Nchimunya Nelisa Tebeka, a DPhil student in the Christian Group and formerly the Cantley Group has been awarded the 2021 Early Career Investigator Award from the UK's leading charitable funder for diabetes research. This premier Early Career Investigator Award from Diabetes UK recognises the highest quality science to improve the understanding, prevention and treatment of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes by early career researchers.
Following shortlisting of her abstract, Nelisa was nominated to deliver an oral presentation on "The role of viperin in beta cell survival during the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes" at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2021, held virtually on Friday 23 April, where she was announced the winner.
A virus inhibitory protein called Viperin has been studied for its role in protecting against viral attack. Interestingly, some studies have also identified the induction of Viperin in human pancreatic islets exposed to immune response mediators or viruses and in the blood of people at risk of type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes results from the autoimmune destruction of pancreatic islets beta cells. Beta-cells produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose. Nelisa's research investigated the role of Viperin in immune-mediated beta-cell death, finding that Viperin might play a role in beta-cell survival during the development of type 1 diabetes.
Nelisa graduated with a BSc in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from Jacobs University Bremen in Germany in 2014, before undertaking a Master's degree at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology. In 2016, she was awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to read for a DPhil at DPAG. This award from Diabetes UK recognises and highlights Nelisa's scientific accomplishments in this field as a promising young researcher.