Professor Lynne Cox, University of Oxford

BIRAX is the British Council Israel’s flagship research-funding grant scheme, so far funding over £13 million of research on precision medicine and ageing. Each grant must have one principal applicant from the UK and one from Israel. For the first time ever, in the last funding round, 50 per cent of awards went to women. Professor Lynne Cox is the Associate Professor at the Department of Biochemistry – University of Oxford. She received BIRAX funding for her joint project with Professor Rivka Dresner Pollak: “Age-related bone fragility in type 1 diabetes – the role of bone cell senescence”.

Being creative, being curious and thinking outside the box is what defines academic science and makes a difference. By bringing together partners with very different interests and expertise, BIRAX fuels that curiosity and creativity. I am really excited to work with Professor Rivka Dresner Pollak. We met at a conference, where I was giving a talk on cell ageing and she spoke about diabetes and bone fragility, and we both had that ‘aha’ moment where it became apparent that what I was working on and what she was working on actually meshed together. I would not have thought of the project had we not had a long conversation at that meeting, and the BIRAX funding opportunity was the trigger that kept us talking.

I have expertise in cell ageing and Rivka has expertise in bone fragility and diabetes, and our project tries to find out why people with type one diabetes have fragile bones. Our hope is that the in the future we will find some way of stopping the bone fragility at cause, even preventing the problems emerging very early on, which might also have implications for the wider ageing population.

What is particularly exciting about BIRAX is that it brings together people of different ideas, different cultures, different ways of approaching things. Not only will science benefit from this programme, but we as scientists are also benefitting already. We are having a cultural experience of talking to people across what would have been a divide.