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Zombie apocalypse or environmental saviours? SITC holds one-off session on the incredible world of fungi

1 February 2024

On Wednesday 7 February the SITC will hold a one-off session looking at how the remarkable and diverse properties of fungi can be harnessed to improve human health, tackle environmental and engineering challenges and increase food security.

Fungi – including yeasts, moulds, and mushrooms - are a life form all their own: neither plant, animal nor bacteria, though they are closer to animals than plants. They have unique properties with wide ecological and economic functions, and already some everyday products use fungi or their derivatives. 

This one-off session will explore the remarkable potential of the applications of fungi in areas as diverse as reaching Net Zero, reducing plastic and other forms of pollution, as a food source and in improving other food production, and in mental health and medical applications.  

The session will also explore some of the risks and drawbacks of fungi, which can cause disease in plants and animals including humans. We know that one fungus, cordyceps, can infect and completely “take over” the life functions of insects like ants. Could they really start the zombie apocalypse as depicted in the video game and TV series The Last of Us?  


Wednesday 7 February, Committee Room 8, Palace of Westminster

From 9:30am 

  • Dr Merlin Sheldrake, Biologist and Author  
  • Professor Irina Druzhinina, Senior Research Lead in Fungal Diversity and Systematics, Royal Botanical Gardens Kew 

At approx 10.15am 

  • Professor Katie Field, Professor of Plant-Soil Processes, University of Sheffield  
  • Professor Paul Dyer, Professor of Fungal Biology, University of Nottingham  

At approx 11.00am 

  • Professor Matthew Fisher, Professor of Fungal Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London 
  • Professor Marc Stadler (virtual), Head of Microbial Drugs, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research

Further information

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