Solve ME partners with Action for ME on two-year research fellowship focused on identifying molecular drivers of ME/CFS
May 2021–Solve M.E. and Action for ME are excited to share that Dr. Chris Ponting and Dr. Liz Worthey will work with postdoctoral fellows as part of the Solve/Action for ME trans-Atlantic partnership.
This two-year, jointly funded, £120,000 ($170,000) fellowship is designed to prepare researchers early in their career to excel in studies focusing on applying computational biology, biostatistics, quantitative genetic and data science to understanding the molecular basis of ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis). Information on applying for the fellowship will be shared in coming weeks.
Dr. Ponting co-leads DecodeME, the largest ever ME/CFS genetic study, which is recruiting 25,000 participants. The study aims to aid development of diagnostic tests and targeted treatments by pinpointing differences in the genetic material (DNA) that may affect risk of developing ME/CFS and reveal underlying causes of the condition. Genome-wide studies have helped uncover causes of other complex diseases such as Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes.
“I am delighted to join forces with Liz Worthey to begin training the next generation of ME/CFS big data researchers,” said Dr. Ponting. “Together we will identify DNA differences that increase someone’s risk of ME/CFS. We’re very grateful to Solve M.E. and Action for ME for catalyzing this research opportunity.”
Dr. Worthey’s ME/CFS research includes a whole genome sequencing project, in collaboration with Dr. Camille Birch and Dr. Jarred Younger, supported by a Solve M.E. Ramsay Award on whether ME/CFS is the result of an intrinsic genetic defect identifiable based on whole genome or RNA sequencing. The research focuses on identifying rare molecular variation in pathways that leads to or impacts the course of the illness.
“This fellowship will strengthen our ability to bring cutting-edge computational approaches to identify the molecular underpinnings of ME/CFS disease risk,” said Dr. Worthey. “It will also reinforce crucial international scientific collaborations towards that critical goal.”
“The fellowship is designed to maximize development opportunities for the successful candidate,” said Sonya Chowdhury, chief executive of Action for ME. “It offers a stepping-stone for researchers from PhD level into a career in the ME/CFS field supported by world class scientists with whom they can nurture their skills, knowledge and experience.”
Dr. Ponting is chair of Medical Bioinformatics at the University of Edinburgh, group leader in the Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit and vice chair of the CFS/ME Research Collaborative. He has a PhD in biophysics from the University of Oxford.
Dr. Worthey is an associate professor of Pediatrics and Pathology, director of the Center for Computational Genomics and Data Sciences and associate director of the Hugh Kaul Precision Medicine Institute at the University of Alabama Birmingham. She has a PhD in genetics from Imperial College London.