Biological Sciences

Teuta Pilizota awarded UKRI Physics of Life grant

Professor Teuta Pilizota, Personal Chair of Biophysics, is the recipient of £2.1 million award from a UK government fund that harnesses physics approaches to tackle grand challenges in the life sciences.

The Physics of Life programme is funded by a £18 million investment from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Wellcome.

Nine ambitious multidisciplinary projects will take a unique approach to transforming our understanding of life by bringing together innovative approaches in life sciences and physics

As well as generating new knowledge they could have a broad range of applications, from developing new ways to capture carbon to treating health conditions.

Understanding chronic infection and inflammation

Teuta Pilizota, based at the Institute of Cell Biology, will study and develop a better understanding of a debilitating long-term sinus infection, known as chronic rhinosinusitis.

The project, Infections in complex physical environments: Life and death in the sinuses, is a collaboration with Professors Eric Lauga, Pietro Cicuta and Clare Bryant at the University of Cambridge.

Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) affects 10% of the UK adult population. It causes a significant reduction in patients’ quality of life and places a high demand on health-care providers.

CRS and many other chronic infections and inflammatory conditions, caused by microbes or viruses, remain poorly understood due to their complexity. 

The project aims to overcome these challenges by studying the bacteria that can contribute to CRS in models of sinus cavities. 

This will help to improve treatments for CRS and similar chronic conditions, as well as improving knowledge of complex living systems such as the gut, lungs or urinary tract.

The project also involves Dr Bartlomiej Waclaw from the School of Physics, Dr Luke McNally from the School of Biological Sciences and Iain Hathorn from NHS Lothian.

Physics of Life Programme

The Physics of Life programme is delivered through UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC).

This second phase is further enhanced by support from Wellcome.

One of the unique strengths of the UK science ecosystem, and our new research agency UKRI is the ability to bring different sciences together - to unlock new discoveries and solve the big challenges of our day. From new carbon capturing algae to mapping brain functions, the Physics of Life programme is funding exciting new approaches with potentially major societal benefits.

George FreemanScience Minister


Physics of Life builds on a decade-long focus with the research community to bring together physics and the life sciences to improve our understanding of living systems. Through a wide range of innovative approaches, these projects will generate important new knowledge that will help us to answer some of science’s biggest problems, ranging from how life formed through to tackling climate change.

Professor Dame Lynn GladdenExecutive Chair, EPSRC 


It is important to recognise that progress in the life sciences has at times been greatly accelerated by collaborating with other scientific fields. With interdisciplinary teams of physicists, engineers and biologists, the Physics of Life projects will draw on cross-cutting expertise, helping to deliver exciting new insights with the potential to improve life, health and wellbeing.

Michael DunnDirector of Discovery Research, Wellcome

Related Links

Professor Teuta Pilizota

UKRI Physics of Life programme