April 2014 releases

Queen’s cyber expert secures place among UK’s top engineers

A professor from Queen’s University Belfast, who invented a high-speed silicon security chip that is used in more than 100 million TV set-top boxes, has received the coveted Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal for 2014.

Professor Máire O’Neill, from Glenties, Co. Donegal, is one of only five engineers who have received the medal in national recognition for their contribution to society.

The former British Female Inventor of the Year is one of Europe’s leading experts on digital security, and is currently Professor of Information Security at Queen’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT).

A Queen’s graduate, she is one of Europe’s leading cryptography experts, helping enhance global data security.

Her research involves designing security solutions for communications applications, including email, cloud and mobile technologies. Contributing to the future vision for digital security in Europe, Professor O’Neill was invited by the European Commission to become a member of the Young Advisors Group, which is shaping the future by lending expertise on how to achieve Europe’s Digital Agenda.

Speaking about her Silver Medal award, Professor O’Neill said: “It is an honour to receive this recognition from the Royal Academy of Engineering. Cyber security presents huge challenges for the future. The development of resilient, secure information systems is crucial for everyone - from how we carry out our daily work, to the delivery of public services, to issues of national and international security. It is a hugely exciting and important field in which to work, and I am delighted that my research has been recognised for its impact on wider society.”

Professor O’Neill was the youngest ever professor to be appointed at Queen’s at the age of 32 and was also the University’s first female professor in electrical and electronic engineering. She was instrumental in the creation of CSIT at Queen’s which has established strong links with global security organisations.

Congratulating Professor O’Neill, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston, said: “This well-deserved recognition of Professor O’Neill’s work serves to illustrate how the research ongoing at Queen’s is often translated into products and systems which have a significant impact on the lives of many people both locally and globally. As a Queen’s graduate, Máire is an excellent role model for any young or aspiring engineer and on behalf of the University, I would like to congratulate her on receiving this prestigious award.”

Alongside her cutting-edge research, Professor O’Neill co-ordinates Queen’s newly-launched Masters in Cyber Security. With its first intake of students in September, Queen’s has created this course to cater for the needs of the IT industry in Northern Ireland and beyond, where demand for highly-skilled cyber security professionals is increasing.

Dervilla Mitchell FREng, Chair of the Academy’s Awards Committee, said, “The Silver Medals recognise individual excellence, not only technically, but also in the ability to turn knowledge and ideas into useful, wealth-creating products and services. This is essential to UK economic prosperity, and this year’s winners are all excellent examples of the kind of world-class entrepreneurs that the Academy is championing through its Engineering for Growth campaign and supporting through its Enterprise Hub.

“The UK boasts world-leading expertise in digital security, computer programming, aerospace, and manufacturing, and our 2014 medallists demonstrate the strength of knowledge and skill in these areas that will enable us to maintain this position for years to come. They are outstanding role models for the next generation.”

Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medallists were selected from a long list of nominations, drawn from all areas of contemporary engineering. They were chosen by a panel of Academy Fellows who have expertise across the range of engineering disciplines, as well as personal entrepreneurial experience.

For more information on CSIT visit www.csit.qub.ac.uk

For more information on the Royal Academy of Engineering visit www.raeng.org.uk

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5320 email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Orange Order leader and Coiste na nlarchimí support conflict programme at Queen’s

A new Queen’s University online programme entitled Identity, Conflict and Public Space: Contest and Transformation, is being supported by both the Orange Order and Coiste na nlarchimí.

The six week programme focuses on using public space to express identity and has been developed by Dr Dominic Bryan, from the Institute of Irish Studies, who said: “This is a hugely topical subject in many societies around the world. Here in Northern Ireland we only have to look at recent issues surroundings flags, parades and memorials.

“This free online programme, which goes live on 28 April and is accessible to anyone with internet access, examines issues around the use of public space to express identity. Ethno-political conflicts across the globe tend to differ in detail, but share common structural and political issues. Fundamental to the conflicts is the ability for groups of people to have access to representation in public space. We hope this programme will have a positive impact at home and around the world.”

Contributors include Grand Chaplain of the Orange Order, Mervyn Gibson and Legacy Officer with Coiste na nIarchimí, Séanna Walsh as well as Peter Osborne Chair of the Community Relations Council and former Chair of the Parades Commission.

Speaking about the programme Mr Gibson, said: “Identity conflict and public space are issues that affect people all over the world.  We in Northern Ireland know better than most how using public space to express identity can cause tension.  This course will be invaluable in terms of looking at these issues and understanding the importance of identity and public spaces in politics wherever they may be.”

Mr Walsh, said: “Education is key to moving forward in conflict societies and this programme provides us with a global understanding of the issues surrounding conflict and public space.  I was delighted to contribute as Queen’s continues to advance knowledge and change lives.”

Key contributions to the course are also made my Dr Milena Komarova and Dr. Neil Jarman at the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice and Dr Sam Pehrson from the Centre of Identity and Intergroup Relations.

This course is the second free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered by Queen’s. Over 8000 people enrolled for the first MOOC offered by Queen’s Critical Listening for Studio Production which began in January.

To watch the trailer for the new course and find out further information on MOOC courses available at Queen’s visit: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/identity-conflict-and-public-space-contest-and-transformation

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office on Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 email: c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s University spin out ProAxsis receives first major investment
Dr Lorraine Martin
Dr Lorraine Martin

A company from Queen's University Belfast which has developed a range of medical diagnostic test kits has received its first major investment.

ProAxsis, a recent spin-out from Queen’s, and overall winner of the 2013 NISP CONNECT 25K award, has received an investment by NetScientific plc and QUBIS Ltd, which has the potential to create up to eight jobs over the next three years.

NetScientific is a healthcare medical technology company that identifies, develops and commercialises research and technologies originating from leading universities, teaching hospitals and research institutes globally, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States.

As a subsidiary company of NetScientific, ProAxsis, which was co-founded by Dr.Lorraine Martin and Professor Brian Walker from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s in August 2013, will continue to develop a range of novel medical diagnostic tests to enable routine monitoring of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) and other chronic respiratory conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), either in the clinic or at home.

Sir Richard Sykes, Chairman, NetScientific, said: “With the investment in ProAxsis, we have added a significant new technology to our portfolio.”

Dr Lorraine Martin, ProAxsis, said: “In NetScientific, we have found the ideal partner, affording us the opportunity to collaborate with a global network for commercialisation and technical product development.”

Professor Brian Walker, said: “This is a very exciting time for ProAxsis and we are delighted to build on the success of the 2013 NISP CONNECT 25K award with this investment from both NetScientific plc and Queen’s University’s Spin Out Vehicle QUBIS Ltd.”

For further information on QUBIS visit: http://www.qubis.co.uk/

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Queen’s University Vice-Chancellor receives top European award

Queen’s University Belfast’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, whose work has transformed cancer care in Northern Ireland, has been elected as a Fellow of the European Academy of Cancer Sciences.

The Academy, which was launched in 2009, is an independent advisory body of highly distinguished oncologists and cancer researchers which aims to reduce the death and suffering caused by cancer in Europe.

Professor Johnston, whose leadership has seen cancer survival rates in Northern Ireland move from the bottom of the UK league table to near the top, has been honoured for his outstanding contribution to cancer research.

Professor Johnston has worked alongside some of the world’s leading cancer experts and patient groups to launch a European Cancer Patient’s Bill of Rights. The result of two years of work by the European Cancer Concord and Co-Chaired by Professor Johnston, it aims to address the disparities that exist in cancer care from one European country to the next.

Commenting on the prestigious accolade, Professor Johnston said: “I am delighted to have been elected a Fellow of the European Academy of Cancer Sciences. It is an honour and privilege to have had my contribution to cancer research recognised in this way. I look forward to working with my European colleagues in the Academy to develop strategies and further research to improve cancer care across Europe.”

The European Academy of Cancer Sciences is made up of 185 Fellows from over 20 different countries. For further information visit http://www.europeancanceracademy.eu/

Media inquiries to Communications Office. Tel: 028 90 97 3091

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EU must take urgent action on invasive species

The EU must take urgent action to halt the spread of invasive species that are threatening native plants and animals across Europe, according to a scientist from Queen’s University Belfast.

The threats posed by these species cost an estimated €12 billion each year across Europe.  Professor Jaimie Dick, from the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, is calling on the EU to commit long-term investment in a European-wide strategy to manage the problem.

Invasive species are considered to be among the major threats to native biodiversity in Europe. The call to action follows the publication of a paper ‘Tackling Invasive Alien Species in Europe: the Top 20 Issues’, in the peer-reviewed journal ‘Management of Biological Invasions’. The report’s authors say it should inform future EU policy for managing invasive species.

The paper resulted from an international meeting of invasive species experts who gathered in Galway (Ireland) last year to identify the critical issues for tackling invasive species in Europe. The Freshwater Invasives: Networking for Strategy (FINS) conference was led by Inland Fisheries Ireland, Queen’s, and the Institute of Technology, Sligo. It brought together more than 150 scientists, academics, policy makers and politicians with the aim of informing impending EU legislation on alien species.

Professor Dick said: “Alien plant and animal species cause environmental, economic and social damage across Europe, and their rate of invasion is set to increase in the coming years. The EU has formulated a comprehensive plan to address the threats posed by these species, but adequate resourcing by the EU and Member States, in terms of funding, staff and equipment, will be crucial in ensuring this plan is put into action.                                                                                                         

“Invasive species cost an estimated €12 billion each year across Europe, including around €261 million on the island of Ireland and £1.7 billion in Great Britain. Their impact ranges from upsetting native ecosystems, to damaging the physical environment and even threatening human and animal health; hence the cost to agriculture, fisheries and forestry, as well as the expense of control and eradication programmes.

“The existing haphazard, fragmented approach from EU countries, characterised by communication breakdowns and insufficient resources, will not suffice if we are to protect our ecosystems against these invaders. The EU must ensure sufficient funding to achieve its goal of long-term, coherent, sustainable action to manage invasive species. Through the FINS conference, 20 issues that will be critical to the success of any EU strategy have now been identified. It is vital that EU decision-makers consider these issues when formulating their plans and allocating resource.

“Among the 20 issues identified is the need to raise awareness of biosecurity across Europe and the implementation of European-wide legislation for this; the dedication of resources for the long-term management of invasive species; the development of new technology to detect new invasives, and early warning systems to alert EU states to their spread; new European-wide risk assessment methods; emergency powers to eradicate alien species once they become established; and effective communications to raise awareness of invasive species, so the public will know what to look for and how to report it.”

Professor Jaimie Dick and Queen’s PhD student Jenny Barbour were key organisers of the FINS conference, which was called specifically with the aim of assessing the current position regarding invasive alien species in Europe. Experts from the UK and Ireland, and across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia joined forces to prioritise the key issues for the management of invasive species.

The resulting paper, ‘Tackling Invasive Alien Species in Europe: the Top 20 Issues’, is available on the Management of Biological Invasions website at http://www.reabic.net/journals/mbi/2014/1/MBI_2014_Caffrey_etal.pdf

For more information about Biological Sciences at Queen’s visit http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofBiologicalSciences/ 

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5320 email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s University scientist recognised as one of UK’s leading Asian women

A Queen’s University Belfast scientist has been recognised as one of the leading Asian women in the UK with a nomination in this year's Asian Women of Achievement Awards.

Dr Geetha Srinivasan, from Queen's University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) Research Centre, has been shortlisted in the Professions category which recognises sustained excellence.

The national award acknowledges the extraordinary achievements of Asian women in Britain across various disciplines including business, arts, media, sport, entrepreneurship, professions and social and humanitarian work. This award promotes the concept that geographical relocation is not a barrier to success.

Through her research, Dr Srinivasan has contributed significantly to an industrial project with global energy giant PETRONAS in the removal of toxic mercury from natural gas. The project has been commercialised and is running successfully on an industrial scale. She is also developing a novel medical device for combating urinary tract infections.

In 2012, Dr Srinivasan, became the first L’Oreal-UNESCO Outstanding Women in Science recipient from Northern Ireland and is also the recipient of an unprecedented three IChemE awards and Nicklin medal as a key player in a team project.

Co-Founder of the awards, Pinky Lilani OBE, said: “Geetha is an award-winning female chemist and an outstanding research scientist with six patents to her name. Few postdoctoral fellows can claim to have taken a green sustainable process from bench to industrial plant, winning an unprecedented three IChemE awards for mercury abatement for her team, while at the same time developing a novel medical device for combating urinary tract infections.”

Speaking about her nomination, Dr Geetha Srinivasan, said: “I am honoured to have my work recognised by nomination for such a prestigious national award.  To have a key area for women like science promoted through awards like these is crucially important.  Queen’s is recognised as national leader in gender-equitable employment and continues to attract internationally leading researchers and I am proud to be a part of that.”

The awards will be presented for the successful winners in a ceremony in Park Hilton, London on 4th June 2014.

For media inquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 028 9097 5391 or c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Irish Premieres dominate the 2014 Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s

The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s today announced this year’s Festival will take place over 17 days from Thursday 16 October to Saturday 1 November. The 2014 Festival will also feature a number of top international acts, and premieres that will perform for the first-time in Northern Ireland.

Pushing the boundaries in contemporary international arts practice, the Festival has attracted the prestigious Schaubühne Berlin, one of Europe’s leading theatre companies. The company will make its Northern Ireland debut in a new production and Irish Premiere of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People by critically acclaimed director, Thomas Ostermeier.

In another Irish Premiere, the world’s most celebrated flamenco dancer, Israel Galván, will display his astonishing, virtuoso talents in La Edad De Oro (The Golden Age), bringing the roots of flamenco to vibrant 21st Century life, turning dance into music.  The Festival also commissions Scotland’s Claire Cunningham as the 2014 Festival Artist in Residence with a new performance work, Guide Gods, exploring the perspectives of the major religions and faiths towards disability. Guide Gods is also is part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme.

Festival Director, Richard Wakely said:  “The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s is one of only a handful of European arts festivals that can deliver such diversity, boasting an eclectic mix of world-class, high quality cultural events, providing a passport to the arts.  Working in collaboration with our partners throughout the entire city, the Festival connects audiences, artists and communities. It also offers new ways to experience, engage and participate in the arts as well as attract international attention and profile to the wealth of creative talent in Northern Ireland.

“This makes the Festival at Queen’s an important event in the cultural and artistic calendar of Northern Ireland each year, attracting audiences of over 45,000 from home and abroad and generating over £2m to the local economy and adding to the vitality of Belfast.”

Richard continued: “The Festival team values the significant support offered by our private and public partners, without which the 2014 cultural extravaganza would not be possible. We will continue to work with them all as we bring the very best in culture and arts to Belfast and look forward to announcing more of the outstanding acts for this year’s festival in the coming months.”

Ellvena Graham, Head of Ulster Bank Northern Ireland, said: "The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s is at the heart of Northern Ireland’s cultural calendar and we are proud to be supporting the event for the seventh year. The Festival has a well-deserved international reputation for showcasing top talent and we’re confident that it will continue to deliver world-class artists to local venues."

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “It is great to see so many fantastic acts already secured for this year’s Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s. The Arts Council has provided support to the festival for over 50 years and is proud to be the largest public funder of what has become one of the biggest and most important international arts festivals on these islands.

“The investment of public money has enabled this defining festival to continue to aim higher than most, bringing the best and most sought-after arts, from home and abroad, within the reach of everyone.”

Alan Clarke, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Tourist Board said “The Ulster Bank Festival at Queen’s is a prime example of how Northern Ireland is successfully driving cultural tourism and economic regeneration. It promises a world of exceptional talent in a packed programme of performances which will take Belfast by storm, covering all genres, appealing to varied audiences and creating unique and memorable experiences for all visitors.”

John McGrillen, Director of Development at Belfast City Council, said: “As a key funder we are delighted that the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s is aligned with our vision of promoting this city’s diverse and distinctive arts offering, as well as enhancing Belfast’s positive cultural profile internationally”.

David Alderdice, British Council, Director Northern Ireland said: “The British Council is delighted once again to partner with the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s. The Festival plays a vital role in projecting Belfast and Northern Ireland internationally and we are proud to play our part. We look forward to another world-class Festival in October.”

The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s will deliver an eclectic mix of world-class theatre, music, dance, film, literature and talks in venues all over Belfast from Thursday, 16 October – Saturday, 1 November 2014. More shows and booking information will be announced over the coming months.  Tickets for the first Festival shows revealed can be booked from Tuesday 15 April direct from the venues or on the Festival website www.belfastfestival.com

Media inquiries to Susan McCleary : +44 (0)7964 873601 or s.mccleary@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s University leading campaign to clean up waterways and restore tourism


A Queen’s University initiative is leading the campaign to clean up waterways under threat from invasive species in Britain and Ireland, with the hope of restoring millions of pounds in lost tourism revenue.

Covering 21 river catchment areas in Ireland (island-wide) and Scotland, the Controlling Priority Invasive Non-native Riparian Plants and Restoring Native Biodiversity (CIRB) initiative is the largest of its kind in Europe and is aimed at clearing aggressive, non-native weeds such as Giant Hogweed from riverbanks. It also seeks to change policy on angling in a bid to limit cross-contamination of waterways.

CIRB has already scored a significant change to the laws governing fishing in Ireland. As a result of its ‘No dip, no draw’ campaign, it is now illegal for any angler to take part in a fishing competition on the island of Ireland without first disinfecting equipment. This is part of an effort to stop invasive species – flora and fauna imported from abroad – being passed from one watercourse to another.

After partnering on the world’s first purpose-built disinfection station for anglers at Ballyhoe Lake in Co Cavan, CIRB is now installing disinfection stations on five major waterways in Northern Ireland – the Faughan River (Co Derry), Clanyre River (Co Armagh), Newry River, Newry Canal and Bessbrook River (Co Armagh) – as well as on 15 rivers in Scotland and two in the Republic of Ireland.

It is hoped the presence of these stations will win back fishing tourism from Northern Europe, where strict angling regulations are already in place. Anglers from these countries have been reluctant to visit Britain and Ireland in recent years for fear of bringing back contaminants to their own habitats. Fishing accounts for eight per cent of tourism revenue in Northern Ireland and 50 per cent in the Irish Republic.

Regarding plantlife, CIRB focuses on controlling four of the most aggressive, invasive riverbank weeds: Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam, Giant Hogweed and Rhododendron. Using the latest technology – including four helicopter drones equipped to take aerial photography – CIRB has eradicated 70 per cent of these pest plants from its catchment areas since its inception in 2010.

Such non-indigenous plants are not only a threat to native ecosystems but a huge cost to the economy, damaging property, roads and bridges while some, such as Giant Hogweed, pose a serious health risk. Japanese Knotweed alone is considered to cause millions of pounds’ worth of damage in the UK each year to the construction industry with its ability to burst through tarmac and undermine building foundations.

As a whole, invasive species are estimated to cost the Northern Ireland economy £47 million each year in damage to infrastructure, fisheries, agriculture and forestry.

Dr Catherine McGavigan of the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s, a lead partner in CIRB, said: “What is often missed is that invasive species have a very big cost to the public purse as well as to biodiversity. For example, the River Barrow in the Irish Republic has lost its entire fishing economy after the river basin was recently found covered in Asian clams. That is why it is so essential we clean up our act.”

To find out more about CIRB, click here: www.qub.ac.uk/cirb

For further information, contact the communications office on Tel. +44 (0)28 9097 3087 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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GM crops under the microscope at Queen’s University Belfast

One of the world’s most contentious food issues - Genetically Modified (GM) crops – will be debated by some of the world’s leading authorities on the subject at Queen’s University Belfast today (Wednesday day 9 April).

A panel of international food experts will argue the pros and cons or GM crops at a special debate as part of the Food Integrity and Traceability Conference (ASSET 2014). The conference, which highlights current and emerging threats to the integrity of the food chain, is being attended by over 350 scientists, regulators and agri-food producers from over 25 countries. The conference and debate are organised by Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security and safefood.

The GM debate will feature four experts, who will speak for and against the motion that ‘GM crops are a safe and important means of improving food security in Europe’. Anyone with an interest in GM can follow the debate on Twitter and tweet their own opinions on the issue @ASSET2014 using #ASSETGM.

The panellists speaking in favour of GM crops are Owen Brennan, Chief Executive of Devenish Group, the Belfast-based global agri-technology company; and Professor Klaus Ammann from the University of Bern.

Those opposing the motion are Dr John Fagan, Chief Executive of Annapurna Global Inc, a leading authority on sustainability in the food system; and Dr Michael Antoniou, an expert in genetic engineering at King’s College London. The debate will be chaired by Ella McSweeney, presenter of RTE’s Ear to the Ground.

Recent research by safefood with consumers in Northern Ireland revealed that 11 per cent check food labels for information on GM, compared with 3 per cent who check for organic content and 2 per cent who check for allergy advice.

Looking forward to the debate, Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s, said: “The debate around Genetically Modified food is one of the most hotly contested food issues in the world today. Today’s discussion will explore the issues around the introduction of GM feeds, crops and foods into Europe – a topic that is becoming increasingly important in an attempt to deal with new challenges and threats to global food security.”

Explaining what GM food is, Professor Elliott continued: “Genetically Modified essentially means altering the genetic make-up of plants and crop in the laboratory, by removing or adding genes to the plant’s DNA to give it a new characteristic. It can be used to increase productivity, to make crops more resistant to disease, or to enable plants to survive in hostile environments. While some people argue it opens the door to a more plentiful, sustainable and cheaper food supply, others contest that nature should not be interfered with and that we can’t be sure of its effects on farm animals, humans and other plant and wildlife.

“As pressure continues to grow on governments, food producers and scientists to provide the world’s growing population with a sustainable, safe and secure supply of high quality food, the GM debate looks set to continue well into the 21st century. Today, Queen’s will be at the centre of that debate and I look forward to what promises to be a lively, robust and highly interactive discussion.”  

For more information about the GM debate and the Food Integrity and Traceability conference visit http://www.qub.ac.uk/asset2014

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) at Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +444 (0)28 9097 5320/5310  Email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Global food safety debate comes to Belfast

Food safety experts from around the world will be at Queen’s University Belfast this week (8-10 April) to highlight current and emerging threats to the integrity of the food chain.

The Food Integrity and Traceability Conference, organised by Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security and safefood, will welcome over 300 scientists, regulators and agri-food producers from more than 25 countries.

International speakers will explore recent progress in delivering safe and authentic food to the consumer, the greatest threats to the integrity of the agri-food chain and how these can be tackled, and new technology to detect contamination and deter food fraud. The pros and cons of genetically modified (GM) food – one of today’s most contentious and divisive food issues – will be discussed during a special debate on Wednesday 9 April.

Professor Chris Elliott, who is currently leading the independent review of Britain’s food system for UK government, is Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s. He said: “The ability to protect the integrity of the food supply chain from ‘farm to fork’ is a massive challenge and one that is of utmost importance. While significant advances in science are helping reduce the risk of eating contaminated foods, the European-wide horsemeat scandal and the growing list of food product recalls due to contamination have highlighted that major gaps still exist in ensuring the food we consume is authentic and safe.

“Fortunately consumers in the UK and Ireland have access to perhaps the safest food in the world. Major scientific advancements are being made to help minimise risks to the food chain. Scientists at Queen’s are at the forefront of these developments, working with the agri-food industry to develop the latest techniques to detect and deter food fraud. Many of these techniques will be discussed during the conference, which will build on the success of a similar event at Queen’s in 2011.”

The conference is jointly organised by Queen’s and safefood, the North-South body responsible for the promotion of food safety on the island of Ireland. Dr Gary Kearney, Director, Food Science, safefood said: “The increase in the number of food scares and scandals such as the recent horsemeat fraud has had a negative impact on consumer confidence in the food supply chain. To enhance confidence and allay concerns, it is vital that the best science is utilised to help protect both consumers and the reputation of our food industry. Safe food is our future.

“This major international food safety conference will involve participants operating across all parts of the food chain and will facilitate the sharing of new technical developments and information from across the globe. A key outcome will be a demonstration of the benefits of joined-up thinking which is essential to the provision of safe food and protecting consumers on the island of Ireland.”

Michelle O’Neill MLA, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: "I have always championed our local produce. The quality, safety and provenance of our food is second to none. We need to work hard to maintain our excellent reputation, both on these islands and further afield. That means using the latest tools, systems and techniques to stay ahead of the game."

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston, said: “Through the Institute for Global Food Security, Queen’s is making a real and tangible impact on food safety and integrity, on a local and global scale. The Institute works hand-in-hand with the local agri-food industry to establish a ‘food fortress’ for Northern Ireland and to secure this vital part of our economy, and is working internationally to ensure a safe and sustainable food supply can become a reality for everyone on our planet. This is a fine example of this University’s positive impact on society in Northern Ireland and further afield.”

Keynote speakers include Professor Junshi Chen from the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, who will give an insight into the major food safety issues in China, and Ladislav Miko from the European Commission, who will explore issues of food safety throughout the European food chain.

Dr Mira Trebar, University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) will discuss the use of new technology, including smart phones, to deliver food traceability and authentication data directly to the consumer. Ms Kajal Devani from the Canadian Angus Association will present their DNA tracking system, which has proved both cost effective for their industry while strengthening consumer confidence.

Conference delegates and members of the public will have the opportunity to sample some of Northern Ireland’s finest produce at a special FoodNI Artisans’ Food Market on the front lawn of Queen's on the opening day of the conference (Tuesday 8 April).

For more information on the conference visit www.qub.ac.uk/sites/ASSET2014  

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) at Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5320/5310 Email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Seamus Heaney’s work commemorated in four day event at Queen’s
Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s, Professor Ciaran Carson and Belfast’s Poet Laureate, and Reader in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre at the School of English at Queen’s, Dr Sinead Morrissey launch the four day commemoration of Seamus Heaney at Queen's University.
Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s, Professor Ciaran Carson and Belfast’s Poet Laureate, and Reader in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre at the School of English at Queen’s, Dr Sinead Morrissey launch the four day commemoration of Seamus Heaney at Queen's University.

A major commemoration of Seamus Heaney’s work is being launched at Queen’s University Belfast. Seamus Heaney was both an undergraduate at Queen’s (1957-61) and a lecturer in the School of English (1963-72).

The four day event, organised by the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at the School of English at Queen’s, coincides with Heaney’s 75th birthday and the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Centre.

Seamus Heaney: a Conference and Commemoration, which is the first of a series of activities to mark Seamus Heaney’s legacy at Queen’s, will be a celebration of his work and provide an opportunity for an extended discussion both of his contribution to literature, and of his legacy for future generations of poets, critics and general readers.

As well as a full academic programme, the conference will feature a series of readings, two of which are open to the public.  These events, which take place in the Ulster Hall and the Lyric Theatre, see some of our finest poets, including Medbh McGuckian and Michael Longley, read their own work and as well as their favourite Heaney poems.

Speaking ahead of the event, Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s, Professor Ciaran Carson, said: “This commemoration of the work of Seamus Heaney is unique in that Queen’s University is remembering one of its own. His presence at Queen’s was an encouraging force when I was a student here over forty years ago. At this conference we honour and commemorate his role as a poet whose work has achieved international renown, but we are also remembering him as a teacher, as a critic, and as a friend.”

Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness MLA, said: “Those of us who claim the same native soil as Seamus Heaney can be guilty of a great over-simplification. We find the familiar in his words and images, and too easily settle into the comfort of it, digging, the blacksmith’s forge, the thresher.

“But Seamus is more complex. It is the strange that gives his thought and his poetry power. Seamus walks the ditch between the ordinary and the unusual and this is what made it possible for him to bridge the distances between countries and cultures, and between our era and past civilisations. Whether in his work of re-creating great literature in translation, or in his own original compositions, in Seamus Heaney the power of poetry radiates from a place between the familiar and the strange: ‘it arrives from somewhere beyond’, and it takes us somewhere beyond.

“The work of Seamus Heaney will continue to move us deeply and enrich all our lives and this conference and commemoration at Queen’s will be a fitting way to celebrate Seamus Heaney’s contribution to literature and his legacy for future generations of poets.”

Belfast’s Poet Laureate, and Reader in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre at the School of English at Queen’s, Dr Sinead Morrissey said: “The four day event will look at the impact of all aspects of Seamus Heaney’s writing, most obviously his poetry, but also his work as critic, as translator, as dramatist and as broadcaster.  It will have a particular emphasis on assessing his legacy and the lines of his influence running into future generations.”

For further information or to register for Seamus Heaney: a Conference and Commemoration go to the conference website at: http://go.qub.ac.uk/heaneyconference

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s University Communications Office, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5391 email: c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Market day at Queen’s – Northern Ireland’s finest foods showcased
Sarah Campbell from FoodNI, Charlie Cole from Broughgammon Farm and Chris Elliott, Director of Queens University’s Institute for Global Food Security, are looking forward to the FoodNI Artisan Market at Queen’s.
Sarah Campbell from FoodNI, Charlie Cole from Broughgammon Farm and Chris Elliott, Director of Queens University’s Institute for Global Food Security, are looking forward to the FoodNI Artisan Market at Queen’s.

Some of Northern Ireland’s finest home-grown produce will be available to try and buy at a special food market on the front lawn of Queen’s University on Tuesday 8 April.

The Artisan Market, organised by Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security in partnership with FoodNI, will be open to the public from 9am-6pm on Tuesday 8 April. Among the tasty delights on offer are farmhouse ice-creams, cabrito (goat meat) burgers, freshly baked breads and luxurious macarons. There will also be tasting sessions with Taste of Ulster chef Ali Askar of Safa Indian restaurant.

The Institute for Global Food Security works closely with local food producers to ensure that Northern Ireland remains a leader in the production of high quality, authentic and traceable food which is among the safest in the world. The FoodNI Artisan Market at Queen’s will showcase this home-grown food and the local people who make it.

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) +44 (0)28 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy +44 (0)28 9097 5310 email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s University discovery signals new treatment for women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer
Dr Kienan Savage
Dr Kienan Savage

Cancer researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have made a breakthrough which could signal new treatments for women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Currently around one in 1,000 women in the UK carry what is known as a BRCA1 mutation - the same condition that prompted well-known actress Angelina Jolie to undergo a double mastectomy. They have up to an 85 per cent risk of developing breast cancer, and up to 40 per cent risk of developing ovarian cancer, in their lifetimes.

Until now, preventive surgery - mastectomy (breasts) and oophorectomy (ovaries) - has been the only way of reducing the risk of developing both types of cancers.

The new discovery by researchers in Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) may mean women affected with BRCA1 could use drugs, which are already available, to reduce their risk of developing the disease, rather than undergo irreversible surgery. In turn, such treatments would open up the possibility of some of these women, who might otherwise have an oophorectomy, still being able to have children.

The new research by Dr Kienan Savage and Professor Paul Harkin at CCRCB proves there is a direct link between high levels of oestrogen and DNA damage, which causes cancer, in the breasts and ovaries.

Specifically, the scientists discovered that the cells of women with the BRCA1 mutation cannot effectively fight the very high levels of oestrogen that exist in all women’s breasts and ovaries, leaving them vulnerable to DNA damage.

While this link between oestrogen, breast/ovarian cancer and BRCA1 mutation has been suspected by the scientific community for years, it has not been proven until now.

Dr Kienan Savage, from the CCRCB, and who led the research, said: “This discovery is very significant in the management of women with the BRCA1 gene mutation. It’s the first really credible evidence that oestrogen is driving cancer in women with a BRCA1 gene mutation. Because of this discovery, we now have the opportunity to propose an alternative treatment to surgery. It also opens up the possibility of pausing treatment for a period in order for women to have children, if desired.

“What also makes this exciting is that there are drugs already on the market which turn off oestrogen production. In theory, we could use these drugs to chemically reduce oestrogen production in women which could negate the need for irreversible surgery.” 

The Queen’s-led research, which has been ongoing for four years, was carried out with funding from Cancer Focus NI and Cancer Research UK. It is carried in the latest edition of the prestigious USA-based journal Cancer Research.

Professor David Waugh, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s, said: “This breakthrough by researchers at CCRCB is great news for women with the BRCA1 gene and the cancer research community as a whole. It is pivotal in that it reveals more about the mechanisms behind breast and ovarian cancer.

“This work of Dr Kienan Savage and Professor Paul Harkin is further example of the world-leading research being undertaken at Queen’s which continues to advance knowledge and change lives.”

Roisin Foster, Chief Executive, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, said: “Cancer Focus is delighted to fund this ground-breaking research into breast cancer, which has the potential in the forseeable future to benefit women all over the world. We are only able to support this vital work because of the generosity of our local community.”  

The researchers are currently seeking funding to launch clinical trials and hope to do so within 12 months. It is envisaged that, in the first instance, a small control trial will be carried out using a combination of two drugs on 12 women for a period of three months, using biopsy, blood and urine samples to track DNA damage.

For further information, contact the Communications Office on Tel. +44 (0)28 9097 3087 or email comms.office@qub.ac.uk

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