Researcher and lecturer Dr Florencia Cavodeassi has received a major grant from the Wellcome Trust’s Seed Awards in Science.

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The awards aim to provide an opportunity for researchers to develop novel ideas that will go on to form part of larger-scale projects in future. Florencia won the maximum grant allocation of £100,000.
Florencia works in the Centre for Biomedical Education, headed by Dr Frances Gibson, within IMBE. Her research focuses on understanding some of the genetic causes of childhood blindness, by investigating malformations in the eye during embryo formation.
Florencia explains: “I use zebrafish for my studies, which are very amenable to gene manipulations. Over the last five years working with colleagues in Madrid and then in London, we have produced a genetically manipulated zebrafish strain that we believe will help us uncover new genes that, when defective, lead to eye malformations.”
Often eye defects are only seen when several genes are simultaneously defective, making the identification of these individual genes more difficult. The zebrafish model produced by Florencia has a mutation in the gene ‘frizzled5’, which is important for eye formation but when mutated by itself, doesn’t result in any obvious eye defects. However it should constitute a useful genetic background to uncover other genes that play a role in eye formation.
Florencia added: “In the long term the genes newly identified in our project will be candidates to test in patients with eye defects, expanding our understanding of the genetics associated with these diseases.”
Frances Gibson said: “This is the second major research grant win in the last four months, following Dr Kim Jonas’s win of a New Investigator Grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in June. Florencia is another example of the active researchers in the Centre, who manage to achieve research grant success despite a large teaching responsibility, demonstrating that this commitment to expanding knowledge goes hand-in-hand with well-informed teaching. ”