areas, such as the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients.

In February 2023, Dr Nolan joined the Quadram Institute on a BBSRC Discovery Fellowship, expanding her research into the understudied area of biofilms on foods. This forms a key part of the Quadram Institute’s strategic research into reducing the economic and sustainability impacts of food spoilage.

Read more about the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships on the UKRI website

Image: Pseudomonas-spoiled spinach. Credit: Laura Nolan

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