Pioneering Professor’s 30-year career dedicated to science at Sunderland

Pioneering Professor’s 30-year career dedicated to science at Sunderland

Published on 14 September 2017

Professor Roz Anderson is celebrating her 30th work anniversary as Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Sunderland.

Roz was joined by friends and work colleagues in the Sciences Complex to mark the milestone in her incredible career which has been dedicated to teaching and the development of medicinal chemistry, in particular improving the treatment of the rare and fatal genetic disorder Cystinosis.

The anniversary year is another milestone in Roz’s outstanding career who just last year was awarded a WIN Award in the STEM Category at the Network North East Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2016. The annual event recognises and rewards achievement of women in business in the North East. In the nomination criteria for the Women in STEM Award judges stated that they were looking for “an exceptional woman in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, who has pioneered new discoveries and/or been instrumental in bringing the benefits of those discoveries to market for economic and social impact”.

After being presented with a bouquet of flowers by colleagues, Roz said: “I'm honoured and delighted to celebrate 30 years at Sunderland. I'm fortunate to work with a great team of colleagues, researchers and students, and I feel that this anniversary is not for me alone, but highlights and celebrates our combined achievements across a range of research projects.”

Helping to mark the anniversary, Professor Tony Alabaster, Academic Dean in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing, said: “We are all delighted to be recognising not only Roz’s 30 years of working at the University of Sunderland, but her strong, sustained and significant contribution to the Faculty's research, especially in the field of Cystinosis and as an inspiration to her colleagues and students alike.”

Describing her contributions to the University, Vice-Chancellor Shirley Atkinson said: “Roz embodies the philosophy of the University of Sunderland, that research should be undertaken to advance our society and inspire future generations of researchers and practitioners. She has an inspirational and passionate belief in supporting other researchers and students to look for solutions to today’s health issues. Roz is a true role model to students and colleagues as the embodiment of an active, engaged, impactful researcher. We are honoured and proud to have Professor Roz Anderson’s pioneering work at Sunderland.”

Paul Groundwater is Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Sydney and has known Roz in a professional capacity for many years, he said: “Roz is one of the most inspirational research scientists I have known, she always has time for her students putting their needs first – this is reflected in the large number of distinguished researchers across the world proud to cite Roz not only as their supervisor but their inspiration.”

In her career as a researcher at the University, Roz has worked on the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, diagnosis of bacterial infections, psoriasis and cancer, but her particular passion is the battle against Cystinosis.

This genetic disorder is a largely misunderstood and under-researched illness, which affects around 2,000 people worldwide. Many sufferers die before the age of 10 due to lack of knowledge about the illness and its treatment and, until recently, few lived beyond the age of 20.

In 1994 one of Roz’s colleagues, Professor Geoff Rowley, a formulation scientist working in collaboration with a consultant at the RVI in Newcastle, developed a formulation of micro-pellets, tiny particles that prevented the smell and taste of Cystinosis medicine, so that children could take it much more easily. But when Geoff retired nothing further happened, and Roz began to see how it would be possible to use chemistry to help solve this problem. This was the beginning of what became her passion and her life’s work - to tackle this terrible disease. Now Roz and her team have a candidate molecule that’s ready to go into pre-clinical trials.

A strong believer in teamwork and the power to make a difference in society by inspiring future generations, Roz insists on working alongside undergraduate and PhD students, and post-doctoral scientists, ensuring that young people are advocates for the advancement of medicine and society.

Her work is not purely confined to the laboratory, she has made a point of meeting the children affected by this illness and their families, which she believes is an essential aspect of her work. She also works closely with the charity Cystinosis Foundation UK, which since 2012 has awarded over £600,000 to her research and the ‘prodrugs’ project. Roz is very aware that for a small charity dedicated to a rare disease this is an enormous amount of funding and that’s behind her dedication to taking the prodrug forward to clinical use, subject to safety and toxicity tests.