... understanding life in molecular detail

Welcome to the Asbury Centre Fellowship page.

The Asbury Centre provides an exciting, vibrant and progressive environment for researchers. We are passionate about our prestigious fellowships and the opportunities surrounding these with excellent career prospects in all of our research areas. Below you will find information about our current fellows, their independently funded fellowships and their work within the Astbury Centre. We actively support and encourage all of our fellows as their research is vital to the progression of the centre and the future of Structural Molecular Biology.

Cheney Fellows

We are delighted to welcome the following scientists to the Astbury Centre which has been made possible thanks to generous funding to the University of Leeds by Peter and Sue Cheney. Further details about the Cheney Fellowships can be found here.

"As is so true for many of us Alumni, Leeds has played an important role in our lives. My wife Sue and I endowed the Cheney Fellowships with the objective of enhancing the national and international reputation of the University of Leeds by bringing to Leeds, eminent academics to study and interact with students, faculty and staff. We are delighted that this year the Astbury Centre has attracted three Fellows, each with outstanding academic credentials, to come to Leeds, where for varying periods of time, they have the freedom and time to study in areas of personal interest, interact with students, staff and enjoy the great hospitality for which Yorkshire is famous. In doing so they will follow in the footsteps of previous Cheney Fellows each of whom found their experience most rewarding and have gone on to establish long term relationships between Leeds and their home institution"
Peter Cheney - December 2015


Photo of Travis Beddoe

Dr Travis Beddoe

Senior Lecturer , Department of Animal, Plant and Soil Sciences La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia (December 2017 - June 2018)

The Cheney Fellowship will allow Dr Beddoe to spend ~ 6 months working at the University of Leeds developing new collaborations with Prof Alison Baker, Dr Stuart Warriner and Prof Bruce Turnbull as well as interacting with other members of the Astbury Centre. Dr Beddoes’s twin interests during this fellowship in how proteins are transported into organelles and how bacterial toxins bind blood group antigens, using biochemical and biophysical approaches. He obtained his PhD in 2004 in the group of Prof T. Lithgow, University of Melbourne on ‘Surface proteins of the ribosome and the mitochondria involved in protein import’. Subsequently he has held several research Fellowships at Monash University, most recently Pfizer Australia Research Fellow in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology before moving to his current position 3 years ago. The principal interest of his research group is in host-pathogen interactions which he studies using a range of biophysical and structural techniques.

Photo of Kelly Chibale

Prof Kelly Chibale

Director, University of Cape Town Drug Discovery and Development Centre (March 2017 - February 2019)

The Cheney fellowship will enable Professor Chibale to; develop new collaborations with Professor Colin Fishwick and others, in the area of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry; to interact with early-career researchers and academic staff within the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology. Prof Chibale joined the University of Cape Town (UCT) as a lecturer in 1996 and became a full Professor of Organic Chemistry in 2007. A year later he was awarded a Tier 1 South Africa Research Chair in Drug Discovery under the South Africa Research Chairs Initiative. In 2009, Prof Chibale founded the South African Medical Research Council's Drug Discovery and Development Research Unit at UCT and was elected a Life Fellow of UCT and a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa. In 2010 Prof Chibale became the founding Director of the UCT Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D), a position he still holds, together with full membership of the UCT Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine. Prof Chibale obtained his PhD in synthetic organic chemistry from the University of Cambridge in 1992 and followed this with postdoctoral stints at the University of Liverpool as a British Ramsay Fellow and the Scripps Research Institute in the USA as a Wellcome Trust International Prize Research Fellow. He has been a Sandler Sabbatical Fellow at the University of California San Francisco (2002), a US Fulbright Senior Research Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania (2008) and a Visiting Professor at Pfizer in the UK (2008). His research is in the field of drug discovery and is underpinned by (Hit-to-Lead and Lead Optimization) medicinal chemistry. He is particularly interested in the application of computational molecular design as well as biophysical techniques to the discovery of new antimicrobial agents, and molecular targets of interest include the topoisomerases and the ribosome.

Photo of Carol Hall

Prof Carol Hall

Camille Dreyfus Distinguished University Professor, North Carolina State University, USA (October 2015 – September 2016)

The Cheney fellowship will enable Professor Hall to:

  • develop a new collaboration with Professors Andy Wilson, Alison Ashcroft and Sheena Radford FRS;
  • to interact with early-career researchers and academic staff within the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology.

β-Sheet peptide nanostructures (e.g., amyloid fibrils) are important entities; they result from aggregation of misfolded proteins and play key roles in the development of multiple degenerative diseases e.g. Alzheimer’s (A?1-40/42) and Parksinson’s (?-synuclein). A range of approaches have been developed by Professors Wilson, Ashcroft, Radford and colleagues at Leeds to study and manipulate peptide and protein aggregation. These include, small molecule modulators, photo-induced cross-linking and ion-mobility mass spectrometry. Although these methods are powerful, a molecular understanding of aggregation pathway and small-molecule/aggregate structure remains elusive. The fellowship will establish a collaboration that will address this challenge; Prof Hall has a long standing interest and expertise in the study of protein and peptide aggregation using computer simulation. By uniting experiment and simulation, this collaboration will maximise the impact of the approaches developed in Leeds to address a fundamental biological and societal challenge.

Photo of J. Preben Morth

Dr J. Preben Morth

Group Leader at the Centre for Molecular Medicine (NCMM), Oslo University, Norway (December 2017 - June 2018)

The Cheney fellowship will enable Preben Morth to develop a new collaboration and to interact with researchers and academic staff within the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology. Preben Morth has established himself at the international level as a significant and mature contributor of structural biological insights into membrane proteins and into their characterization . With his latest addition to the P-type ATPase field he has begun the enzymatic and biophysical characterization of the magnesium transporter (MgtA) a completely untouched protein family. This family of specific magnesium transporters are unique to bacteria and plants. Magnesium is an essential nutrient for humans and primarily taken up through our vegetarian diet. Failing to take up enough magnesium will lead to Hypomagnesemia that is linked to numerous diseases in both humans and plants, and is absolutely necessary for the survival of prokaryotes. In collaboration with Professors Adrian Goldman and Peter Henderson, Dr. Morth will take advantage of the focus on structural biology that revolves around membrane protein structure at the Astbury centre. The stays at Leeds will likely also include advanced biophysical characterization in collaboration with eg Lars Jeuken, Richard Bayliss, Stephen Muench and Alison Ashcroft.

Photo of Steve Polyak

Dr Steve Polyak

School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA (March 2017 - March 2019)

Steve Polyak trained as a virologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and his recent research has focused on understanding how natural products engage human cells to protect them against injury by virus infection and chronic inflammation. In particular he has worked extensively on the mode of action of active constituents of milk thistle extract (silymarin), and more recently he has worked on the anti-influenza drug Arbidol, used clinically in several countries. Arbidol inhibits the replication of many viruses including hepatitis B and C viruses, Ebola and Chikungunya. The Cheney Fellowship will allow him to expand his interests in natural and synthetic compounds and evaluate their activity against a broad range of targets, both cellular and viral. He will use the Fellowship to pursue new collaborations in the fields of virology, cancer, neuroscience, cardiovascular disease and innate immunity, all of which are significant research strengths at University of Leeds. He also has a keen interest in the chemistry of natural products, their identification, purification and synthesis. He is therefore interested in pursuing further exciting possibilities for new avenues of investigation by developing links with medicinal chemists within the Astbury Centre, as well as interacting with members of the Centre for Plant Sciences to explore new resources for identification of natural products.

Photo of Yasuharu Takagi

Prof Yasuharu Takagi

Laboratory of Molecular Physiology, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, NIH, Bethesda, U.S.A (April 2016 - October 2016)

Dr Yasuharu “Harry” Takagi was awarded a Cheney Fellowship to join the Molecular Contractility group at The Astbury Center for Structural Molecular Biology at the University of Leeds. His current research involves a multi-disciplinary approach to understand the structure-function relationship of the members of the myosin super-family, a family of molecular motor important for many cellular processes. In particular, Harry is interested in myosin-10, which is the molecular motor important for the generation and regulation of filopodias on cells, which allows the cells to “sense” its surrounding environment, as well as integrating the actin and microtubule cytoskeleton during meiosis. To understand the molecular basis of myosin-10 motility and regulation, he will be using the Sf9/baculovirus expression system to generate the recombinantly expressed protein, which he will characterize using biochemical and biophysical techniques. In particular, a large focus of his project will be the use of structural biology techniques available at The Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology to elucidate the structure of myosin-10. Better understanding of this unique cytoskeletal motor protein at the molecular level will hopefully contribute to understanding disease processes, such as cancer invasion and metastasis, where myosin-10 up-regulation occur. Harry will be provided extensive mentorship from Professor Peter Knight and Professor Michelle Peckham at the University of Leeds during his proposed fellowship period.

Photo of Herbert Waldmann

Prof Herbert Waldmann

Director, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology, Dortmund, Germany (October 2015 - September 2017)

The Cheney fellowship will enable Professor Waldmann to:

  • develop a new collaboration with Professor Adam Nelson;
  • to sustain an existing collaboration with other colleagues at Leeds; and
  • to interact with early-career researchers and academic staff within the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology.

A range of synthetic approaches have been developed by Professor Nelson and colleagues at Leeds to facilitate the systematic exploration of chemical space. Although these diverse molecules are often screened locally and by collaborators, the range of accessible biological assays and opportunities for follow-up is limited. The fellowship will establish a collaboration that will enable access to a wide range of cell-based assays that have been established within the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology. This collaboration will enable the biological relevance of novel chemistry developed in Leeds to be established, and the discovery of distinctive new chemical tools for investigating biological mechanisms.