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22nd January 2016, 10:40am
Lincoln welcomes leading medical scholars to School of Pharmacy
Lincoln welcomes leading medical scholars to School of Pharmacy An organic chemist specialising in the development of new antibiotics and a neuroscientist who explores the causes of severe brain conditions will lead important new areas of research at the University of Lincoln, UK.

Dr Tobias Gruber and Dr Richard Ngomba, both renowned for their work in specialist areas of medical research, have joined the School of Pharmacy at Lincoln.

Dr Gruber previously headed the Organic Chemistry Laboratory at the Freiberg University of Mining and Technology in Saxony, Germany, where he completed his PhD and spent four years as a Teaching and Research Fellow. He also completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Oxford, UK, and was a Research Associate at the University of Freiberg, one of the most prestigious universities in Germany.

His research examines how selective receptors in the brain react to different bioactive substances. A bioactive substance is one that has an explicit effect on a living organism or living tissue, such as a vaccine or an antibiotic. Dr Gruber’s work has explored new types of antibiotics and their effect on human receptors.

Antibiotics are grouped by their molecular structure, with the most common (such as penicillin) made up of ‘beta-lactam’ rings. However as the use of these antibiotics increases and diseases begin to develop resistance to them, scientists are looking for new alternatives.

At Oxford Dr Gruber examined the biosynthesis of beta-lactam antibiotics, and since then has led research into the use of new antibiotics which consist of ‘gamma-lactam’ rings instead.  

Dr Gruber said: “I am delighted to be here at the University of Lincoln, where I am direct neighbours with such a range of biologists, chemists and life scientists. It is a very stimulating environment to work in and there are so many possibilities for new research collaborations.”

Both Dr Gruber and Dr Richard Ngomba are based in the University’s state-of-the-art Joseph Banks Laboratories on the Lincoln Science and Innovation Park – a pioneering venture launched in collaboration with Lincolnshire Co-op.

Dr Ngomba has joined the University after working at the IRCCS Neuromed Neurological Institute in Italy, where he focused on particular areas of neuroscience, pharmacology and pharmacy practice. The institute is academically linked to the University of Rome Sapienza, and is a centre of excellence in neurological sciences and healthcare research.

Dr Ngomba has led extensive investigations into the science behind neurological conditions such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, attention disorders and stroke.

Previously he has studied a condition called ‘absence epilepsy’ in children. Absence epilepsy is less well-known than other types of epilepsy in which the sufferer experiences convulsions, and because the condition is more difficult to spot it often goes undetected for long periods of time.

Absence epilepsy most commonly occurs during childhood and it causes the sufferer to completely blank out for short periods of time - these are called absence seizures. They usually last for up to 20 seconds and cannot be interrupted. The frequency of these seizures varies depending on the individual, with some having more than 100 per day, however because it is difficult for people to tell when they take place, the condition is challenging to diagnose.

Dr Ngomba said: “By examining the properties of cells which have mutated and identifying how these mutations affect the messages sent between different cells, my research aims to grow our understanding of different conditions which affect the brain. I hope that this will in turn enable us to better appreciate how medication can be adapted and administered to meet the needs of individual patients.”

Dr Ngomba specialises in the study of neurobiology at a cellular level and at the University of Lincoln he will continue his work scrutinising the causes and triggers of neurological conditions. He hopes to establish a new neuroscience society at Lincoln, bringing scientists together to create an effective research network and encourage new studies in this area.

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