9:30am – 13:00pm, 14th June 2011, The Innovation Centre, Exeter
Enterprise Europe Network South West is holding an event in Exeter on the opportunities for European funding for environmental projects.
Attendees will learn what European funding is available for projects, via the Environment thematic area of FP7 and the CIP Eco Innovation Programme. The event will provide opportunities to meet with regional and national support teams and network with potential partners and experienced FP7 and CIP Eco-innovation participants. In addition there will be an introduction to the Eurostars and Research for SME’s programmes.
The event, organised in partnership with the South West Environmental iNet and the Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network, will also provide details on how to access further support and how to write proposals. In addition, there will be a case study from an organisation that has successfully accessed European funding. A buffet lunch will be provided and the speakers will be available for 15 minute 1:1 sessions in the afternoon, booking will be undertaken on the day of the event.
The event will be of interest to businesses, academics and other interested parties seeking EU funding in the following areas of:
• Coping with climate change
• Sustainable use and management of resources
• Improving resource efficiency
• Protecting citizens from environmental hazards
• Mobilizing environmental knowledge for policy, industry and society
• Materials and process recycling;
• Sustainable building materials;
• Environmental sustainability in the food and drink sector;
• Greening business models and green procurement solutions
- European businesses invest in eco-innovation to hurdle rising materials costs (ecomagnificent.com)
- 10 years of eco innovation (conversations.nokia.com)
Master Class Series at the Institute of Biosensing Technology, University of the West of England, Bristol
The Insititute of Biosensing Technology is holding a series of Master Classes in June looking at different sensor technologies, from stem cells to MEMS and biophotonics.
The Master Classes Series provides a relaxed forum to learn of key emerging and potentially disruptive technologies in the life sciences. Presented by expert practitioners in the field, drawn from academia, public sector laboratories and commerce, the informal lectures will describe the technology, discuss current research and describe some application areas in the commercial market place. The master classes are targeted at Senior Managers and Technical Officers who need to keep abreast of key technology developments. The classes will typically last for three hours and will include ample opportunity for discussions with peers and experts in a relaxed environment.
STEM Cells: 21 June, 3pm- 6pm
Dr Craig Donaldson, University of the West of England, Bristol
Dr Ruth Morse, University of the West of England, Bristol
STEM cells are found in all multi-cellular organisms and can divide and differentiate into specialised cells found in different tissues and organs. There are two main sources of stem cells; embryonic stem cells which have the ability to differentiate into many different cell types, whereas the second source of stem cell, from adults, are more restricted in the number of different cell types that they can generate. The plasticity of stem cells enables the development of new therapeutic avenues for the treatment of degenerative disease such as Parkinson’s disease and regeneration of tissues that may have been lost through trauma. Notwithstanding the potential benefits offered by stem cells there are a number of safety and ethical considerations that impact on the use of stem cells. The Master Class will discuss the generation of embryonic and adult stem cells and their potential for therapy and an introduction to the ethical issues surrounding the use of stem cells.
Venue: Room 2A27, University of the West of England, Bristol
Biosensors: 28 June, 3pm- 6pm
Prof Tony Killard, University of the West of England, Bristol
Dr Roy Pemberton, University of the West of England, Bristol
Biosensors combine a biological component, which can offer exquisite selectivity of detection, with a physical component to provide the readout mechanism. The biological element includes antibodies and enzymes which offer highly selective and sensitive detection chemistries. A wide range of readout transducers, e.g. building on recent advances in nanotechnology and photonics, are now available. Applications range from laboratory based systems for high throughput measurements to hand held systems for point of care or other in the field measurements. Examples of commercial biosensors include the blood glucose sensor and pregnancy kits. A wide range of biosensors are now emerging, e.g. to detect illicit substances such as drugs or explosives, to determine the quality of food or to identify the presence of infections such as MRSA or C. Difficile. This Master Class will review the wide range of technologies that biosensors can employ and give specific examples of cutting edge technologies developed for particular applications such as point-of-care diagnostics or environmental analysis.
Venue: Room 2A27, University of the West of England, Bristol
MEMS: 6 July, 3pm- 6pm
Dr Ian Sturland, Micro and Nano Technology Engineering, Advanced Technology Centre, BAE SYSTEMS
Dr Tim Cox, Institute of Bio-Sensing Technology, UWE Bristol
MEMS: Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS) technology offers the possibility of producing a wide range of miniaturised sensors and actuators in silicon based technology. Devices range from physical sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes through chemical and biological sensors to complete miniaturised micro-laboratories on a chip. Example applications include inertial sensors for navigation, microphones for mobile phones and point of care sensors for medical diagnostics. This Master Class will review the application of MEMS devices and give specific examples of where the technology has been developed for life science applications.
Venue: Felixstowe Court Boardroom, University of the West of England, Bristol
Biophotonics: 13 July, 3pm- 6pm
Dr Catherine Kendall, Biophotonics Research Group, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Gloucester
Dr Darren Reynolds, University of the West of England, Bristol
Biophotonics –The interaction of photons with biological systems provides a very flexible diagnostic probe both for the investigation of fundamental processes in living systems and also as a diagnostic tool. Photons are particularly useful for in-vivo measurements as they may be able to penetrate inside the organism or may be transported into organism, e.g. to investigate sensitive organs, via thin catheters. Spatial resolution is possible from the macroscale, e.g. 3D imaging of an organism down to the nano-scale where imaging at the sub –cell level is possible. There are a wide range of photonics based spectroscopies which may be used for as the basis of a wide range of applications. These include sensitive assays for point of care diagnostics and the early identification of cancerous tissue within the body or in pathological samples. This Master class will review principals of biophotonics and spectroscopic methods giving examples how these are used for diagnostic applications.
Venue: Felixstowe Court Boardroom, University of the West of England, Bristol
Cost: £ 50.00 per session *Multiple session registration discount available*
If you would like to find out more about this event, please contact:
Denise Hope or Urszula Strzemiecka
Institute of Bio-Sensing Technology
Tel: +44(0)117 32 81110
Bristol University’s Cryptography Group has received nearly £1 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council UK (EPSRC) with the aim of transforming security applications in the future.
The grant will enable the research group, led by Nigel Smart, Professor of Cryptology in the Department of Computer Science, to continue their work on forms of technology that enables computing on encrypted data, such as fully homomorphic encryption and multi-party computation. The project aims to take these theoretical approaches and examine more closely the barriers to true practicality and will have wide- ranging impact on areas as diverse as database access, electronic auctions and electronic voting.
The new grant is in addition to another grant from the US agency, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for research on fully homomorphic encryption.
“It is really important that the UK invests in research in this area, as the potential benefits if we can make this technology practical could be immense,” said Professor Nigel Smart. “However, the timeline to a useable practical realisation could be many years. This investment by EPSRC shows a deep understanding of the long-term nature of the contribution of university research to the competitiveness of UK plc.”
In 2009 Craig Gentry from IBM came up with the first scheme which simultaneously allows you to “add” and “multiply” ciphertexts. Gentry’s scheme, although an amazing theoretical breakthrough is not practical, and last year the group at Bristol showed how one could instantiate Craig Gentry’s breakthrough 2009 scheme by simplifying the key generation and encryption procedures to produce a partially working system.
- Making cloud computing more secure – Homomorphic Encryption (technologyreview.com)
- Homomorphic Encryption (technologyreview.in)
- DARPA Will Spend $20 Million To Search For Crypto’s Holy Grail (blogs.forbes.com)
- Homomorphic Encryption (technologyreview.com)
- DARPA spends $20 million on homomorphic encryption (i-programmer.info)
- Ten Technologies Set to Transform Our World Identified by MIT Technology Review (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
Two University of Bath students have won a national competition after founding a company which aims to reduce the cost of keeping track of possessions.
First year students Baran Ceylan and Matt Manders created the RECollar Pet ID Tag, which aims to look after wandering pets. The £4.99 unit allows owners to help ensure the safety of nomadic pets by storing crucial information, such as personal details or even illnesses and ailments but are now looking at a system using cell towers to keep track as well.
- Bath scientists find ‘switch’ that could help design new vaccines and treatments for auto-immune diseases (swinnovation.co.uk)
- Easily locate cell phone using mobile phone spy software (mygreatreviewsite.wordpress.com)
Bristol startup Gnodal has opened a US office in California as it launches its first products – high speed switches for data centres.
Gnodal has developed a new chip that provides 1.5 Terabits of non-blocking, ultra-low latency switching to the data centre with lower power, and has used these in switches that sit in the racks in the data centre. The chip also allows the switches to sit anywhere in the network (as often you need different devices at the edge or in the middle of the network) and can be used for massive networks with up to 64,000 ports.
“The GS-Series creates a truly scalable family of Ethernet building blocks, enabling network expansion to occur without the traditional latency penalties associated with adding another switch to the fabric,” said Fred Homewood, CEO at Gnodal. “We looked to address some of the historic challenges of Ethernet in congestion, scalability, power, and latency and have built the GS-Series to target these high performance data center requirements with our revolutionary technology. Our products finally enable large, low latency, flat fabrics to be built by allowing Gnodal Ethernet to extend the capabilities of the Ethernet standard with minimal complexity, offering an overall more efficient use of capital equipment in the data centre.”
The GS series of switches will be ready at the end of the quarter.
Two innovative SouthWest silicon chip companies has been bought have been bought in recent weeks.
The Icera deal allows NVIDIA add baseband and RF capability to its Tegra microprocessors to put into tablet PCs, giving them ‘always on’ data connections “This is a key step in NVIDIA’s plans to be a major player in the mobile computing revolution,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, President and CEO of NVIDIA. “Adding Icera’s technology to Tegra gives us an outstanding platform to support the industry’s best phones and tablets.”
Icera has more than 550 patents granted or pending worldwide, and its high speed wireless-modem products have been approved by more than 50 carriers across the globe. “Icera is a perfect fit for NVIDIA. Our businesses are complementary. Icera has the right team, with a strong, proven track record. And their nimble, entrepreneurial, engineering-focused culture mirrors our own,” said Huang.
“NVIDIA’s Tegra processor has the most impressive roadmap in the industry, and it is an ideal match for Icera,” said Stan Boland, President and CEO of Icera. “As part of NVIDIA, we will be able to reach a broader market. Our team has collaborated closely with NVIDIA for several years on a range of projects, and we’re delighted to be joining forces.”
Icera is one of the prominent players in the mobile broadband market, in particular the US market, say Sravan Kundojjala & Christopher Taylor, Analysts at Strategy Analytics, pointing out that “Icera’s soft modem basebands gained good traction among European and North American wireless operators in 2010 for the current 3G and next generation (known as LTE) of mobile broadband. Although the chips have not made it into mobile phone handsets, a version that supports voice is due out at the end of the year.
This follows the $34m acquisition of Nanotech last month. The company designs chips for communications networks.
- NVIDIA snaps up software baseband maker Icera (arstechnica.com)
- NVIDIA and ICERA Create Serious Competition for Qualcomm and Others (slashgear.com)
- NVIDIA Sets Its Sights on Qualcomm (fool.com)
- Nvidia To Buy Mobile Chipmaker Icera (informationweek.com)
- Nvidia Buys Phone Chip Maker (online.wsj.com)
The technologies of light are set to have a huge impact on the green economy. Photovoltaic solar panels are set to become a viable supplement to electricity generation.
Whilst solid state lighting with LEDs can drastically reduce the electricity required to light our homes and businesses. LED and PV technologies have much in common, both are based on semiconductors, both operate at low voltage, both need high efficiency, both require initial investment with long return, both require new approaches for building integration and both will see huge growth in the next few years.
This event is for anyone advising on or working with renewable energy solutions, those looking to understand developments in PV and LED lighting, how they compare, and the prospects for them being used together. Given the potential, an interactive roundtable discussion will seek to identify the issues with combining PV and LEDs on a larger scale, the road blocks, when such combined deployments can be expected and what their impact would be.
The University of Bath is hosting this seminar in Lecture Theatre 2.1, Building 3E Claverton Campus, Bath, BA2 7AY. Directions available at www.bath.ac.uk/maps and advanced registration is required at www.regonline.co.uk/lightingenergy
Brunel and Dyson beat Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as biggest engineering pioneers in GE survey
The SouthWest is home to the most inspiring engineers in the world, according to a poll of UK engineering students. the survey by General electric shows that engineering appeals to a new generation of young minds and that the impact on society is seen as a bigger influence than salary and career. Asked the question, “Who do you consider to be your hero/icon in your field?” students gave a fascinating range of answers, from well-known historical figures such as Brunel, Einstein and Newton, to modern day technology icons such as Steve Jobs and James Dyson. Brunel and Dyson, both from the SouthWest, top the poll ahead of the US entrepreneurs.
The Top 10 Engineering Heroes are:
- Isambard Kingdom Brunel – leading civil engineer of 19th Century, built bridges, dockyards and railways.
- James Dyson – industrial designer who developed a new generation of vacuum cleaners and actively supports engineering projects in the UK.
- Steve Jobs – co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc., which developed some of the most iconic personal technology products including the Mark II computer and iPod.
- Nikola Tesla – inventor and engineer whose work formed the basis of modern alternating current electric power systems.
- Bill Gates – co-founder and Chairman of Microsoft, who developed the industry standard operating system for personal computers.
- Frank Whittle – RAF engineer who is credited with inventing the first jet propulsion engine.
- Isaac Newton – physicist and theoretician who developed the concepts of mechanics, gravity and the laws of motion and invented the reflecting telescope.
- Albert Einstein – theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity and is considered the founder of modern physics.
- Charles Rolls & Henry Royce – developed early engine technology and luxury motor vehicles.
- Thomas Edison – inventor of the first commercially viable light bulb, motion picture camera and phonograph who revolutionised electrics and communications.
“Our research shows that iconic figures – both historic and modern – continue to inspire a new generation of engineers,” said Mark Elborne, President and CEO of GE UK. “We continue to see the impact of these icons all around us today; and our research shows that we have a proud tradition of pioneers and innovators in this country, which should be celebrated. With the very significant environmental, energy and healthcare challenges we face today and will face in the future, it is critical that we continue to inspire young people into engineering and science, nurturing future generations of Brunels, Newtons and Edisons.”
The research also looked at the innovations that most inspired this new generation of engineers, with the top five being:
- Computers and Electronics
- Communications Technology
- Transportation Technology
- Power and Energy Technology
- Manufacturing and Materials
The GE Young Minds Monitor also looked at what students saw as the biggest challenges that engineering technology should look to address:
- Food, Water and Natural Resources
- Societal Issues
- Quality of Education
The study indicated that young people are increasingly positive about the prospects of engineering technology in the UK. 92% of students say that engineering technology has a “positive image” and the same number was confident or very confident about their career prospects on graduation.
“In today’s celebrity obsessed culture, there is a risk that engineering will not be seen as particularly trendy,” said Elborne. “However it is crucial to our economic growth and prosperity; to our international competitiveness as well as to our future. It is refreshing to see that a new generation is turning toengineering – not just because of the career or salary prospects, but because engineering gives them the skills and tools to address some of the world’s biggest challenges. This in itself is inspiring and very encouraging.”
Both lecturers and students see developing a more positive societal attitude regarding the benefits of engineering (86% and 77%) and investment in higher education and vocational training (82% and 64%) as the most important ingredients for developing a best in class engineering technology culture in the UK.
- James Dyson: Reinventing Britain (guardian.co.uk)
- Steve Jobs Ranked Third in Engineering Heroes List (pcworld.com)
- Design and technology must survive the curriculum review – Dyson (guardian.co.uk)
- Dyson: The corridors of brain power (independent.co.uk)
The SouthWest figures heavily in the 50th anniversary of the microchip this week, says SiliconSouthWest.
The silicon integrated circuit (IC, left) as we know it was patented by Fairchild Semiconductor’s Robert Noyce who received the first patent for a commercially available silicon IC on the 25th of April 1961. Plessey Semiconductor in Swindon was developing a silicon chip at the same time following the first chip (in a different technology) shown by Texas Instruments a few years earlier in 1958. Fairchild set up in Swindon in 1972, with Intel close by in 1974.
The National Microelectronics Institute (NMI) highlights the current state of the art for microchip technology with SouthWest activity from the University of Southampton, Toumaz in Oxford, Imagination Technology in Chepstow, Dialog Semiconductor in Swindon and Plessey Semiconductors in Plymouth and Swindon.
The UK is home to over 40 per cent of Europe’s independent electronic design community and its 11,500 companies and 250,000 people form an ecosystem worth £23 billion per year to the British economy, with the largest cluster of silicon designers here in the SouthWest. “You only have to look inside your mobile phone to see the British contribution,” said Dr Derek Boyd, head of the NMI. “You will likely find an ARM processor, a CSR Bluetooth and GPS chip, a Dialog Semiconductor power management device and an Imagination Technologies graphics core.”
“The UK’s microelectronics sector continues to be at the forefront of this innovation,” said Dr Boyd. “UK based researchers, technologists and manufacturers are creating chips and systems capable of genetic disease detection, determining the build up of pollutants in the oceans, emitting light that sterilises drinking water or medical instruments, analysing the structural integrity of high-speed rail lines, and the early identification of injuries in racehorses.”
- A chip capable of detecting single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) inDNA has been developed which gives results in minutes – DNA amplification, sequencing and analysis typically takes days. The device can be configured to detect any SNP, making it applicable to medicine, agriculture and pharmacology. The technology has been developed by Professor Chris Toumazou, founder and CEO of Toumaz Technologies and DNA Electronics.
- Researchers at Southampton University have created a chip to detect nutrients and pollutants at the ultra low concentrations found in the ocean. Developed in collaboration with the National Oceanography Centre, the ‘labon chip’ is capable of capable of measuring temperature, salinity, and the concentrations of nitrites, nitrates, phosphate, iron and manganese
- Plessey Semiconductor, in collaboration with Cambridge University, is developing an LED (light emitting diode) that uses Gallium Nitride to releaselight at wavelengths lethal to bacteria – 265nm. The low cost technology will be made available during this decade and be powered by solar cells. Plessey believes it will be adopted in developing economies or disaster zones to create clean drinking water, and in the developed world to replace chlorine sterilisation methods. Additional uses include the sterilisation of medical instruments.
- Accelerometer chips are being developed at the University of Southampton that, among other applications, are capable of detecting weaknesses in high-speed rail networks. The highly sensitive chips monitor how a section of track behaves whilst a train is on it. Any changes in behaviour can be used to determine changes in its structural integrity.
The NMI has also highlighted transport, digital media, communications, healthcare and smart energy grids as key growth areas for the electronics industry, all strong areas for the SouthWest.
- Intel chips grow up; Company says 3-D transistors will allow for microprocessors that are smaller, faster and more efficient (bendbulletin.com)
- Intel to use vertical FINFET transistors in chips by year end – video and update (The Embedded Blog)
Researchers at the University of Southampton have designed a new pricing mechanism that could change the way in which electric vehicles are charged. It is based on an online auction protocol that makes it possible to charge electric vehicles without overloading the local electricity network.
The paper – Online Mechanism Design for Electric Vehicle Charging – was presented this week at AAMAS 2011, Tenth Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, and outlines a system where electric vehicle owners use computerised agents to bid for the power to charge the vehicles and also organise time slots when a vehicle is available for charging.
“Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are expected to place a considerable strain on local electricity distribution networks. If many vehicles charge simultaneously, they may overload the local distribution network, so their charging needs to be carefully scheduled,” said Dr Alex Rogers, University of Southampton computer scientist and one of the authors.
To address this issue, Dr Rogers and his team turned to the field of online mechanism design. They designed a mechanism that allows vehicle owners to specify their requirements (for example, when they need the vehicle and how far they expect to drive). The system then automatically schedules charging of the vehicles’ batteries. The mechanism ensures that there is no incentive to ‘game the system’ by reporting that the vehicle is need earlier than is actually the case, and those users who place a higher demand on the system are automatically charged more than those who can wait.
“The mechanism leaves some available units of electricity un-allocated. This is counter-intuitive since it seems to be inefficient but it turns out to be essential to ensure that the vehicle owners don’t have to delay plugging-in or misreport their requirements, in an attempt to get a better deal,” said Dr Enrico Gerding, the lead author of the paper.
In a study based on the performance of currently available electric vehicles, performed by Dr Valentin Robu and Dr Sebastien Stein, the mechanism was shown to increase the number of electric vehicles that can be charged overnight, within a neighbourhood of 200 homes, by as much as 40 per cent.
The research follows on from Dr Rogers’ and Professor Nick Jennings’ work on developing agents that can trade on the stock market and manage crisis communications and Dr Rogers’ iPhone application, GridCarbon for measuring the carbon intensity of the UK grid.
- Electric vehicles ‘may be costlier’ (autonetinsurance.co.uk)
- Fast charging station for electric vehicles (physorg.com)
- New iPhone App for EV Drivers (energyrefuge.com)
- What BMW Really Thinks About Electric Vehicles (fastcompany.com)
- GE to Buy 25,000 Electric Vehicles (brainz.org)
Atego is the leading independent supplier of industrial-grade, collaborative development tools that are used for developing complex, mission-critical and safety-critical systems, from the architectures to the software and hardware.
“The acquisition of HighRely is all about scale, growth and continuing to deliver on our Work-as-One strategy to enable engineers to easily meet the difficult challenges involved in designing complex, critical systems,” said James Gambrell, Chairman of Atego. “HighRely’s expertise in the aerospace and avionics markets adds considerable breadth and depth to our solutions and services for critical system design and development, reinforcing our position in the market and boosting our potential for growth. The unparalleled industry knowledge, expertise and ongoing commitment of HighRely’s employees will also add significantly to our global expansion plans. This acquisition is key for Atego and we plan to invest in the growth of the HighRely business, while continuing to service HighRely’s loyal customers”
Based in Phoenix, Arizona, HighRely supplies tools for developing aerospace and avionics systems, medical equipment, nuclear and transportation systems, covering the whole project lifecycle from application planning, specification and design through to build, testing, verification, certification and implementation. It has North America’s largest Avionics Certification Centre and provides more certified avionics engineers than any other services company. HighRely’s engineers have worked on over 60% of all major commercial and military aircraft developed in the past decade.
“Atego has an enviable reputation for providing robust products and services for complex, critical system and software development,” added Vance Hilderman, President of HighRely. “Our tools and services are the perfect complement to Atego’s highly successful, market-leading solutions portfolio and our skill-base will provide added impetus for growth in Atego’s key market segments.”
Under the terms of the agreement with HighRely, Atego is acquiring the company and all its assets, including service offerings, products and intellectual property. The acquisition will see all of HighRely’s employees, Phoenix headquarters and Avionics Certification Center, ongoing customer commitments and partner relationships integrated into Atego’s global business operations.
Bath scientists find ‘switch’ that could help design new vaccines and treatments for auto-immune diseases
Researchers at the University of Bath have determined a new structure of an important complex in the human immune system that could be the key to designing vaccines and treatments for autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Dr Jean van den Elsen of the University of Bath and Dr David Isenman of the University of Toronto show how a new understanding of the structure of this immune system complex has important medical implications. An atomic structure of the complex, which is key to the development of immunity against microbial pathogens and a potential target for the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as MS and SLE, was first published in Science in 2001, but it was recently determined to be incorrect by the two researchers.
Dr van den Elsen and Dr Isenman have spent a decade studying the complex and decided to reanalyse its structure to develop a correct understanding of its atomic details. “The research looks at a complex between two proteins, one from the complement system – a part of our innate immune system that is present from the beginnings of our lives – and another from the adaptive immune system,” said Dr van den Elsen. “It has become understood in recent years that the complement system also has a role in ‘kick-starting’ the adaptive immune system – the part of our immune system that reacts to pathogens as we are exposed to them, by developing antibodies.”
The researchers focused on a particular protein, C3, in the complement system and its molecular partner complement receptor 2 (CR2) on the surface of B cells, the antibody producing cells of the adaptive immune system.
C3 breaks down to produce a fragment called C3d when attached to a pathogenic antigen which is then able to act as a ‘bridge’ between the innate and adaptive immune systems by connecting the antigen recognition entity of the B cell (the B cell receptor, BCR) with the complement receptor.
This then boosts the immune system by increasing the production of antibodies that attack the pathogen.
The interaction between C3d and CR2 therefore acts to increase the sensitivity at which a pathogen is recognised and reacted to in the body, which is essential in keeping us healthy from disease.
This characteristic has important implications for the design of new vaccines against diseases caused by microbial pathogens
However, this process can go wrong, with the immune system mistaking a part of the body as a pathogen and attacking it, resulting in an autoimmune disease.
Dr Isenman said: “To treat antibody-mediated autoimmune diseases there is a potential to target the ‘bridging’ action of C3d with CR2, through designing drugs that would inhibit the interaction.
“However, due to the misunderstandings caused by the previous structure of the complex, over the past ten years progress in this field has been delayed.”
The findings will end a decade-long controversy regarding the structure of this important part of the immune system, and marks a turning point in science’s ability to develop treatments for a subset of autoimmune diseases.
Dr van den Elsen said: “The new structure is very different to the previous one, but its features conform to all existing biochemical data.
“With the issues relating to the structure of this complex now resolved we hope to take our research forward and use this as a platform to design inhibitory compounds that may be useful in treating antibody-mediated autoimmune diseases.”
The authors of the current study recognise that this goal will not be easy to achieve and that there is a great deal of research still to be done.
However, this discovery is a key milestone in the development of a treatment for antibody-mediated autoimmune diseases and the structural scaffold on which all future progress is based is now firmly in place.
- Understanding Autoimmunity (everydayhealth.com)
A University of Bristol academic has been awarded over £2 million by the Medical Research Council (MRC) to look into the neural network basis of learning, memory and decision-making in health and disease.
The majority of the grant will fund Dr Matt Jones’ MRC Senior Non-clinical Research Fellowship, entitled ‘Control of neuronal networks and cognitive behaviour by deep brain, transcranial and optogenetic stimulation’.
“Your brain is constantly doing sums, weighing-up past experience and the current situation in order to decide how best to behave. Unfortunately, patients with brain diseases like schizophrenia have trouble coping with these decisions that most of us take for granted. Electrical activity in different parts of their brains becomes subtly uncoordinated, making it difficult to see the wood for the trees,” said Dr Jones, Senior Research Fellow in the University’s School of Physiology and Pharmacology.
“This project will use stimulation techniques designed to control the brain’s electrical signalling (very carefully – you wouldn’t notice if it was done to you) to see if we can re-coordinate brain activity at important times such as during decisions and therefore improve cognitive performance,” he said.
In a second MRC-funded project led by co-applicants Professors Lawrence Wilkinson, Mike Owen and Mick O’Donovan of Cardiff University, Dr Jones’ lab will contribute to a study of schizophrenia risk genes. Understanding the genetic basis of the disease is central to designing new therapies.
Dr Jones said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to unite the internationally recognised strengths of Cardiff and Bristol’s geneticists and neuroscientists. This project evolved from a pilot funded by the Severnside Alliance for Translational Research (SARTRE), and we are delighted that the MRC continues to recognise what hotbed of translational neuroscience Bristol and Cardiff represent.”
- Brain function linked to birth size in groundbreaking new study (eurekalert.org)