LSTM PhD students among those recognised at the Pandemic Institute's first Student Excellence Awards

News article 10 Mar 2022

LSTM students are among the winners of the Pandemic Institute’s first Student Excellence Awards, taking three of the five awards on offer. Presented by Professor Matt Ashton, Liverpool’s Public Health Director, the PhD students are those that would be at the forefront of the fight against future pandemics.

Sponsored by Liverpool-based diagnostics and in-clinic Covid-19 testing company DAM Health, five students working in the areas of infection or diagnostics were presented with £5,000 each. The grants will enable the students to further their research by attending international conferences or take up world-leading training and development opportunities.

Along with recipients from the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, LSTM’s Helen Savage, Rachel Byrne and Ryan Robinson were presented with their awards during a ceremony attended by business, civil and political leaders from across the Liverpool City Region at the Spine on Paddington Village in the Knowledge Quarter Liverpool Innovation District (KQ Liverpool).

The students’ projects span the breadth of antimicrobial resistance, mosquito transmitted viruses, vaccines against respiratory disease, novel approaches to pathogen detection and respiratory disease control in middle and low-income countries.

Helen Savage, a medical doctor, is undertaking a PhD looking at alternative sampling methods for diagnostics into respiratory diseases that cause millions of deaths each year and hopes to use part of her award to visit with researchers in Malawi working towards pandemic preparedness in southern Africa.

Rachel Byrne is studying molecular diagnostics and was part of a team quality assuring new diagnostics during the COVID 19 pandemic. Her award will enable her to travel to Texas to undergo biological safety level four (BSL4) laboratory training at the world-renowned Galveston institute. This training will better prepare her for the emergence of new infectious diseases and allow her to become a better laboratory scientist.

Ryan Robinson, a medical doctor, is studying respiratory illness working with LSTM’s Experimental Human Pneumococcal Challenge model. His award will support him in attending the biennial ‘International Symposium on Pneumococci and Pneumococcal Diseases’ (ISPPD-12) in Toronto and learn more about the latest research in his area of interest, pulmonary infection.

Professor Matthew Baylis, Director of the Pandemic Institute said: “We often think of pandemic preparedness in terms of new vaccines, medicines or diagnostic tests, but a big part is investing in the work force who will develop these innovations and help combat future disease outbreaks. I am therefore delighted that DAM Health has partnered with the Pandemic Institute and given funding to enhance the training of local PhD students. We are incredibly grateful to Frank Joseph and his team, and proud of our PhD students for their great work. Today’s Student Excellence Awards event will, we hope, be the first of many as the Pandemic Institute works with local, national and international organisations to help prepare the world better for future pandemics”

Professor Frank Joseph, Medical Director of DAM Health, said: “We are proud to have partnered the Pandemic Institute with the Student Excellence Awards and delighted to be supporting some of Liverpool's most upcoming and brilliant minds in scientific and medical research with these grants.

All of the students are incredibly deserving because they have the potential to become key figures in the fight against possible future pandemics and wider medical diagnostics. It was fantastic to be part of today's ceremony and especially to join Professor Matt Ashton and Professor Matthew Baylis to make these presentations."