Professor Serena Best

BSc (Hons), PhD, FREng, FIMMM, FBSE

serena best

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Job title: Professor of Materials Science
Division: Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Tags: Fellowship: Established Career Fellowship, University of Cambridge
Related theme: Healthcare technologies

This is a job-share fellowship with Ruth Cameron.


My research concerns the development of materials for tissue repair and regeneration. I currently direct, together with Professor Ruth Cameron, the Cambridge Centre for Medical Materials, a group of around 25 post-docs and PhD students.

My Fellowship

Although there has been an explosion of interest in the development of biomedical scaffolds over the past 20 years, the repair and regeneration of tissues is not always successful. The ability of these scaffolds to guide repair is limited by their capacity to bind the appropriate cell types for optimised healing. Furthermore, the structural complexity and heterogeneity of many soft tissues demand matching scaffold architectures, which current technologies cannot produce.

We are tackling this problem using ice-templated collagen-based scaffolds. Cell-selective surfaces are created by the incorporation of receptor-reactive collagen-derived triple helical peptide sequences to define which cells bind to the scaffold. Finely controlled and, where necessary, heterogeneous scaffold architectures are combined with spatially varying cell binding characteristics to mimic natural tissue. We will feed the underlying principles into a "design toolkit" to enable scaffold design for bespoke, personalised cell-based therapies for a range of different diseases.

To demonstrate this approach we are developing scaffolds for cardiovascular patches, dermal grafts and nerve guides. Each of these applications presents different structural and biochemical challenges with increasing levels of complexity.

The mechanism for this Fellowship is novel: for the first time, an EPSRC Fellowship is based on a "job share" style arrangement with two PIs. The PIs jointly run the Cambridge Centre for Medical Materials, both having part time contracts based on their family commitments. This joint fellowship is split evenly between Professors Best and Cameron and reflects a forward-thinking approach by EPSRC based on Equality and Diversity considerations.

Motivation to Apply

Ruth Cameron and I considered that the award of a joint fellowship, reflecting our working arrangements, would give us the opportunity to undertake a programme of underpinning science, which, once completed, would have huge potential economic and clinical impacts. At the end of the grant, we plan to be in a position to apply for translation grants to take these forward. During the grant, we will take action to make sure that information is generated, protected and disseminated in ways appropriate and consistent with the needs of future regulatory approval, future commercialisation, and clinical translation.

Career benefits of Fellowship

This prestigious award will increase the profile of the research that we are doing and give us opportunities to raise awareness of the field. The substantial buy out of time from routine University duties will give us the space and time to devote to achieving the ambitious goals in our proposal.

Advice for future applicants

The staff at the EPSRC were extremely helpful and constructive when approached for practical and administrative advice about our application so we would suggest early consultation with them when putting an application together.