History of the Fungal Infection Trust (FIT)

The FIT was established as a Charity and Company Limited by Guarantee in 2012 as a successor to the Fungal Research Trust (FRT).

The FRT was a UK-based not-for-profit charity formed in 1991 with the following objectives which were adopted by the FIT:

  1.  To advance education particularly amongst physicians and scientists about mycology, fungal diseases, fungal toxicology and microbial disease in general.
  2. To promote research in all aspects of mycology, fungal diseases, fungal toxicology and microbial disease (of all living things) and to publish the useful results thereof.
  3. Generally to support basic research into fungi and fungal disease, train scientists in mycology and related disciplines.

The change of name from FRT to FIT was designed to better reflect these same objectives.

Since inception, the FRT and FIT have given grants of £4,370,500, including approximately 25% towards supporting the Aspergillus Website and LIFE-Worldwide.

In 1998, the FRT initiated the Aspergillus Website which the FIT continues to support. The Aspergillus Website is the world’s most comprehensive repository for all information on this large group of important fungi, and the diseases it produces. A large section is devoted to patients and relatives, attempting to answer most of their questions and provide up to date information.

The FIT elected to focus on building one centre of excellence in fungal disease in the UK and in 2009 this goal was realised in the creation of the NHS National Aspergillosis Centre in Manchester, UK. This was the world’s first nationally recognised centre for any fungal disease.

In 2012, the FIT developed the LIFE-Worldwide, a global educational resource for fungal diseases, in English and Spanish.

In 2016, the Microfungi course was launched by the FIT, an open access, free educational course on recognising fungi in samples and tissue for laboratory healthcare workers. Subsequently this was translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese.

The FIT has distributed research grants to UK and overseas Universities and hospitals and contributed to numerous travel awards and some student fees for postgraduate qualifications.

The FIT has supported directly or indirectly several post-graduate degrees. Several of FIT’s alumni have been very successful:

  • Dr Peter Warn PhD (2003) went on to found Evotec in Manchester in 2009. Euprotec employed 15 people with an annual turnover of £1.5m until acquired by Evotec in 2014. Evotec expanded and in 2020 consolidated with Sanofi infectious diseases research in Lyon, Toulouse, Germany and Verona to form the largest industrial group in infectious diseases discovery worldwide, with over 200 staff in anti-infectives, pharmacology and toxicology.
  • Professor William Hope (PhD 2006) was key to formation of the National Aspergillosis Centre as a Consultant in Infectious Diseases and then went on to be appointed a Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Liverpool. He is currently the Dame Sally Davies Professor of Antimicrobial Resistance Research, University of Liverpool.
  • Professor Alessandro Pasqualotto (Clinical Fellow, 2004-2007) is currently Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Federal University of Health Sciences of Porto Alegre (UFCSPA), Brazil. He is Medical Director of the Molecular Biology Laboratory and chairs the Brazilian National Institute of Science and Technology of Innovation in Molecular Diagnosis.
  • Dr Susan Howard (PhD 2009) was a key member of the Mycology Reference Centre Manchester, a core element of the National Aspergillosis Centre, until 2012. She then became a National Institute of Health Research Programme Manager and is now Workforce Collaborative Programme Lead at the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Dr Felix Bongomin (MSc 2017) is currently a Lecturer in Microbiology at Gulu University Medical School, Uganda. He has written extensively following his 3 year period in Manchester and is now the most cited author in Africa on aspergillosis.

It also has provided many short term opportunities for school students to experience science and/or medicine, one of whom was successful in winning the 13th European Union Contest for Young Scientists.

The research grants awarded by the FIT have resulted in many research publications in clinical and scientific aspects of fungal infection. The infrastructure and personnel supported by the FIT have been influential in setting standards for resistance testing in fungi, clarifying the role of new drugs in treatment, understanding mechanisms of resistance, understanding how Aspergillus grows and what influences it, and initiating the Aspergillus fumigatus genome sequencing project.

The FIT has directly supported major conferences on fungal infections throughout the world for clinicians and scientists.