09 - 2011 Press Releases

Queen’s award-winning team ‘Flished’ with success

An enterprising Queen’s team who have developed an innovative new antenna which could make satellite dishes a thing of the past are ‘flying high’ after their invention signalled success at the NISP CONNECT £25K Awards last night.

Flish won a total prize fund of £13,000 as overall winners of the technology entrepreneur awards which are sponsored by the Bank of Ireland UK, Queen’s, University of Ulster and AFBI (Agri Food and Biosciences Institute) and supported by NI’s Health and Social Care Trusts. Designed as a commercial experience, the Awards aim to encourage researchers to act on their talents, ideas and energy to produce tomorrow’s leading commercial opportunities.

The innovative equipment developed by Flish is a high gain antenna which can ‘point’ to distant signals such as a satellite. It does not need to be aligned like a satellite dish, and has no moving parts. It enables satellite dishes to be replaced with flat panels on walls or roof tiles that need no set-up or calibration and will have particular relevance to the commercial satellite broadband market with the long-term aim of replacing the cumbersome domestic satellite dishes. It also has potential application in transportation as it can fit around the curves of vehicles or aircraft, and in situations where rapid response is essential such as incidents when a team may only have minutes to set up a lifesaving video link.

Dr Neil Buchanan from Flish said: “It is a great honour to be crowned the overall winner of the £25K Awards. We have worked in conjunction with the European Space Agency to fine tune our unique analogue circuit design and have been able to produce an end product that is more power efficient, lighter and less costly than anything else currently available. The global market value of antennas was estimated to be $10.1billion in 2009 and expected to increase to $13.3billion in 2014 and we believe our innovation has the potential to be a real game changer for the industry. We plan to capitalise on our learning experiences from the £25Ks to seek funding to see the business through to profitability.”

Queen’s scored a hat-trick in this year’s awards. Two other Queen’s entrants won their respective categories, as follows, each picking up a cheque for £2,500:

  • BioTech: OncoTech, which developed the Ran Biomarker, a diagnostic assay suitable for both tissue and blood that can identify cancer patients at high risk of metastasis.
  • CleanTech: BMT, which developed a device for measuring the temperature of a polymer preform profile during the injection stretch blow moulding process largely used in the multi-billion pound packaging industry.

NISP CONNECT Director, Steve Orr, said: “The £25K Awards offers a showcase for regional research talent to display their world-class innovations while providing a valuable training and development process towards commercialisation of their innovations. I would like to congratulate all the category winners for their innovative entries. However, special acknowledgement must go to the overall winners, Flish, who wowed the judges with their pioneering antenna device, which offers great commercial potential.”

The awards were presented at a gala ceremony in the Titanic’s Dock & Pump-House at the Northern Ireland Science Park.

Top of Page

Chocolate lovers recruited to prevent heart disease

Scientists from Queen’s and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust are calling for volunteers to take part in a study which will examine the potential health benefits of eating dark chocolate.

If you are aged between 40-65 years, have high blood pressure and no history of diabetes, then the research team would like to hear from you.

The aim of the study is to find out if a high fruit and vegetable diet incorporating dark chocolate and berries – which are all rich in compounds called polyphenols - can reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

As part of the three-year study, one group of patients will be placed on a diet low in fruit and vegetables. Another group will be encouraged to eat a high polyphenol diet of six portions of fruit and vegetables, including one portion of berries, each day, together with 50g of dark chocolate. People’s blood vessel health and the stickiness of their blood will be measured at the start and end of the study to discover whether a diet rich in polyphenols can reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

Professor Pascal McKeown of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and Queen’s University Belfast said: “This study will provide important information on the link between fruit and vegetable intake and health. The findings will then be used by health professionals to formulate messages about diet and lifestyle practices.”

The research is funded by Northern Ireland Chest, Heart & Stroke and the Northern Ireland Research and Development Office, Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety through a fellowship awarded to Dr Rebecca Noad.

Andrew Dougal, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Chest, Heart & Stroke said: "This is a great example of high quality research which has the potential to benefit first and foremost the people of Northern Ireland, but also has applications further afield. We hope it will provide a solid evidence base for fine-tuning the government's advice on healthy eating."

All participants will receive £120 plus reasonable travel expenses reimbursed, and those assigned to the high polyphenol group will have their fruit and vegetables and dark chocolate delivered to their home, free of charge.

If you are interested in taking part in the study, please contact Dr Rebecca Noad on 02890 633 108 or 07896 977 295.

For media inquiries please contact the Communications Office on 028 9097 3087/3091 or comms.office@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s University leads the way in speaking up for languages!

Queen’s University is leading the way in celebrating the European Day of Languages (EDL) on 26 September.  The day, which is in its tenth year, aims to celebrate the many languages that are spoken by all people currently living and working in Europe and the rich and diverse cultures that lie behind them.

The Northern Ireland Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (NICILT), based in Queen’s University’s School of Education, is responsible for co-ordinating and promoting the day in Northern Ireland.

Wendy Phipps, NICILT Executive Officer, said: “We have been celebrating European Day of Languages in Northern Ireland since 2002, and every year it gets bigger and better.   We aim to get everyone excited about languages and encourage learning about different languages and cultures.  Whether it is through competitions, parties, food markets, plays or dancing we want to encourage everyone, young and old regardless of ability to get involved with languages.

“We’re particularly keen to receive suggestions of exciting ideas for fun ways to celebrate language learning this year and would encourage anyone with an interest in languages to do something special on the day. If there is nothing planned in your area, why not arrange your own celebration to get people in your community excited about languages.

“With the Special Olympics and Paralympic Games in 2012 our country will be host to athletes and spectators from more than 220 countries across the globe so this is the ideal time to embrace learning about different languages and cultures.”

This year, the 10th birthday of EDL, is being celebrated in on Friday 23rd September at Lagan College, which itself is celebrating its 30th birthday.  A special EDL assembly, which will also be attended by invited guests, pupils and staff, will celebrate the diversity of the languages and cultures present in their school through song, prayers, talks and video.

For more information visit www.qub.ac.uk/edu/nicilt  or contact Wendy Phipps on 028 9097 5955.

Top of Page

‘Community’ medicine sought for tomorrow’s doctors
Professor Sheena Lewis
Professor Sheena Lewis
Local community organisations have the chance to take an active role in the training of Northern Ireland’s future doctors – thanks to a unique initiative by Queen’s medical school.

Over the past four years, Queen’s medical students have gained ‘hands on’ involvement in healthcare issues such as economic development, childcare and rural residential care through placement programmes with community groups.

Among the organisations which have taken part in the scheme are the Short Strand Community Centre and the Depaul Trust.  Now Queen’s is calling for more community groups to offer tomorrow’s doctors the chance to enhance their life skills through practical experience.

Professor Sheena Lewis said: “We at Queen’s give first, second and third year medical students the chance to study a topic outside the core curriculum, from a broad range of options based in the University, the  local hospitals, voluntary organisations and the community.

“Study opportunities in local hospitals and other organisations are well-established, but we are keen to build even more relationships with the community we serve. We would love to hear from any community healthcare organisation or project who may be able to help our students to acquire skills which will help make them better doctors in the future.”

Any community group in Northern Ireland wishing to take part in the placement programme should contact Dr Vivienne Crawford at v.crawford@qub.ac.uk or Professor Sheena Lewis at  s.e.lewis@qub.ac.uk

Media inquiries to: Anne Langford on 028 9097 5310, mob. 07815 871997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s pioneers prostate cancer breakthrough
Dr Joe O’Sullivan
Dr Joe O’Sullivan
Scientists at Queen’s have pioneered a new combination treatment for prostate cancer.  The treatment, which has been successful in phase one of trials, will now be tested for efficacy in a second phase.

The treatment, aimed at men with an advanced and aggressive form of prostate cancer which has spread to the bone, is the first of its kind to be developed.  It combines traditional chemotherapy treatments with two doses of a radioactive chemical which can target areas of the bone affected by prostate cancer.

Aggressive and advanced prostate cancer is responsible for around 10,000 deaths each year in the UK.  Chemotherapy is often used to treat the disease; however, benefits of this treatment are usually short-lived.  An ability to combine two different types of drugs against prostate cancer may help improve outcomes including survival for these men.

The results of the first phase of the trial, which are published in the European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, demonstrate that it is safe and feasible to combine multiple injections of the radioactive chemical (Rhenium-186 HEDP) along with standard chemotherapy in men with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Dr Joe O’Sullivan, Consultant and Senior Lecturer in Clinical Oncology at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University, and leader of the study, said: “This is a significant development in the fight against prostate cancer.  While this combination treatment still has to go to phase two of trials, to know that this combination is safe and feasible as a treatment is a huge step forward.

“Traditional chemotherapy treatments aren’t always effective in treating aggressive and advanced forms of prostate cancer, so we needed to develop a new treatment which will provide better outcomes for patients with this type of cancer.  The combination of chemotherapy with the radioactive chemical Rhenium-186 HEDP has the potential to improve outcomes, including survival, for men with this form of cancer.

“The second phase of the trial has already commenced in The Netherlands and will start in the UK within six months.   The trial will involve up to 100 patients from Northern Ireland and the Netherlands and it is hoped that results should be known within two years.”

For media inquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 00 44 (0) 2890975391 / 07814422572 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

‘Improve Children’s Lives’ plea to Northern Ireland Executive
Northern Ireland Junior Ministers Martina Anderson (fourth left) and Jonathan Bell (back, second right) with speakers and delegates at the ‘Improving Children’s Lives’ conference
Northern Ireland Junior Ministers Martina Anderson (fourth left) and Jonathan Bell (back, second right) with speakers and delegates at the ‘Improving Children’s Lives’ conference
The Northern Ireland Executive is being urged to improve local children’s lives by championing integrated planning processes for children’s services into a single coherent framework for action. The call to action was made as leading researchers, policy makers, commissioners and service providers met at Queen’s for a conference on “Improving Children’s Lives: Outcomes, Partnership and Planning”.

The event was co-hosted by the Improving Children’s Lives initiative (ICL), an inter-disciplinary network of leading researchers within Queen’s who work with children and young people; Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI); the Health and Social Care Board (HSC); and the Public Health Agency (PHA).

The conference addressed the issue of how all statutory bodies can work in partnership with the research community, voluntary and community sectors, to provide outcomes-focused services.

Geraldine Macdonald, Professor of Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast and Deputy Chair of the Improving Children’s Lives initiative, said: “History testifies that good intentions are not enough. We must be able to demonstrate that what we do improves children’s lives in ways that we intend, and in ways that matter. Setting clear, meaningful and measurable goals is at the heart of outcomes-based service planning.  This seminar brought together researchers, policy makers, commissioners, and service providers, to wrestle with the challenge of developing our professional accountability to children and young people.”

The conference was particularly timely in Northern Ireland, where the newly-established Children and Young People's Strategic Partnership (CYPSP) provides a mechanism through which all agencies can plan together for improved outcomes for children and young people.

For further information on ‘Improving Children’s Lives’, visit www.qub.ac.uk/icl

Media inquiries to: Anne Langford on 028 9097 5310, mob. 07815 871997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

‘D’ Day for the future of Northern Ireland universities
As 13,000 Northern Ireland sixth-formers descend on Queen’s for its annual ‘Open Days’, leading academic Professor Tony Gallagher has made a last minute plea to the First and Deputy First Ministers to ensure the future of higher education is secured for these and future generations of students.

Speaking ahead of today’s Northern Ireland Executive meeting, where a decision is likely on the future funding of higher education, Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Tony Gallagher said: “Over the next two days Queen’s will be showcasing all that is good about higher education to the very best of our students from across Northern Ireland. Yet, just weeks from them having to decide which university they would like to attend, they have no idea about the level of fees they will pay, what financial support will be available to them, or whether they will be forced out of a higher education place by increased competition from English students.

“Our local universities are also in a perilous position. Having already put plans in place to cut £28million from our budgets we are facing a further £40million cut which will bring devastating consequences to the local higher education sector, reduce Northern Ireland students to second-class citizens and further damage an already fragile economy.

“Decisions on the appropriate funding of higher education are urgently required if our universities are not to be damaged beyond repair, if thousands of jobs are not to be put in jeopardy and if our students are not to be hugely disadvantaged.

“Our local politicians have recognised the need to maintain a strong university sector in Northern Ireland. A decision today to maintain the level of investment in our universities would represent a massive endorsement by these politicians on the importance of retaining a world-class higher education sector; both in providing opportunities for our young people and supporting economic development in Northern Ireland.

“Indeed, only two months ago our First Minister Peter Robinson spoke of the importance of retaining world-class universities for the benefit of local students, how our universities were required to underpin the re-growing of our economy and how it was critical for the Executive to find a solution to this funding crisis. Today we look to Mr Robinson and his colleagues around the Executive table to fulfil that promise. The future of higher education in Northern Ireland is in their hands.”

Media inquiries to Kevin Mulhern, Head of Communications and External Affairs, 028 9097 3259 / 07813 015431, or email k.mulhern@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

‘Silo mentality must go’, says new Queen’s public sector expert
Professor Matthias Beck
Professor Matthias Beck

Increased co-operation across public sector functions is vital if quality service delivery in Northern Ireland is to be maintained in the current economic climate. That’s according to international public sector expert Professor Matthias Beck, who has recently joined the staff of Queen’s University Management School.

Dr Beck, previously Director of Research at the York Management School, has been appointed Professor of Public Sector Management at the University. His main research interests are in public sector finance, infrastructure procurement and public sector risk management.

Among his first tasks will be forging relationships with civil servants, elected representatives and business leaders to ascertain how best service quality can be maintained with lower resources.
He said: “Public sector management is an issue of significant economic importance in Northern Ireland, particularly in an era of cutbacks when politicians are looking for ‘more for less’.

“I firmly believe that an increased level of co-operation across functions is essential – we must dispense with any form of ‘silo mentality’.”

Professor Beck, who said he was attracted to Queen’s by its “outstanding academic reputation”, added: “I am delighted to be joining the Management School at such an exciting time, with the imminent opening of the University’s new £15 million executive and postgraduate education centre at Riddel Hall.”

Professor Beck was educated in Germany and the United States, receiving his doctorate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996. He has held lecturing posts at the University of Glasgow and the University of St Andrews, and was Professor of Risk Management at Glasgow Caledonian University from 1999 to 2005.

Professor Beck has recently completed a study on ‘The role and effectiveness of public-private partnerships in the development of enhanced primary care premises and services’ which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Service Delivery and Organisation (NIHR SDO) programme. He is now serving as a Lead Reviewer for this programme.

Media inquiries to: Anne Langford on 028 9097 5310, mob. 07815 871997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Queen’s-Almac cancer expert to lead £4.4m collaboration
Professor Richard Kennedy (left), who will lead a £4.4m cancer research collaboration between Almac and Queen’s, with Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences
Professor Richard Kennedy (left), who will lead a £4.4m cancer research collaboration between Almac and Queen’s, with Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences
An investment of £4.4m in a unique academic-business collaboration between pharmaceutical development company Almac and Queen’s will help develop better tests for diagnosing and treating prostate, ovarian and breast cancer.

The research initiative, based at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s, will be led by Professor Richard Kennedy, one of Almac’s experts in personalised medicine - which tailors specific treatment to each cancer patient.

Invest Northern Ireland and The McClay Foundation, the charitable trust established by the late Sir Allen McClay, are partnering to fund the lab facilities and staff costs. Invest NI has offered the Almac Group and Queen’s £1.5m of support towards the collaboration, which includes part funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The collaboration was announced ahead of CCRCB’s 3rd International Cancer Symposium tomorrow (Wednesday and Thursday 7-8 September), which has attracted leading cancer experts from around the world to focus on how academia can interact with industry to improve cancer treatment.

Professor Kennedy, the newly appointed McClay Chair of Experimental Cancer Medicine at Queen’s University - a joint appointment with Almac - said the project was an excellent example of how business and academia could work together in the fight against cancer, the leading cause of death in Western civilisations.

He explained: “The research will involve using cutting-edge technology developed by Almac which will allow us to analyse large numbers of patient tumours collected by Queen’s.

“We will develop these tests to help clinicians to better understand prostate, ovarian and breast cancer and prescribe the appropriate treatments tailored to the specific patient.

“We hope this will then improve the chances of cure using chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“Queen's and Almac will also use this information to design new therapies that could improve the chances of response and cure for these cancers in the future.

“More effective treatments will be good news for patients and also for reducing the pressure on the overburdened healthcare system.”

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “Almac remains at the cutting edge of drug development and delivery for specific types of cancer and with Invest NI support, has invested heavily in research projects which have delivered significant economic benefits and advancements in cancer treatment worldwide.

“The company is globally respected for its commitment to innovation and this collaboration project will build upon a successful and longstanding research relationship between Almac and Queen’s University Belfast. Such academic and industrial linkages are vital to the growth of our economy as they strengthen our knowledge base and enhance Northern Ireland’s reputation as an international research and development hub.”

At this week’s symposium Professor Kennedy will present new research on better tailoring chemotherapy for breast cancer. He will also introduce the speaker of the 2011 McClay Foundation Lecture, Richard M Goldberg from the University of North Carolina and North Carolina Cancer Hospital.

Media inquiries to: Anne Langford on 028 9097 5310, mob. 07815 871 997, a.langford@qub.ac.uk

Top of Page

Northern Ireland Literati Set to Host QUB Book Club
Northern Ireland Literati Set to Host QUB Book Club
Northern Ireland Literati Set to Host QUB Book Club
Esteemed poet Michael Longley and novelist Bernard MacLaverty are among the guest speakers lined up to present a series of lectures at Queen’s University this semester as part of the Open Learning Programme’s Blackbird Book Club.

With funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, some of Northern Ireland’s most lauded names in literature are set to take part in a series of classes beginning on 26 September. The Blackbird Book Club, now in its second year, will be taught in two parts and run for a total of 20 weeks. The course is open to all adults regardless of qualifications or experience.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, commented: “The Blackbird Book Club offers a fantastic introduction to Northern Ireland literature, taught in the relaxed and intimate company of some of our most renowned poets and novelists.  It is an opportunity to hear the colourful real life stories behind the stories, straight from the authors themselves. Last year’s book club was enormously successful and we are pleased to be working with Queen’s University once again to help develop a greater appreciation of home-grown literature.”

Dr Tess Maginess, Senior Teaching Fellow and Co-ordinator of the Open learning Programme, detailed what’s in store for this semester: "The first 'flight' of the Blackbirds was a wonderful spectacle. This year we have another magnificent set of songsters - poets like Michael Longley, Damian Smyth, Sinead Morrissey, Eilean Ni Chuileanain, Leontia Flynn and Frank Ormsby. And we are especially delighted to welcome back to his native nest, Bernard McLaverty, whose grace notes have been so memorable. We will also have the chance to celebrate one of our most insightful novelists, David Park. Malachi O'Doherty, disarming and witty occupant of the Louis MacNeice Chair at the Seamus Heaney Centre, will return, by popular demand.

"So the new series, so kindly supported by the Arts Council, and hosted in association with the Seamus Heaney  Centre at Queen's , promises to be a terrific colloquy of bards."

The Blackbird Bookclub (part 1) will run for 10 weeks, starting 26th September 2011. Part 2 of the course beginning 23th January 2011, for a further 10 weeks.

Online registration is open now at www.qub.ac.uk/edu/ol

Top of Page

World leading Belfast researcher scoops top UK engineering award

A Belfast engineer, who is working to pioneer networks which will carry mobile phone signals between human bodies, has won the UK's premier award for early-career engineering.

Dr Simon Cotton, a Research Fellow at The Queen's University of Belfast, has won the Royal Academy of Engineering's Sir George Macfarlane Award for outstanding technical and scientific attainment in his work.

The 34-year-old from Greenisland in Co. Antrim, has made a significant impression on engineering in Northern Ireland and across the UK since starting an HND in electrical and electronic engineering in 2000. He graduated from the University of Ulster in 2004 before taking a PhD in Wireless Communications at Queen's, where he went on to become a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. He is currently a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow.

Dr Cotton's work is focused on wireless communications, particularly on how wireless signals transmit around the human body; from person to manmade infrastructure and also from person to person. His research has allowed him to develop innovative short-range applications designed to advance society. The goal is to create "body-to-body" networks in densely populated areas, where wireless devices positioned on people could replace mobile base stations to facilitate voice, video and data traffic.

Recognised as an international expert in his field, Dr Cotton has published papers in several leading engineering journals and has featured in the national press. As well as his academic work, Dr Cotton has recently co-founded ACT Wireless Ltd, a company to take his products into the marketplace. He also regularly gives practical engineering demonstrations in schools.

Commenting on the award, Professor John McCanny CBE FREng FRS, Director of the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology, based at Belfast's Northern Ireland Science Park, said: "The growth of communications continues apace and pervasive body-area networks are an intriguing future possibility.

"Here we have a top-rate engineer who is establishing a worldwide reputation. He is also an inspirational advocate of engineering and is able to translate cutting edge research into easily-accessible messages to help capture the imagination of the next generation of engineers."

Professor Stephen McLaughlin FREng, Dean for Research at the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, added: "Dr Cotton clearly has a first rate intellect and this is coupled with a desire to see his ideas converted into something practical and useful; key attributes for an engineer."

Top of Page