Exchange and Mobility

Exchange and Mobility

We are pleased to announce that we recently funded 11 awards with our first Exchange and Mobility call.  Competition was fierce; the quality of applications was very high, and we were delighted to be able to extend our funding due to the award of BBSRC FTMA4 grant:

Dr Riaz Akhtar, University of Liverpool with Dr Nuria Gavara, University of Barcelona

Dr Giovanna Nalesso, University of Surrey with Dr Cintia Scucuglia Heluany, University of Surrey

Henry Barrett and Dr Oksana Kehoe of Keele University with Dr Lesley Smith, the University of East London

Dr Blandine Poulet of University of Liverpool with Prof Gerhard Sengle, University of Cologne

Dr Vanja Pekovic-Vaughan, Moussira Alameddine, Dr Alistair Topping of University of Liverpool with Dr Bato Korac of University of Belgrade

Dr Matthew Leak, University of Liverpool, with Dr Daryl Shanley of Newcastle University

Dr Christabel Dube and Dr Stephen Richardson of University of Manchester with Dr Danny Chan and Dr Kathryn Cheah, University of Hong Kong

Dr Sheetal Inamdar and Dr Himadri Shikhar Gupta of Queen Mary University with Dr Joe Swift, The University of Manchester

Dr Jennifer Ashworth, University of Nottingham with Prof Thomas Cox, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney

Dr Sahem Alkharabsheh, Mutah University with Dr Liz Laird, University of Liverpool

Dr Oana Dobre, University of Glasgow with Prof Jarrod Call of University of Georgia, USA

Dr Sahem Alkharabsheh of Mutah University Exchange award at the University of Liverpool

Sahem spent time in Liverpool over the summer to work in Dr Liz Laird’s laboratory and tells us:

‘’The Exchange award gave me a fantastic chance for me as an early career researcher  to obtain training and experience in fundamental molecular procedures employed in ECM ageing research, such as RNAi transfection, tissue culture, RT-PCR, and western blots. Furthermore, and more importantly, the exchange enabled me to interact with other researchers with similar interests and begin future partnership initiatives.’’


Dr Vanja Pekovic-Vaughan's Exchange with Prof Korac's Lab, University of Belgrade

This photo is taken with Prof Korac and the group members during the symposium we organised on ECM remodelling in cancer and other connective tissue diseases.

This project involved establishing an external academic collaboration through a research training visit which involved an exchange of expertise/methodologies and resources.  The primary objective was to support mobility of both the ECRs and the technicians.  The exchange with Prof Korac’s lab has allowed us to train in and perform histological analyses using their established methods such as polarisation-resolved second harmonic generation imaging and metabolic assays.

Dr Riaz Akhtar of the University of Liverpool's exchange with Dr Nuria Gavara, University of Barcelona

Dr Riaz Akhtar visited University of Barcelona hosted by Dr Nuria Gavara in February 2023 funded by the ECMage Exchange and Mobility awards. The exchange with University of Barcelona and other institutes in the local area highlighted strong inter-disciplinary research relevant to matrix biology involving universities and hospitals. There are key clusters of expertise in cardiovascular, liver and lung disease along with expertise in developing new tools and techniques e.g. in mechanobiology and biomaterials which can readily be applied to a range of different problems in matrix biology and mechanics. As well as taking part in a series of networking meetings, Dr Riaz Akhtar also had an opportunity to receive training in novel decellurisation methods developed in Dr Gavara’s lab for lung ECM research. He said “This was a really useful short exchange. I was impressed by the close links between academics and clinical facilities and the expertise in various ECM models of ageing and disease in the Barcelona area. I first met Dr Nuria Gavara and started a collaboration when she was working at the NIH in the USA over 10 years ago. ECMAge has given us an opportunity to initiate some new collaborations but with the involvement of early career researchers”

Dr Christabel Dube at the University of Hong Kong with Profs Danny Chan and Kathryn Cheah

Christabel’s exchange and mobility visit with Profs Danny Chan and Kathryn Cheah in Hong Kong involved interdisciplinary skill exchange.  Christabel is a biologist by background and received training from bioinformaticians in Hong Kong on how to analyse and integrate complex datasets. It is anticipated that this exchange will bring together biology and computer science to generate a comprehensive protein/gene expression dataset in foetal, young, and aged IVD tissues which will add to our current knowledge of how ageing affects the ECM in the IVD.

Dr Oana Dobre visits Professor Jarrod Call's laboratory the University of Georgia, Athens USA

Dr Oana Dobre’s visit to Prof Call’s lab in Georgia aimed to evaluate the potential of the engineered novel 3D piezoelectric scaffolds (developed in Dr Dobre’s lab) with controlled geometry, orientation, degradation, and growth factor release to guide and support high volume muscle regeneration using an in vivo mouse Volumetric Muscle Loss (VML) model. This was a unique opportunity to understand the muscle regeneration process in case of a VML injury and helps to pave the way towards the development of a preclinical VML treatment to improve the quality of life for patients with muscular diseases due to resections or injury.

Exchange and Mobility Fund - second round

We are delighted to announce our second call for exchange and mobility funding relating to extracellular matrix ageing across the life course, to fund exchange visits in academia or industry to learn new techniques or carry out collaborative work.

Guidance for applications:

The awards are of up to £500 each and are suitable for PDRAs, PhD students and technical staff.

Eligible costs:

National and international travel, subsistence, consumables, small equipment or access costs can be included. Applications including childcare costs will be considered.


Completion of exchange by 30 September 2023, with report due by 31 October 2023.

application form here:

Exchange and mobility R 2 App Form 2023

To apply return the completed application form (attached) to by 4 pm on Monday 19th June 2023.


Exchange Funding Round Two Awards

Congratulations to our network colleagues on their exchange applications!  We are delighted to fund the following:

1. Mr Alexander Minns, PhD student at The University of Surrey, with Prof Mike Sherratt of The University of Manchester. Alex will learn peptide location fingerprinting (PLF), a proteomic analysis technique capable of identifying structural modification-associated differences in mass spectrometry (MS) data sets of complex biological samples.

2. Dr Sahem Alkharabsheh of Mutah University with Dr Liz Laird of the University of Liverpool. Sahem’s exchange award will allow him to continue with critical training and gaining experience in fundamental molecular methods used in ageing research, including a loss of function experiment, knocking down CFIM25 mRNA to address the impact of lower levels of CFIM25 on COL1A1 and COL1A2 mRNA and protein levels in fibroblast previously isolated from Dupuytren contracture patients as a fibrotic model and control fibroblast isolated from Carpal tunnel patients. Sahem will gain more experience in conducting techniques such as RNAi transfection, tissue culture, RT-PCR, and western blots.

3. Mr Abdulrahman Gremida, PhD student at The University of Liverpool with Prof Grant Wheeler of the University of East Anglia. This exchange will support Abdul in his investigations into the novel interaction between LRP1 and Wnt family members. These molecules play important roles in ECM turnover, remodelling and degradation as well as ageing and the development of age-related diseases. This study will generate critical insight into fundamental processes of regulation of WNT pathways and will identify a novel function of LRP1.