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Dr Anissa Chikh wins prestigious Academy of Medical Sciences Springboard Award

Published: 11 June 2021

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Dr Anissa Chikh at St George’s, University of London has been awarded a Springboard Award by the Academy of Medical Sciences, to support her work looking into the mechanisms underpinning conditions that affect the skin.

Now in their sixth year, the Awards provide biomedical scientists with financial backing and a personalised package of career support. They aim to enable early-career researchers to launch an independent research programme at a crucial stage for their subsequent career.

The award will help Dr Chikh build on her work related to a protein called iRHOM2 and its role in skin-related conditions, including psoriasis, eczema and cancer. The protein regulates inflammation and immunity response. Mutations in iRHOM2 are also associated with a syndrome that causes thickness in the palms and soles, and a high lifetime risk of oesophageal cancer. iRHOM2 controls skin thickness, and further understanding of how its deregulation leads to skin conditions may help to find treatments or cures for specific diseases.

“Hopefully this work will help us to find answers for both the prevention and treatment of skin diseases,” says Dr Chikh, from the Molecular & Clinical Sciences Research Institute at the university.

“By using the latest proteomic tools and developing animal models of disease, we can better understand how iRHOM2 influences disease outcomes, and assess therapeutic targets for treatments in future.”

Dr Chikh’s work will start by tackling inflammatory skin diseases, but with the potential to apply the techniques to other diseases. One set of conditions Dr Chikh is looking to target further down the line are specific cancers known as epithelial cancers, or carcinomas, which start in the lining of tissues, including most skin, breast and prostate cancers.

The Springboard Awards provide funding of up to £100,000 over two years and access to the Academy of Medical Sciences’ well-regarded mentoring and career development programme.

Speaking on the funding, Dr Chikh added: “I’m so pleased to have received the Springboard Award. I know how prestigious the prize is, and it will give me the opportunity to launch my career research, gain more visibility for my work and recruit a research technician to help develop the projects we’re working on.”

The Awards are supported by the Wellcome TrustBritish Heart Foundation, the UK Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (as part of the Talent fund), and Diabetes UK.

Information on how to apply for the next round can be found on the Academy of Medical Sciences website.

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