September 2015 Press Releases

Queen’s University Belfast in global top 200

Queen’s has moved up 75 places to number 200 in the world according to the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16.

THE World University Rankings are arguably the world’s most prestigious and widely referenced university rankings. Queen’s performance is based on five criteria – teaching, research, citations, industry income and international outlook.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston said: “This is good news for Queen’s and for Northern Ireland and confirms our position in the top 1% of universities in the world. It complements the University’s recent impressive performance in the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016, in which the University moved up to number 31 in the UK, and also the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), which placed Queen’s joint 8th in the UK for research intensity.

“These results are further recognition of our success in delivering globally recognised education and research, which makes a real and lasting impact on society.”

Phil Baty, editor of the THE World University Rankings, said: “The Times Higher Education World University Rankings, now in their 12th year, apply rigorous standards, using tough global benchmarks across all of a global research university’s key missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The results are trusted by students and their families, academics, university leaders and governments. For Queen’s University Belfast to make 200 in the world is an outstanding achievement to be celebrated.”

For more information visit


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:

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Queen’s University hosts major, international dentistry conference

Dentists from around the world will gather at Queen’s this week for a landmark conference.

The combined annual meeting of the European College of Gerodontology, the Association of Consultants and Specialists in Restorative Dentistry, and the Specialist Registrars in Restorative Dentistry Group takes place on October 1-2 and marks the first time that any of these organisations have gathered in Ireland, north or south.

Experts from North and South America, Europe and Asia will discuss issues including the economic challenges of our ageing population and clinical topics including dental implants, periodontal disease and head and neck oncology. 

Speakers will include Professor Jimmy Steele who, along with his clinical and academic work, has held a number of external roles, including leading the ‘Review of NHS Dental Services in England’ for the Government in 2009, and subsequently working with the Department of Health to pilot and consider implementation of the recommendations.

Also addressing the conference will be Professor Finbarr Allen, recently appointed as the new Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry and Director of the National University Centre for Oral Health in Singapore.  

Queen’s Centre for Dentistry was ranked No 1 in the UK in the 2015 National Student Survey. This followed the Guardian League Tables’ ranking of Queen’s Dentistry as No 3 in the UK.

Dr Gerry McKenna of the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s, and currently President of the European College of Gerodontology, said: “To bring this amount of world-level expertise and talent to Belfast is incredible. Queen’s is very proud to be hosting this event, which is of international significance. In many parts of the world we have an ageing population, with all sorts of knock-on issues for society, geriatric dentistry being one of them, so this conference could not be more timely.

“It also comes at a great time for Dentistry at Queen’s. After a £4million refurbishment, facilities at the School are now among the most modern in Europe. The new clinical techniques lab, in particular, provides an exceptional teaching environment for undergraduates where they can learn and develop their clinical skills under close supervision before embarking on treatment for their patients.”

For further information, please contact Queen’s University Communications Officer Una Bradley on Tel. 028 9097 5384, email (Mon-Thurs) or Tel. 028 9097 3087, email (Fri)

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Queen's spin-out secures €1.2M towards growing UK Manufacturing Base

Queen's University spin-out MOF Technologies today announced the receipt of €1.2M funding to expand their UK manufacturing base and scale up production of their clean technology-enabling nanomaterials – Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs).

This success builds on MOF Technologies’ recently announced collaborations with IBM and General Motors in the commercialisation of MOFs to transform a range of clean-tech applications. These include gas storage and filtration, heat transformation and the use of natural gas for vehicular transport.

The funding is part of a European Horizon 2020 project which includes partners such as Johnson Matthey and GDF Suez. The project itself, named ProDIA, received support totalling €7.6M and focuses on the production of nanoporous materials for a range of clean-technology applications, most notably in the fields of gas storage, air purification and heat pumps. MOF Technologies is the largest recipient of the funding within project ProDIA, and is one of only a handful of companies to receive such a significant level of support via the Horizon 2020 scheme.

Through this collaboration, MOF Technologies will scale up its proprietary manufacturing process to enable them to supply large scale industrial applications. Bucking the current trend of off-shoring, MOF Technologies will grow and further establish its manufacturing base in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with new facilities scheduled to open in Q1 2016.

Dr Paschal McCloskey, CEO of MOF Technologies, said “MOF Technologies view this success in securing funding from Horizon 2020 as verification of our plans to scale up our innovative production process. This ensures the ongoing growth of our company to deliver the full commercial potential of MOFs in the clean tech and other industry sectors.”.

Dr Pat McComiskey, Investment Manager at Queen's University's QUBIS Ltd, said “MOF Technologies are one of only three local companies who have secured this funding and it will enable the company to accelerate its growth plans”. 

Media enquiries to: Una Bradley, Queen's University Communications Office, or

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Queen’s leads the way in celebrating European Day of Languages

Queen’s University Belfast is leading the way in celebrating this year’s European Day of Languages (EDL), on 26 September, 2015.

With international students and staff at Queen’s representing more than 80 countries, the University will mark the broad range of languages spoken by people currently living in Europe, and the diverse cultures that accompany them.

Northern Ireland Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (NICILT), based in Queen’s School of Education, is responsible for promoting and coordinating EDL across Northern Ireland.

Ian Collen, NICILT Co-Director, said: “We encourage everyone in the workplace and at all levels of education to get involved in celebrating the wealth of languages used across Northern Ireland.

“Whether you decide to speak another language for the day, teach a friend a few words in another language or listen to a radio station from another country, let us know about it and most of all, have fun.”

Events at Queen’s are taking place throughout the week leading up to European Day of Languages and will be kicking off with stilt walkers and street performers at the McClay Library on Thursday, 24 September from 12.00 noon until 3.00pm. The event aims to promote the many varied opportunities, available to all students and staff at Queen’s through the Language Centre, to improve their language skills in over 20 different languages and gain training in cultural awareness. 

Queen's University Belfast NICILT will be hosting a Sign Language Workshop giving visitors a taste of British and Irish sign languages on Saturday 26 September, from 10.30am until 11.30am in the Lanyon Building, Room G0/074. This event is open to the public and free to attend. To register for this event contact:

European Day of Languages is an opportunity to inspire and encourage people of all ages to get involved and excited about learning a new language and to reflect on the advantages of language competence and life-long language learning.


Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5292 email:

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£500,000 project at Queen’s to convert catering waste oils to fuels and chemicals

Researchers at Queen’s University have been awarded a grant to support a £500,000 project to convert waste fats and oils into biofuels, which could be used as replacements for petrol, diesel and aviation fuels.

The project, supported by the Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy (CASE), which is hosted at Queen’s and funded through the Invest Northern Ireland Competence Centre programme, is a joint initiative with Queen’s spin-out company MOF Technologies, Belgian firm Oleon and Co. Antrim-based CaterWaste.

The current process to convert catering waste, namely fats and oils, into biofuels is lengthy and complex, involving multiple solvents and high temperature and pressures. But a new process, using catalysts provided by MOF Technologies via a new technique to avoid the use of solvents, can be used at low temperature and pressures. It is anticipated that the biofuels, as well as the value added chemicals created in this new process, could also be used in cosmetics, inks and building materials.

CASE Director, Sam McCloskey, said: “This project is one of more than a dozen funded by CASE, which is giving more than 30 local companies unique access to the world-class research expertise, skills and facilities at Queen’s, Ulster University and AFBI. These collaborations are crucial to the development of Northern Ireland’s sustainable energy sector, and are a fine example of how local SME’s can work alongside academia and multinational organisations to develop new technologies and processes for their business.”

Dr Paschal McCloskey, CEO of MOF Technologies, said: “By using our innovative manufacturing process we can manufacture next generation catalysts that are used to efficiently convert these waste materials into valuable fuel and chemical sources.

“This is another example of how through our novel production process MOF Technologies is contributing to the development of new environmentally friendly manufacturing technologies for the 21st century.”

This exciting project forms part of CASE’s £5 million budget from Invest Northern Ireland. The Centre is highlighting a range of projects within the sustainable energy sector on Wednesday 23 September as part of a ShowCASE event. Held at Queen’s University’s Riddel Hall, the event will also feature information on accessing up to £1.5 million for research and development collaborations within the sustainable energy sector.


Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5320 email:

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Giant Meccano Bridge Secures World Record

Officials from Guinness World Records have confirmed that Queen’s Big Bridge Build – a bridge spanning almost 100 feet across Belfast’s Clarendon dock – is the world’s largest Meccano structure.

The Big Bridge Build, a year-long project, is the brainchild of the University’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering.  Academics and students created the bridge, with the help of local school children, as part of the university’s outreach programme to encourage more children to think about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). 

Hundreds of people visited Belfast’s Clarendon Dock over the weekend to marvel at the stunning construction as they waited to hear the official announcement of the World Record bid. The project was made possible with the help of Spin Master Corp, the proud owner and producer of Meccano, as well as McLaughlin & Harvey and Aecom who gave valuable advice to the students as well as assisting with the construction and installation of the bridge across the Clarendon Dock.

The students celebrated their achievement by walking across the bridge for the first time, which was officially declared open by Meccano’s Meccanoid Robot, much to the delight of attending youngsters.

Speaking about the achievement Danny McPolin, Senior Structures Lecturer at Queen’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, said: “This event has been a fantastic way to celebrate the student and staff’s incredible work over the past year, but also a chance to show local children more about the exciting courses we offer here at the Queen’s University.

“With a growing skill shortage in Civil engineering, we hope that our work will encourage more children to consider the study of civil engineering and other STEM subjects at University level.”

Members of the public who attend the event had the opportunity to speak to students and academics, as well as the event sponsors, who were on hand to discuss the bridge build and civil engineering in general.  Youngsters were also able to create their own Meccano structures in a dedicated Gazebo sponsored by Smyths Toys Superstores. 

Ben Varadi, Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, Spin Master Corp., said: “We are truly in awe of this remarkable achievement.  Spin Master is incredibly proud that this timeless and iconic toy, invented over a 100 years ago, continues to inspire the world’s future architects and engineers.”

Paul McCormick, Managing Director, Highways & Bridges, EMEA & India at AECOM, commented: “We are proud to have been involved with the Big Bridge Build project and it’s wonderful to seeyoung people getting excited by the fantastic opportunities civil engineering can offer. We hope this event inspires more young people to take up STEM subjects at university level and pursue careers in engineering.”

John McCarey, Chief Engineer at Civil Engineering contractor McLaughlin & Harvey Ltd added: “It has been a pleasure to work with Queen’s to support these engineers of the future with this exciting project. We have been involved from the start of their world record attempt, providing them with a contractor’s insight and bringing our technical expertise to the very particular challenges of this brilliant third year design project. To gain the World Record is the Icing on the Cake!”

The Guinness World Record ‘Big Bridge Build’ in numbers!

Length of Bridge - 28.5 (96ft)

Longest Span of Bridge - 14m

Height of Bridge - 6m (26ft)

Weight - 600kg

Pieces of Meccano – 11,000

Nuts, bolts, washers – 60,000

Total length of Meccano pieces (laid end to end) – 3,835m

This is equivalent to the length of 341 Routemaster buses or the height of 10 Empire State Buildings!


Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5320 email:

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Queen’s University accelerates up Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016 rankings

Queen’s University has moved up seven places, to number 31 in the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016, due out this weekend.

Competing with universities across the UK, Queen’s has also been placed 15th overall for Student Experience, 14th for Research and 28th for Graduate Employment.

Professor Patrick Johnston, Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University said: “This is good news for both Queen’s and for Northern Ireland. A successful Queen’s University will mean a successful Northern Ireland. It is particularly satisfying that Queen’s is now ranked 15th in the UK for Student Experience.

“Our facilities, among the best on these islands, support a student experience second to none.  94% of our graduates are in employment or further study six months after graduation.”

Placed 14th overall in the UK for research, this latest guide complements the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), where Queen’s University was placed joint 8th in the UK for research intensity.

Queen’s returned over 95 per cent of academic staff, which was the fifth largest staff return in the REF 2014. The University also has 14 subject areas ranked within the UK’s top 20 and 76 per cent of its research classified in the top two categories of world leading and internationally excellent.

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016 is published over the course of three days, beginning with a free 56-page supplement this weekend in The Sunday Times (September 20). It provides the most comprehensive overview of higher education in Britain. A separate analysis of student satisfaction with the quality of the teaching at each institution is published for the first time this year. A fully searchable website with full university profiles and 66 subject tables will be published at on Sunday for members of The Times and The Sunday Times.


For more information, contact the Communications Office on 028 9097 5320 (Mon-Wed) or 028 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email

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Queen’s University engineering students riveted by 100ft Meccano bridge

Engineering students from Queen’s University are hoping to set a new world record after building a 100ft footbridge in Belfast, made entirely from Meccano.

Designed and built by a group of third year Civil Engineering students and local school children, the temporary Meccano bridge, which will span more than 100 feet across Belfast’s Clarendon Dock, will be unveiled at a free public event on Saturday 19 September.

The ambitious year-long project was the brainchild of academics and students from the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, as part of the University’s outreach programme to encourage more children to think about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Around 11,000 pieces of Meccano were used to build the bridge, which weighs 600kg (around 1,300lbs).

Those involved are hoping that the bridge will be a record breaker. Representatives from Guinness World Records will be on site to confirm if the project to build a bridge entirely from Meccano has earned a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest ever Meccano construction.

The project has received funding from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, AECOM, Meccano and Queen’s Annual Fund with technical support and advice from civil engineering contractors, McLaughlin and Harvey.  Smyths Toys and Belfast Harbour will be supporting the event.

Members of the public are invited to the bridge opening, where they will get the chance to speak to students and academics about the project and ask questions about civil engineering at Queen’s.

Dr Danny McPolin from the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, who led the project, said: “We see this event not only as an opportunity to celebrate the students’ and staff’s incredible work over the past year, but also a chance to give local children an insight into the exciting courses on offer at Queen’s. We hope to welcome as many youngsters as possible on the day and cement their interest in studying Civil Engineering and other STEM subjects at University level.”

Professor Trevor Whittaker, Head of the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, said increasing the number of Civil Engineering graduates is key to securing a prosperous economic future for Northern Ireland.

He said: “STEM subjects open doors to some of the world’s most exciting careers, and our graduates leave Queen’s with skills that set them apart in a very competitive job market. Queen’s graduates are making a difference in industry and academia worldwide, and with the global construction market set to grow by 70 per cent by 2025, the our graduates will continue to make  a visible, lasting impact on the world.

“Queen’s offers an array of opportunities to enable students to develop key skills through industry placements and study abroad schemes. As the Big Bridge Build has shown, we work closely with industry to anticipate their needs and to ensure the relevancy of our courses to employers.”

Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure Carál Ní Chuilín said: “This innovative project underlines the importance of creativity in design and the built environment. It also gives many young people the opportunity to sample a career in civil engineering.

“While underlining the importance of the creative industries, the Meccano bridge shows what can happen when we take new approaches and look for innovative solutions. While this initiative is as much about the journey as the destination, to end with a new world record would be a fantastic achievement. It would truly reflect the efforts of all those who have taken an unusual idea and turned into a creative reality.

“With this in mind, I wish everyone involved well as they bid for history.”

The project has also attracted the interest of some notable figures, including Dame Athene Donald, Lord Richard Rogers and Grand Design’s Kevin McCloud who have all sent messages of support.

The event will run from 12.00 noon to 3pm with the Guinness judgement expected at 12.30pm.  Food and refreshments will be available.

The Meccano bridge will be lit during the evenings of Friday September 18 and Saturday September 19, before being dismantled on Sunday, September 20.


Media inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office. Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri), Tel: 028 9097 5310/56320 Email:

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Transatlantic partnership to develop new treatments for pancreatic cancer

A US-Ireland partnership involving researchers at Queen’s University has been awarded £2.9m to develop new treatments for pancreatic cancer, which is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK.

The grant has been awarded under the US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership Programme. It will bring together world-leading experts in drug delivery and cancer research at Queen’s, Dublin City University and the University at Buffalo.

The five-year programme will focus on the development of ‘nanomedicine’ in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, for which current treatment options are limited. The transatlantic team aim to develop miniscule technology – so tiny that it is invisible to the naked eye – to deliver drugs directly to cancer sites and thereby improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments.

Almost 9,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK every year. It has the lowest five-year survival rate of any common cancer and one that has barely improved in 40 years.

In Northern Ireland, during 2009-2013 an average of 220 cases of pancreatic cancer were diagnosed each year. The five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed in 2004-2008 was 5%.  

Pancreatic cancer is often very advanced by the time it is diagnosed and only 3% of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis. More than 80% of people with the disease are diagnosed when it has already spread, so they are not eligible for surgery to remove the tumour – currently the only potential cure.

This partnership is a unique arrangement involving funding agencies in the USA, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland who combine resources to enable the best researchers from Ireland and the USA to work together on research to address critical issues and generate valuable discoveries that will impact on patient care. 

Queen’s University Professor Christopher Scott, Director of Research, Molecular Therapeutics Cluster in the School of Pharmacy, who is leading the project, said: “Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK. Many chemotherapies could be more effective, and induce fewer side effects, if they could access the tumour more easily; this is what we aim to examine in this project. By working in partnership with researchers in New York and Dublin it will allow us to generate valuable discoveries and innovations which can move our work out of the laboratory and towards clinical trials.

“This is another example of the commitment of researchers and staff at Queen’s to advancing knowledge and changing lives.”

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director of the Public Health Agency’s HSC R&D Division, which is funding the Northern Ireland part of this project with support from the Medical Research Council, said: “We are delighted to be funding this project which will tackle an important area around drug delivery in pancreatic cancer which we know is a difficult disease to treat. We expect that the outcomes from this international research will lead to significant advances in the treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer in the UK, Ireland and beyond.”


For further information please contact Queen’s University Communications Officers Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) on 028 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 028 9097 5310 or email

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Northern Ireland’s brightest sparks win a free education at Queen’s

Queen’s University has awarded a free university education to five of Northern Ireland’s brightest young minds, as part of a major scholarship scheme.

As a Queen’s Scholar, each of the students who are from Ballymena, Limavady, Maghera, Newtownards and Belfast, will have their annual tuition fees paid for the duration of their undergraduate degree.

The awards are worth almost £75K to the five winning students, who were selected from 139 students nominated by 78 schools and colleges.

This is the third year of the Queen’s Scholar’s scheme in which each school or college across Northern Ireland was asked to nominate pupils who could demonstrate exceptional achievements outside academic life, whether in sport, music and the arts, business and enterprise or through community work, with a particular focus on leadership, enterprise and social responsibility.

The top 50 applicants were invited to a selection day where they undertook a series of mini interviews and unseen presentations before the winners were selected.

This year’s Queen’s Scholars are:

  • Carrie Coulter (Ballymena), Ballymena Academy, Ballymena -  Medicine
  • Jordan Ferris (Limavady), Limavady Grammar School, Limavady - BSc Finance
  • Callum Mullan Young (Maghera), St. Mary’s Grammar School, Magherafelt - Chemical Engineering
  • Stephanie Hill (Newtownards), South Eastern Regional Campus, Bangor – History
  • Niamh Lundy (Belfast), St. Dominic’s Grammar School, Belfast - English

Anthony McGrath, Domestic Student Recruitment Manager at Queen’s, said: “The standard was exceptionally high this year and everyone who was nominated and progressed to our selection day can be very proud of their achievements. We are delighted with our five winners who will now become ambassadors for the University and I know they will represent us with pride.

“Each Scholar comes from a different background with differing outlooks on their future but they all know that Queen’s is the gateway to their long term success. We look forward to seeing their progression and know that their recent successes can be a springboard to their longer term goals”.

The Queen’s Scholars will meet University staff during the Undergraduate Open Days, which will see approximately 14-15,000 students from schools and colleges around Northern Ireland visit the campus.

The Open Days will be taking place on 10, 11 and 12 September, 2015 and will be an opportunity for prospective students to visit the campus with their friends and family to see for themselves what Queen’s can offer them.


Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 3091 or email

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Queen’s University Belfast goes global as they get set to compete in the 2015 FEXCO Asian Games in Shanghai

Queen’s University Belfast is sending a delegation of staff and International students to compete at the 20th FEXCO Asian Games in Shanghai, China, on 23-25 October 2015.  The FEXCO Asian Games are the largest Gaelic Games tournament in the World outside of Ireland. University College Dublin participated successfully last year, and Queen’s will be the first Northern Ireland University to take part. The project is supported by Queen’s University Sport, the Queen’s Annual Fund, Motiv8, Queen’s International Office and Invest NI.

Impressively, the team of students are new to the game and have only been training since April 2015. All Ireland Winner and Queen’s GAA Development Officer, Aidan O’Rourke, is coaching the team along with current Armagh and Queen’s players, Fionnuala McKenna and Caroline O’Hanlon. Aidan commented on the team progress to date: “Working with the students has been a pleasure over the past few months. I’ve been involved in many teams over the years but I have to say these students have embraced the competitive and team ethos associated with the game more than most. Considering the language barriers and the fact they are new to the sport, their skill levels have dramatically improved as a result of their application and the strong bond they have built with each other."

The teams participating in the Games, from 23 clubs representing 13 countries across Asia, will battle it out at the Shanghai Community Sports Club.

The University’s team represents 7 different nationalities (China, Malaysia, Thailand, USA, Portugal, Iran, and Germany) and, in partnership with Queen’s International Recruitment, will act as ambassadors during a number of scheduled visits to schools and universities in Shanghai.

Prior to the tournament, the 9th Annual Asia-Pacific Irish Business Forum (APIBF) will be held on Friday, 23 October 2015,  in the Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale Oriental Hotel in Pudong, Shanghai, bringing together Irish business people in the Asia region and those with an interest in Irish business.

Director of Queen’s Marketing, Recruitment, Communications and Internationalisation, Isabel Jennings, remarked: “The visit is aligned with Queen’s ongoing commitment to internationalisation and the key aim of increasing student mobility. Events and initiatives such as the Asian Games provide opportunities for our students to unlock their full potential in a global context. It is our hope that the Queen’s team will have an exceptional experience whilst representing the University at the Games and we congratulate those students who have made the team, and wish them well for the event. ”

Invest NI will also be hosting a reception in Shanghai for Queen’s on Saturday, 24 October 2015, which provides an opportunity for Queen’s alumni and businesses with a connection to the University to come together in the region.

Michael Garvey, Director Asia-Pacific for Invest NI, commented: “It’s great to have Queen’s represented in the region and at the Games. We are delighted to partner with the University in Shanghai to help further our network and promote the exciting opportunities that exist for NI business."

Queen’s will officially launch the venture on Wednesday, 9 September 2015, at Queen’s Sport Upper Malone at 6.00pm before the team plays University College Dublin (UCD) in an exhibition match on the Queen’s Sport Arena at 7.00pm.

For further information please contact: Karl Oakes 07772432454

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Queen’s leads €50m programme to develop new antibiotic treatments for cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis

Researchers at Queen’s are leading a €50 million, Europe-wide, project to develop new drug treatments that could improve the lives of patients with cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis.

The iABC (inhaled Antibiotics in Bronchiectasis and Cystic Fibrosis) consortium, which is made up of world-leading lung specialists from across Europe, will develop new ‘inhaled antibiotics’ to manage chronic lung infection, the main cause of disease and death in patients with cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis.

The new antibiotics, which are to be trialed over a five year period and are being developed in response to an urgent need for new forms of inhaled antibiotics, are expected to improve patients’ quality of life by reducing lung infections and flare ups, improving lung function, and overcoming antibacterial resistance which frequently occurs in patients with these conditions.

The programme will also establish the first European patient register for bronchiectasis, providing a platform to improve the quality of care for patients across Europe, as well as making it easier to develop and trial new drugs.

The Consortium, which is led by researchers from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, and the School of Pharmacy, at Queen’s University, with EFPIA partners Novartis and Basilea, is funded by the European Commission through the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) and involves researchers from 20 organisations in eight countries across Europe. The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust will be a key partner in clinical trials of the new antibiotics.

Professor Stuart Elborn, Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University, and Lead Researcher on the project, said: “There are limited antibiotics available to treat lung infection in cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis, and the bacteria causing them are becoming increasingly resistant to current antibiotics. To ensure the development of new drug types we are bringing together world leading researchers with proven expertise in antibiotic development, clinical trials, and high-quality research.

“This work has the potential to deliver inhaled antibiotics that will improve the quality of life and survival of cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis patients. It is the latest example of the commitment of researchers and staff at Queen’s University to advancing knowledge and changing lives by working with international experts.”

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston said: “Northern Ireland and Queen’s University are leading the way in developing new treatments for chronic lung diseases. The work of Professor Elborn and his colleagues is already making a huge different to thousands of people living with these conditions. Today’s funding announcement will ensure that this life-changing and life-saving research will continue.”

The development of the iABC-consortium has been supported by the Northern Ireland Contact Point (NICP) for Health, based in the Research and Enterprise Directorate at Queen’s and the Health and Social Care Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency.

The Northern Ireland Contact Point (NICP) network, established to provide support to EC funding applicants, is funded by Northern Ireland’s Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) and Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI).

Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry said: “I commend Queen’s on successfully securing €23.3 million from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). This award will facilitate world leading collaborative research to develop new antibiotic treatment options for people with cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis.

“I am pleased that the Northern Ireland Contact Point (NICP) for Health, funded through the DEL-DETI Higher Education EU Framework Support Programme, played a substantial role in securing this funding. The NICP network provides specialist advice and assistance to academics and businesses across areas of economic relevance to Northern Ireland and of priority to the European Commission.”

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Jonathan Bell, said: “I want to congratulate Queen’s University on this tremendous success in Horizon 2020 which will see over €23m come to Northern Ireland. Securing these major international research awards is an important part of the NI Executive’s Innovation Strategy to transform our economy into one that is knowledge based. The University’s success is not only testimony to the world class research capabilities we have in Northern Ireland but also to the support provided by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Department for Employment and Learning  though the Horizon 2020 Northern Ireland Contact Point Network which played a key part in helping secure this research award‎."

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director, HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency said: "This significant award builds on a long track record of world-leading research led by Professor Elborn and his team in Northern Ireland, in collaboration with international partners in Europe and the United States. HSC R&D Division is proud to have supported this research group over the last 15 years, a period that has seen their work contribute to major improvements to the lives of people with cystic fibrosis. I am delighted that our continued support and partnership with the team has helped them secure this award to carry out further research in this important area."

The iABC consortium involves researchers from the UK, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) Queen’s University Communications Office +44(0)28 9097 5320 / 5310 email

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Queen’s University developing new drug against leading causes of death in the UK – sepsis and ARDS

Scientists at Queen’s are developing a potential revolutionary new treatment for Sepsis and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), which are among the leading causes of death in hospitalised patients in the UK. 

Currently, there are no effective treatments available for these life threatening syndromes.

The novel anti-inflammatory drug, SAN101, is being developed by a team of scientists and clinicians at the School of Pharmacy and the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s, alongside colleagues at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). It is the result of an initial discovery made over 6 years ago at Queen’s.

Pre-clinical results are published today (Wednesday 2 September) in Science Translational Medicine – one of the world’s leading journals on experimental medicine. The research was funded by a major grant from the Medical Research Council awarded in 2012, following initial support from the Public Health Agency (PHA) HSC R&D Division.

Sepsis is one of the most frequent cause of death in hospitalised patients, with an estimated 19 million cases worldwide every year and around 8 million deaths. The condition claims 37,000 lives in the UK every year and costs the NHS around £2.5 billion annually. There may be up to 45,000 cases of ARDS each year in the UK and Ireland and up to 22,000 deaths.

The team at Queen’s have developed a nanoparticle that binds to immune cells in the body and inhibits the excessive cycle of inflammation which drives the development of sepsis and ARDS. This new approach has the potential to reduce the impact of sepsis and ARDS in acutely ill patients.

Professor Chris Scott from Queen’s School of Pharmacy said: “Through this research we are well on the road to developing a medical treatment for sepsis and ARDS.

“Sepsis arises when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive, setting off a series of reactions including widespread inflammation. This inflammation can lead to a significant decrease in blood pressure, which inhibits blood supply to vital organs and can lead to multiple organ failure.

“A frequent complication of sepsis is ARDS – where the lungs can't provide enough oxygen for the rest of the body. Up to 25 per cent of patients with severe sepsis will develop ARDS and up to half of these patients will die.

“What we have developed is an anti-inflammatory nanoparticle – a microscopic particle that binds itself to cells called ‘macrophages’, which are often found at the site of an infection. We have found that this nanoparticle essentially blocks inflammation and interrupts the chain of reactions that lead to severe sepsis and ARDS.”

Dr Adrien Kissenpfennig from the Centre for infection and Immunity said “This is an exciting study demonstrating the effectiveness of a novel nanoparticle formulation in mouse pre-clinical models of sepsis and a new ex-vivo human lung model of ARDS. This necessary research represents an essential milestone in the development of SAN101, paving the way for continued development towards eventual evaluation in patients.”

Professor Danny McAuley from the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s is the lead clinician on the study. He said: “At present, there is no effective treatment for either sepsis or ARDS. There is a huge clinical need for a drug to fight the inflammation caused by sepsis and ARDS that causes so much damage to the body. Through this research, we are well on our way to developing that drug and, with the right funding and strategic partnerships, we could see it being trialled in patients in as little as two or three years. This is an exciting development and an excellent example of the potentially life-changing and life-saving impact of Queen’s research.”

Professor Scott will be presenting the development of SAN101 at the Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences of Great Britain Conference in Nottingham on the 9th September 2015.

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director, HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency said: “This exciting development in critical care research clearly demonstrates the value of investment in early stage translational research projects - such as those supported through the HSC R&D Division Translational Research Groups.  I am delighted that the funding provided by HSC R&D Division has helped the team to achieve these promising results which have the potential to significantly improve the outcomes for patients with sepsis and ARDS.”

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thu-Fri) at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320 / 5310 email

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What really happened in 1916? Queen’s hosts open courses on centenaries

In this season of centenaries, Queen’s University’s Open Learning Programme is making a major contribution through a series of courses focusing on the momentous events of 1916.

The courses, which are open to the public, examine the period from many perspectives.

Cathal McManus, co-director of the Open Learning programme at Queen’s, will offer a number of  courses looking at 1916 through key figures like Pearse and De Valera, while he sets Irish events into the wider context of Europe at war in ‘A Terrible Beauty is Born’.

Ronnie Hanna will lead a course on the Empire at War and another course spanning both world wars. Stephen Heron links past and present in his course on Commemorations, Parades and Symbolism in Northern Ireland.

Particular theatres of war are the focus in other courses; Tom Thorpe explores the historical debates around military operations on the Western Front, while Steve Flanders tackles the Middle East.

And an often neglected topic, the experience of war for British and Irish women, will be examined by Robert Whan.  There is even a course on war-time crafts run by Pamela Emerson.

While the Open Learning programme often  runs a special series on a topic of contemporary interest, there is a huge variety of courses in the programme; subjects range from First Aid to World Literature, from the fascinating history of Japanese tattooing to Arabic and Chinese language and culture.

Anybody can come along to the programme.  No prior qualifications are needed and the classes are informal and accessible. 

Dr Tess Maginess, co-director of the programme, said: “The wide range of courses reflects just about every interest.  If you want to learn the hidden history of the Irish and Scottish in colonial Barbados, you can enrol for ‘Redlegs and Redshanks’. And if you just need a bit of TLC, you can come along to one of the many complementary therapy courses.”

Dr Cathal McManus added: “We are also introducing a set of continuing and professional development courses in the field of education, for example the Registered Behaviour Technician course and courses for primary and secondary school teachers on how to implement inclusion and diversity with incomer pupils.”

The full brochure can be accessed online at or it can be sent by post. Enrolment is easy and people can sign up online, by telephone or by post. The Open Learning team are based at 20 College Green, Belfast BT7 1LN, tel. (028) 9097 3323/3539.

Media inquiries to Queen's Communications Office on or 028 9097 3091

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