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The Microbiology Society Annual Conference was held on 8 - 11th April, in Edinburgh UK, and this year, had a strong representation of microbiologists from the School of Pharmacy, De Montfort University!

Our PhD students, Gemma Cooper and Brandon Moulds had the opportunity to present their research at the conference, and benefited from some lovely feedback and many suggestions for future directions. Gemma gave a talk about her project investigating the antiviral potential of volatile compounds from Nigella sativa in the Virus Workshop: Translating knowledge - Understanding and Preventing Disease; Brandon presented a poster on his research on tackling norovirus by a novel disinfection method.

A particular highlight was the Peter Wildy Prize Lecture by Dr Lucy Thorne (Imperial College London), who gave a fantastic talk about her various outreach activities, with a great overview on routes into getting involved with public engagement. The Celebration of Virology session started off the conference with a range of fascinating virology talks, with the diversity of topics extending across the four days.

Aside from the science, the conference offered our PhD students an opportunity to explore the beautiful Edinburgh, and meet and mingle with other virologists. The Careers Session - Transitions: Career paths outside academia was an interesting session, with an inspiring talk by Dr Ashley Otter (From Petri Dishes to Pandemics: A career in public health at the UK Health Security Agency).

Overall, the conference was a great opportunity for us to present our research, get feedback from the community, and return to the lab with many ideas for our next experiments!

We are delighted that Maitreyi has been awarded an Academy of Medical Sciences Springboard Award, which aims to support early career researchers within the biomedical sciences.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and SARS and MERS outbreaks in recent years has highlighted to need for new antiviral therapies. Through this grant, we will be developing novel host-targeting antivirals against current and emerging coronaviruses.

Viruses typically hijack several host cell pathways, and targeting key proteins required by coronaviruses will allow us to identify new broad-spectrum antivirals that can target all coronavirus infections.

We'd like to thank the Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Springboard programme funders, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), Wellcome, British Heart Foundation, and Diabetes UK, for the opportunity to undertake this research and support the lab.

Lab Challenge is an interactive lab-themed activity aimed at younger children - step into a drug discovery lab to perform experiments and find a drug to fight a virus! We had a great time running Lab Challenge at the Science Oxford Centre as part of the Oxford IF Science + Ideas Festival on 15 October 2023. Over 90 young scientists undertook our screening, cytotoxicity and compound building experiments, recorded their results and found our antiviral compound!

We had great engagement throughout the day, and feedback from participating children (and their parents/carers) was positive, with 86% rating the activity 5* or 4*.

Finally, thanks to our Ph.D. student volunteers - Gemma Cooper, Brandon Moulds, and Katie Silver - for their help setting up and running Lab Challenge!

If you'd like to learn more about Lab Challenge, or would like us to host the activity at your school, please do get in touch.

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