02-2012 Press Releases

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Queen’s scientists seek vaccine for Pseudomonas infection

Queen’s University scientists working on a vaccine to combat Pseudomonas have received a major financial boost from Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICH&S).

The local charity has awarded Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity a grant of £91,000 to help with their hunt for a vaccine.

Pseudomonas, which can be a killer in vulnerable adults and children, commonly infects the lungs of people suffering from cystic fibrosis (CF). CF damages a number of vital organs, particularly the lungs. It currently affects one in 2,500 newborn babies and Pseudomonas infection occurs in 80 per cent of adults living with CF. Currently in Northern Ireland CF affects 440 people in Northern Ireland, 190 of them children.

If a vaccine can be found, survival rates would increase for those affected by the serious genetic condition.

CF is caused by a genetic defect which results in thick, sticky mucous in the lungs, which becomes infected with bugs, in particular Pseudomonas. These bugs are almost impossible to eradicate, even with long-term antibiotics. This results in damage to the lungs, ultimately leading to early death through breathing difficulties.

Professor Stuart Elborn and Dr Rebecca Ingram, from Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity are leading the study. Dr Ingram said: “Pseudomonas is around us all the time, and is normally cleared easily from our bodies, however, the mucus in the lungs of CF patients creates a perfect environment for the bacteria to live and multiply.

“In our study, patients’ blood cells are placed on a special membrane and then mixed with different parts of the bacteria, to see if the body recognises them and so releases ‘attack’ molecules to deal with the infection. A dye is used to highlight the spots where this process is happening. It is the first time the technique has been used to examine human responses to Pseudomonas. Knowing which parts of the infection can most easily be recognised by the body will be a key piece in the jigsaw leading to the discovery of a vaccine.”

The Chief Executive of NI Chest Heart & Stroke, Andrew Dougal, said: “Cystic fibrosis is a devastating illness primarily affecting the lungs. We are delighted to be supporting this high quality local research at Queen’s, which brings hope of a pseudomonas vaccine to improve survival rates. Often, these research grant awards are made possible only by the generosity of people who bequeath money to us in their wills. Legacies have become a vitally important source of income at a time of economic downturn”.

For further information contact Andrew Dougal, NICHS Chief Executive on Mobile: 0771 287 1775 Direct Line: 028 9032 7040 , NICHS Switchboard: 028 9032 0184 or email adougal@nichs.org.uk

Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer, Queen’s University. Tel: +44 (028) 90 97 5384, m0781 44 22 572 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

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Former Olympians help Queen’s Sport put down new roots

Former Olympians Mary Peters and Jim Kirkwood have helped a new generation of athletes put down roots at Queen’s.

The Olympic gold-medallists were joined by Conor Robinson and Conor Donnelly from Lisburn, Queen’s athletes who are supported by The Mary Peters Trust, and swimmer Sycerika McMahon from Portaferry, to plant the first of 420 trees at the University’s new Upper Malone Playing Fields.

The trees have been donated as part of the Woodland Trust’s Jubilee Woods project, which aims to plant six million trees across the UK to mark the Queen’s historic 2012 Diamond Jubilee.

The Upper Malone Playing Fields have recently undergone a £13 million refurbishment, resulting in floodlit playing surfaces for gaelic games, hockey, rugby, soccer and other sports; a new clubhouse with changing rooms, social area, bar and conferencing facilities; a dedicated strength and conditioning suite; and 3km recreational trim trail. The new wood will also feature a sapling from Her Majesty the Queen’s Sandringham Estate.

Speaking at the event, Gary Jebb, Director of Queen’s Estates Directorate, said: “This beautiful wood is not only a positive gesture for the ecosystem of South Belfast, it also enhances the extensive efforts by Queen’s to protect our environmental surroundings at Upper Malone while offering world-class sporting facilities for students and the community in South Belfast.”

Mary Peters said: “This year marks the 40th year since my Olympic Gold medal win and it is heartening to see Northern Ireland nurturing a new generation of successful athletes. It is essential that they continue to have access to more training opportunities to help develop their natural abilities and facilities such as these are vital in doing just that. I am delighted I have been able to join forces with the Woodland Trust to help enhance these magnificent facilities at Queen’s Upper Malone Playing Fields with this beautiful Jubilee Wood.”

Patrick Cregg, Director of the Woodland Trust, said: “The Woodland Trust is delighted to support the creation of a new Jubilee Wood at the Upper Malone Playing Fields. Tree planting is a wonderful way to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, while making a positive contribution to the landscape. And with such remarkable individuals - Olympic gold-medallists and top class athletes – making their mark today, we hope that landowners throughout the country will be inspired to get planting.”

The Woodland Trust is also offering thousands of free Jubilee tree packs to schools, youth groups and community groups. Further information is available online at www.JubileeWoods.org.uk

For further info please contact Lisa McElroy, Communications Office. Tel: 028 9097 5384 or m07814 422 572

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New study reveals more people surviving leukaemia and pancreatic cancer in Northern Ireland
L to R Dr Michael McBride, Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Dr Anna Gavin and Health Minister, Edwin Poots, MLA.
L to R Dr Michael McBride, Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Dr Anna Gavin and Health Minister, Edwin Poots, MLA.

The first audit of leukaemia treatment and survival in Northern Ireland by the Cancer Registry (NICR) at Queen’s University Belfast has shown that survival rates for the disease here are at the highest levels since data collection began in 1993.

For children with the disease, survival has improved dramatically from under 10 per cent in the 1960 to1970s, to the current level of over 80 per cent for five year survival.

The NICR researchers also examined the changes in service and outcome for patients with pancreatic cancer.

While pancreatic cancer has very poor survival, the Registry has documented a doubling in survival for patients diagnosed in 2010 compared with 2008 (18 per cent from 9 per cent), which the researchers say could be due to the changes in service provision including centralising the service to one site, the Mater hospital in Belfast.

The leukaemia audit further revealed that while each year approximately twelve children under the age of 14 are diagnosed with acute leukaemia, there are at least 200 people alive in Northern Ireland who were diagnosed as a child, reflecting the improved survival prospects. People diagnosed as children make up 20 per cent of the over 900 people alive here, who at some stage in the past 18 years, have been diagnosed with leukaemia.

Survival for non Hodgkin lymphoma has also improved dramatically since the introduction of new drug therapies - from 64 per cent for one year and 45 per cent for five year survival in 1993, to 77 per cent for one year and 58 per cent five year survival in 2008. Hodgkin lymphoma has a higher survival than non Hodgkin and has remained steady since the 1990s at 89 per cent for one year and 79 per cent for five year survival.

The figures have been revealed today as part of the Cancer Care in Northern Ireland: A decade of change event at Queen’s University Belfast organised by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry and attended by Edwin Poots, MLA, Minister for Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety.

The audit results follow last week’s recognition for Queen’s at Buckingham Palace, when the University was awarded a Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its leadership of the Northern Ireland Comprehensive Cancer Services programme. The programme has led to improved cancer survival rates in Northern Ireland and is a collaboration led by Queen’s in partnership with the Department of Health and the five Northern Ireland Health Trusts with support from the medical research industry.

Speaking at the conference, Dr Anna Gavin, Director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, said: “Examination of data for pancreatic cancer patients diagnosed in 2010 shows a doubling of survival, a real breakthrough for this disease. If such a survival improvement was seen from a new drug, it would hit the headlines internationally.

“Today we are documenting and celebrating such improvements in cancer services in Northern Ireland, which have come about since service reorganisation was recommended by the then chief medical officer, Dr Henrietta Campbell. The Northern Ireland Cancer Registry has, with clinicians, been monitoring the care and survival of cancer patents and recommending chance for future service improvements and will continue to do so.”

Speaking at the conference, Minister Poots took the opportunity to again congratulate the University on being honoured with a Diamond Jubilee Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education at Buckingham Palace for the work of the Registry and other areas in Queens University. He said: “I wish to congratulate Queen’s University on receiving this prestigious award for a comprehensive cancer centre and I am delighted that patients in Northern Ireland are benefiting from innovative approaches to delivering cancer services.

“The longstanding partnership between my Department, the Health and Social Care Trusts and Queen’s University illustrates the importance of investing in research and development and the contribution that clinical research can make to our health and to our local economy.”

Mr Poots said that his Department was proud of the achievements of the University and their health service partner and he was confident that leadership in research is informing improvements in treatment, and to leading clinicians and other health professionals choosing to work in Northern Ireland. The Minister concluded: “It is a real credit to Northern Ireland to have this recognition and great news for cancer sufferers that they have a greater chance of recovering.”

Further information on the work of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry is available online at www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/ 

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5384 or +44 (0)781 44 22 572

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More people surviving cancer in Northern Ireland

Despite the rising incidence of cancer in Northern Ireland, the number of people surviving the disease here is increasing significantly year on year.

Each year there are between 50-60 men and women who survive the deadly effects of cancer who previously would have died.

The survival rates in Northern Ireland for cancers including breast and colorectal are among the best in the UK, and its patients are benefiting from improved treatment outcomes by up to four per cent better than those for England and Wales.

The figures have been revealed today as Queen’s University Belfast is presented with a Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize at Buckingham Palace, in recognition of its leadership of the Northern Ireland Comprehensive Cancer Services (CCS) programme.

The CCS programme has been credited with driving forward the improvements in cancer survival in Northern Ireland. It is a collaboration led by Queen’s University in partnership with the Department of Health and the five Northern Ireland Health Trusts with support from the medical research industry.

The programme has resulted in the reorganisation of cancer services across Northern Ireland, and investment of more than £200 million in infrastructure and personnel for treatment and research by the University and the health service.

The CCS programme was also recently described by the distinguished medical journal, The Oncologist, as ‘life-extending research that is emblematic of the way cancer medicine should be conducted in the 21st century.’

Accepting the prize today, Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, said: “Despite the rising incidence rates of cancer, between 1993 and 2009, the number of men dying from cancer has gone down by 1.3 per cent and the number of women by 0.9 per cent. Some of our survivors are currently alive and well a significant number of years after the kind of cancer that not so long ago would have taken them from us.

“Cancer no longer needs to be seen as an inevitable death sentence. In many instances it can now be viewed instead as a chronic disease.”

He added: “This award underpins our reputation as a global centre of excellence for cancer care. To receive it is a singular honour, not just for Queen’s but for the whole of Northern Ireland and in particular all the fundraisers, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the five Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Trusts and our supporters from the national and international medical research industry.

“Our strength lies in a multidisciplinary approach – teams of scientists and clinicians working together across academic and NHS boundaries on behalf of cancer patients and their families.”

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson said: “Queen’s is committed to high quality translational research. We are seeing innovations which are providing life-saving and life-enhancing results, reflecting our drive to become a global force in the fight against cancer.”

The pillars of the CCS programme are the Clinical Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, the Cancer Research Programme at Queen’s and the University’s Northern Ireland Cancer Registry which provides vital information about research and outcomes.

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer. Tel: +44(0)28 9097 5384 or m 0044(0)781 44 22 572 or email lisa.mcelroy@qub.ac.uk

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Irish mammals under serious threat from ‘invasional meltdown’

Some of Ireland’s oldest inhabitants are facing serious threat and possible extinction because of foreign species, according to researchers at Queen’s University.

The red squirrel, Irish hare and red deer are just some of Ireland’s indigenous species which are under threat as a result of the introduction of foreign species. A new study which took place over the last two years looked at the impact of two introduced species – the bank vole and greater white toothed shrew – on two native small mammals, the wood mouse and the pygmy shrew. If the rate of invasion continues as at present throughout the island of Ireland, its native small mammals will die out in at least 80 per cent of their available habitat.

The study, published in the international journal Biological Invasions, found that in the recent past the pygmy shrew has completely vanished in parts of Ireland where both invasive small mammals are found. Wood mouse numbers have decreased by more than 50 per cent in areas where the bank vole is longest established.

Small mammals occupy central positions in food webs, so major changes in species composition which are already occurring, will have both top-down and bottom-up effects in the ecosystem affecting bird and mammal predators as well as the invertebrates, seeds and seedling that small rodents and insectivores feed on.

Professor Ian Montgomery, lead researcher from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University, said: “The introduction of alien mammals to Ireland over the last 100 years has had major detrimental effects, threatening our indigenous habitats and species. The American grey squirrel, for example, passes a deadly virus to native red squirrels, whilst European hares threaten the ecological and genetic integrity of the native Irish hare through competition and interbreeding.

“Governments, both north and south of the border, are urged to work together to address the overall problem of invasive mammals throughout Ireland, and ensure that we understand both the mechanisms of invasion and the impacts of these aliens. It is no longer tenable to treat each invasive species as an isolated case. We should establish a realistic plan identifying the mammal species that are key to maintaining our unique biodiversity and ecology and those that we should eliminate or control.”

The new study is the first of its kind to systematically analyse the cumulative effects of invasive mammal species on indigenous species. Such a process is known as ‘invasional meltdown’.

For media inquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 00 44 (0) 28 9097 5391 / 07814 415 451 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Tomorrow's leaders given a head start at Queen's

Students at Queen's University have been given a unique insight into life as 'tomorrow's leaders' thanks to a new programme run by leadership development organisation Common Purpose.

The four-day course, called Frontrunner, is aimed at enhancing student employability by letting students explore leadership outside of the lecture hall, and was available to undergraduates within the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Queen’s. Students were given the opportunity to visit organisations from every sector, meet leaders from a range of business backgrounds, consult on real life business challenges and try their hand at leading teams.

A survey, by Common Purpose, found that out of 100 people in leadership positions in Northern Ireland that were questioned, 90 per cent thought it was important for experienced leaders to help the leaders of tomorrow.

Professor Shane O’Neill, Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Queen’s, said: “This experience was an invaluable one for students as it allowed them to explore issues of leadership beyond the classroom and to develop a practical understanding of some of the key challenges of modern working life.”

Claudine Sutherland, Northern Ireland Director for Common Purpose, said: “Tomorrow’s leaders, more than any other generation will need the confidence and determination to be a different type of leader. Our Frontrunner course is aimed to help students be more aware of how Northern Ireland works and their own capacity to lead, not just manage. It brings together high potential individuals from a range of backgrounds and challenges them with different leadership perspectives.”

Maria Lee, Head of Education and Skills Development at Queen’s University, said: “It is important that we provide opportunities for students to develop their employability skills. Leadership programmes like these enable our students to gain a competitive edge in the graduate market.”

External contributors who got involved included senior managers from Invest NI, PSNI, Bryson Charitable Group, The MAC, PricewaterhouseCoopers, British Council, Ulster Bank and Lighthouse. For more information on Common Purpose visit www.commonpurpose.org

For media inquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 00 44 (0) 28 9097 5391 / 07814 415 451 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s recognised for HR Excellence
Celebrating the HR Excellence in Research award are, L-R: Paul Monahan from the Staff Training and Development Unit; Dr Judith Kouassi, School of Biological Sciences; Francis Guinane, Staff Training and Development Unit; Dr Simon McDade, Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences; and Professor Bill Graham, Mathematics and Physics
Celebrating the HR Excellence in Research award are, L-R: Paul Monahan from the Staff Training and Development Unit; Dr Judith Kouassi, School of Biological Sciences; Francis Guinane, Staff Training and Development Unit; Dr Simon McDade, Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences; and Professor Bill Graham, Mathematics and Physics

Queen’s has been recognised by the European Commission for its commitment to supporting the personal, professional and career development of its researchers.

The University has been awarded the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research badge for its efforts in improving the working conditions and career development opportunities of its researchers. It was also commended for providing a clear plan of action for future developments.

Queen’s is one of only 12 universities, on this occasion, to obtain the award which will help promote the University as an attractive destination for researchers from all over the world.

Sean McGuickin, Director of Human Resources, said: “The HR Excellence in Research award demonstrates Queen’s commitment to ensuring we provide a stimulating and favourable work environment for our researchers. It gives a clear message to our current and prospective researchers that Queen’s is an employer that will invest time and resources to support them throughout their careers.”

Director of Research and Enterprise Scott Rutherford said: “This institutional award is important not only for staff development and Human Resources, but also for the overall research profile of the University in attracting staff and potentially securing funding from the EU.”

To obtain the badge, Queen’s had to follow a five-stage process. This included an internal analysis to compare current policy and practice against the ‘Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers’, which sets out seven principles for the future support and management of research careers. The University also had to develop an Action Plan to show how Queen’s will implement the principles of the Concordat.

The Action Plan, which builds on an already extensive programme of development and support provided within Schools and from the Staff Training and Development Unit, contains a range of actions with associated commitments and responsibilities in relation to the management and development of research staff. The actions relate to the management of staff, recruitment, appraisal, progression, development, engagement and creating an effective research environment.

As part of the HR Excellence in Research badge Queen’s will carry out a self-assessment every two years and an external evaluation every four years. For further information, visit www.qub.ac.uk/crs

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Queen’s and BDO join forces to support family businesses

A major new initiative aimed at supporting Northern Ireland family businesses has been launched by Queen’s University Management School and business advisory firm BDO.

This innovative partnership aims to provide business support to local family businesses and conduct research into issues which create or inhibit their success. The launch event in Riddel Hall, Queen’s University, was attended by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Arlene Foster, and by family business owners from across Northern Ireland. BDO Managing Partner, Francis Martin, explained why his firm was keen to become involved: “As in most countries, the Northern Ireland private sector is dominated by family owned businesses. The continued success of such firms is crucial to the overall success of our economy. Family businesses face quite specific issues and it is important that advisers, academia and government develop an ever greater understanding of what makes family businesses work.

“The study with Queen’s University recognises the unique and complex environment within which family businesses operate. At BDO we have a long track record of working with family firms. Our partnership with Queen’s will help us to build upon our knowledge base and provide leading edge best practice advice in the areas of family business relationships, governance and people, financing and succession management.”

Professor Richard Harrison, Director of the Leadership Institute at Queen’s, said: “This partnership “represents a unique opportunity to leverage the synergies between the research and programme development capabilities of the University and the extensive practical experience of Northern Ireland’s leading family business advisors to identify and address the major leadership challenges facing family business in Northern Ireland. A strong and competitive family business sector is important for the performance of the regional economy and we look forward to making a contribution through this partnership to that challenge.”

Speaking at the event Arlene Foster said: “The family business sector plays a vital role in the success of our local economy, as it is estimated that approximately 75 per cent of all businesses in Northern Ireland are family run. That is why Invest Northern Ireland’s current ‘Boosting Business’ initiative aims to enhance the capability of, and improve the performance of, individual businesses, including those within this sector. “To help family businesses succeed they can access a range of support to build workforce skills, use new technology to improve competitiveness, take existing products to new markets, develop new ones, or create and protect jobs in these difficult economic times.”

As part of the launch, BDO and Queen’s issued the results of stage one of the first major research project into family businesses in Northern Ireland in almost 20 years. Dr Claire Leitch from Queen’s University Management School presented an overview of the initial study before a panel discussion involving well known owners of family businesses including Catherine McKeever, McKeever Hotels Group; Damian Heron, Heron Bros and Bill Wolsey from the Beannchor Group which owns the Merchant Hotel.

Media inquiries to: Brendan Mulgrew, Stakeholder Communications - 028 9033 9949

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Belfast’s very own Wall Street Trading Room to open at Queen’s
Riddel Hall
Riddel Hall

Northern Ireland’s first ever financial trading room is set to open at Queen’s University Belfast. The First Derivatives Trading Room, supported by Invest NI, will provide a dynamic learning environment for students hoping to embark in a career in financial services or technology.

Based at Queen’s University Management School, Riddel Hall, Stranmillis, the facility, which will replicate New York and London trading rooms, will give students a real-life experience of a busy stock exchange with the capacity to deal in equities, bonds, foreign exchange and derivative instruments. It will transform a corner of the Management School into a financial hub reminiscent of Wall Street or Canary Wharf, and prepare future graduates to make their mark in the world.

Funded by First Derivatives, a leading provider of products and consulting services to the capital markets industry, the trading room is also backed by Invest NI.

First Derivatives offers one of the largest graduate training programmes in Northern Ireland with up to 30 Queen’s graduates employed annually by the company.

And Chief Executive, Brian Conlon, sees the trading room as a platform for closer engagement between the company and Queen’s students and staff.

He said: “As one of Northern Ireland’s key graduate recruiters we recognise the value of working closely with Universities. From our perspective this is an opportunity to collaborate with Queen’s on projects and develop courses in Computational Finance which align more closely with our company’s requirements.

“At First Derivatives we are recognised in global financial centres for the quality of our people. Taking in graduates who have practical experience of the trading floor as well accessing the facility will allow our in-house training to build upon this knowledge and provide more rounded consultants to market.

“Partnerships like First Derivatives, Queen’s and Invest NI create synergies between the world of business, government and academia and drive the development of Northern Ireland’s knowledge economy.”

The trading room has the potential to make Northern Ireland a more interesting proposition to international companies and investors keen to set up where there is a pool of highly skilled graduates who blend theory with practice. And it should also make the Queen’s University Management School more attractive to international students.

Alastair Hamilton, CEO, Invest Northern Ireland believes the facility can help leverage significant investment into Northern Ireland. “Northern Ireland is already among the top global destinations for financial technology investments and Belfast is the number one city for attracting research and development in financial services software. Our impressive track record is based on the quality of talent we have in the region and on the fact th

at our world-class universities continue to mould programmes to meet the needs of industry. “We know the financial services sector offers further opportunity to create high value employment in Northern Ireland. Developing the skills to make this happen is crucial to growing the sector so we are delighted to support the First Derivatives Trading Room.”

And Professor Donal McKillop from Queen’s University Management School is looking forward to providing a more sophisticated package to students.

He said: “The First Derivatives Trading Room, supported by Invest NI, is an interactive virtual environment where students learn to trade financial instruments and manage financial portfolios using live prices and the latest investment and trading technology. They will have the opportunity to think and learn on their feet, building up the skills needed in the high-pressure world of the trading room.

“Having these practical skills in today’s competitive and uncertain environment will undoubtedly give Queen’s finance students a competitive edge in the jobs market. The trading room will also enable the Management School to provide new bespoke postgraduate programs in Computational Finance. There is no doubt that Queen’s is taking teaching to the next level and enhancing the University’s reputation as a global leader in financial education.”

For media inquiries please contact Queen’s Communications Office. Tel: 028 9097 3087 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

For more information on the New Trading Room contact Donal McKillop, QUMS, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 4852.

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For more information please read our Equality and Diversity Policy.

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