11-2012 Press Releases

 

New autism treatments to be revealed at Queen's

A new treatment for children with autism, which has the potential to significantly improve their learning and academic skills, will be unveiled at Queen’s today (Friday 30 November).

Currently, more than 15,000 families in Northern Ireland are affected directly by Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Precision Teaching, a method which teaches children not only how to behave, but how often, how fast, and for how long, is just one of many new studies and intervention methods for Autism Spectrum Disorders which will be unveiled at Queen's as part of its Autism Research and Treatment (QUART) Forum’s Ambitious for All: Autism, Behaviour and Learning event.  

Precision Teaching has been shown to be highly effective in helping children and young people with Autism and their typically developing peers achieve their potential in mainstream schools.

Almost 150 researchers from around the world, including keynote speakers from the UK and Greece, will gather at Queen’s to discuss Precision Teaching, Intensive Early Behavioural Interventions and other therapies based on Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), as the most effective evidence-based framework for treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Professor Karola Dillenburger, from the Centre for Behaviour Analysis in Queen’s School of Education, said: "Autism is now diagnosed in 1 in 88 individuals. This means that more than 15,000 families in Northern Ireland are affected directly. 4,000 children with Autism Spectrum Disorders are of school-age and the provision of evidence-based behaviour analytic treatment is vital to ensure that these children are enabled to lead fulfilled lives. At today's conference we will hear from international experts in a number of potentially invaluable treatments.

"Precision teaching does not only benefit children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, it helps all children to overcome barriers to learning and achieve their full potential and is therefore of interest not only to teachers of children with ASD but to all educators. We will also hear about the innovative work that is carried out across Europe in Autism Spectrum Disorders Centres in Germany, Greece, France and Spain, where evidence-based early Intensive Behaviour Analytic Intervention has lead to vast improvements in the children's skill base, and allows for many more children to be mainstreamed.”

The QUART one-day conference is in its second year. Taking place in the Whitla Hall at Queen's it will offer a forum for local, national and international best practice to be disseminated.  It will allow practitioners, parents, individuals with a diagnosis, and academics to network and establish relationships with national and international leaders in the field.

The event is open to the public. For more information and registration visit www.qub.ac.uk/cba

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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You're Hired - 'Jedi Jim' completes the search for The QUB Apprentice 2012

Sean McNally, a final year Accountancy student from Kilmore, Co Armagh has won the coveted title ‘The QUB Apprentice 2012’.

This is the second year of The QUB Apprentice 2012 competition in partnership with Deloitte and Sean was up against stiff competition in the final task with his opponent, Business Management student, Judith Alexander from Markethill where they had to take control of the Simon Community Shop in Botanic for a day, each competing to raise the most profit and tangible donations.

The students managed to raise almost £15,000 for the Simon Community throughout this year’s tasks.
In addition to the coveted title, Sean has the opportunity of a prestigious two-week placement with Deloitte as well as winning £300 worth of vouchers and a cash prize of £3,495 towards his university fees.

Star of the BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’, Jim Eastwood, teamed up with Queen’s Students’ Union to host the final boardroom this week, where he ‘hired’ the lucky winner.
Contestants were short-listed based on a CV application and a 30-second elevator pitch recorded to camera.  They then embarked on a series of tasks which put their presentation, team work, creativity and negotiation skills to the test.

Along the way they encountered some of the most experienced business people in Northern Ireland, including Dr Trefor Campbell, former Director of Moy Park; John Blisard, owner of Boojum; Stephen Moore, Group Creative Director AV Browne Group; and Gary Carpenter, Deloitte.

Commenting on the initiative, Queen’s Students’ Union Vice-President Community Aidan Hughes said: “Queen’s Students’ Union is committed to enhancing the employment prospects of all our students and graduates, through a range of extra-curricular activity such as The QUB Apprentice.  It encourages students to develop their entrepreneurial skills while also having a lot of fun!”

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Northern Ireland men named UK Business Leaders of Tomorrow
David Quinn (3rd from left), KTP Associate with Macrete Ltd and Queen's University.
Pictured with(L-R)Abhey Gupta and Serena Gildea from Macrete, and Dr Su Taylor from Queen's (right) at the Northern Ireland KTP Awards earlier this year.
David Quinn (3rd from left), KTP Associate with Macrete Ltd and Queen's University. Pictured with(L-R)Abhey Gupta and Serena Gildea from Macrete, and Dr Su Taylor from Queen's (right) at the Northern Ireland KTP Awards earlier this year.
David Sandford (left), KTP Associate with Hughes Insurance and Queen's University. 
Pictured with (second left) Tracy Meharg, Invest NI’s Executive Director of Business Solutions; Dr Iain Gray, Chief Executive, Technology Strategy Board; Mary Flynn, Head of KTP and Business Networks at Queen’s.
David Sandford (left), KTP Associate with Hughes Insurance and Queen's University. Pictured with (second left) Tracy Meharg, Invest NI’s Executive Director of Business Solutions; Dr Iain Gray, Chief Executive, Technology Strategy Board; Mary Flynn, Head of KTP and Business Networks at Queen’s.

Two Northern Ireland men have been named as UK Business Leaders of Tomorrow for their roles in successful Knowledge Transfer Partnerships between Queen’s University Belfast and local businesses Hughes Insurance and Macrete Ireland Ltd.

David Quinn, from Coalisland, and David Sandford, who is originally from Birmingham but now lives in Newtownards, are among only five individuals from across the UK awarded the title in recognition of their outstanding contributions to their KTPs. KTPs are partnerships between universities and companies who need access to skills and knowledge in order to innovate.

The news was announced by David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science at the national Knowledge Transfer Partnership Awards in London today.
David Quinn was KTP Associate for Queen’s and Toomebridge company Macrete Ireland Ltd, while David Sandford was KTP Associate for the University and Newtownards-based Hughes Insurance, where they worked on challenging projects to help their companies grow, innovate and boost profits.

Queen’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Peter Gregson, said: “I congratulate David Sandford and David Quinn on their achievement. This latest success is another tangible example of how businesses across Northern Ireland are benefitting from working alongside Queen’s in order to innovate and grow their businesses, both at home and abroad.

“KTPs bring together the key elements of research and commercial application to deliver sustainable benefits to all parties. Their impact on local business, wealth and job creation has been immense. Business leaders are increasingly aware of the value of collaboration with Queen’s, and of the impact of knowledge transfer activity on the Northern Ireland economy.”

David Sandford worked alongside Queen’s School of Mathematics and Physics to develop new ways to improve Hughes Insurance’s customer contact activities. The collaboration enabled the company to embed new advanced analytics technology and expertise in the business, which contributed to a 4.5 per cent increase in customer retention figures.

The industry standard in this field is based on a generalised type of statistical modelling. David created a new method, which was superior and just as robust. Under his direction, it was adopted and commercialised, going live ahead of schedule, and is now fully operational across the entire operation.

David said: “The KTP was a unique opportunity. It gave me the confidence, with the University’s backing, to suggest and make major changes within a business, which would otherwise have taken significantly longer to achieve or be outsourced to external consultants.”

Like all Queen’s KTPs, the universities partnerships with Hughes Insurance and Macrete Ltd were part-funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the Technology Strategy Board. Speaking about David Sandford’s award, Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board said: “By enhancing collaboration across the academic and private sector, it is clear the beneficiaries are UK businesses. David’s vision and drive to apply mathematics to solve workplace challenges is both inspirational and rewarding.”

David Quinn, from Coalisland, received a Business Leaders of Tomorrow award in recognition of his work with Macrete Ireland Ltd to devise the FlexiArch – a ‘flat pack’ precast concrete solution that allows durable arched bridges to be constructed quickly and easily.

David’s challenge was to develop double radius FlexiArches which could be deployed in a wider range of scenarios than the established semi-circular version. David developed the new product six months ahead of deadline, designing and overseeing production, construction and testing. He also conducted a feasibility study into the possibility of the FlexiArch being retrofitted to existing masonry arch bridges, opening up lucrative market opportunities.

The results for Macrete Ireland Ltd have included the signing of forward licensing agreements work £327,000 with Australian company Rocla. The FlexiArch was also selected as a possible solution for bridging structures for Northern Ireland’s £400m A5 Western Transport Corridor road scheme, and has also been specified as the favoured solution for three multi-span flood relief structures worth £5m.

Speaking about David Quinn’s award, Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said: This project highlights that by sharing knowledge UK businesses can survive and prosper – even during tough economic times. David has demonstrated how innovative thinking can directly lead to business growth. He should be congratulated for his efforts in both innovative bridge design and fresh business thinking.”

Tracy Meharg, Invest NI’s Executive Director of Business Solutions, said: “KTP offers businesses an innovative, cost-effective and flexible option to help them address business issues. These awards are an opportunity to showcase the commercial rewards of collaboration and underline how it is vital for local companies to embrace innovation and a culture of continuous improvement in order to remain competitive.”

For more information about KTP at Queen’s visit www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/KTPandBusinessNetworks

Media inquiries to Michelle Cassidy at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5310 email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen’s Professor joins ranks of engineering elite
Professor Vincent Fusco is awarded the 2012 Mountbatten Medal by Mr Barry Brooks, Deputy President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) at the Mountbatten Lecture which was held in IET London: Savoy Place
Professor Vincent Fusco is awarded the 2012 Mountbatten Medal by Mr Barry Brooks, Deputy President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) at the Mountbatten Lecture which was held in IET London: Savoy Place

A Queen’s University Professor has joined Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world-wide-web, as one of only a small number of engineers worldwide to have been awarded the Mountbatten Medal.

Professor Vincent Fusco from Queen’s has been recognised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), for his outstanding contribution to the promotion of electronics or information technology, and its application, that benefits the UK.

The North Belfast man who is Research Director of High Frequency at Queen’s Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT), has been praised for his pioneering work on the science that lies behind modern mobile and wireless communications.

Professor Fusco’s work has impacted upon the development of satellite communications and making cheaper, faster and more efficient terminals for next generation mobile broadband internet. His research has also provoked step change developments in high data rate wireless communications and has influenced many programmes in both industry and academia worldwide.

Speaking after receiving the award Professor Fusco said: “I am deeply honoured and humbled that the IET have awarded me the 2012 Mountbatten Medal. It is recognition of career achievements in the important topic of microwave wireless communications, a key economic driver for mobile radio systems. Many of these achievements would not have been possible without the help of research colleagues and students at Queen’s and I would like to thank them also.”

Suzanne Flynn FIET, Chair of the Awards and Prizes Committee of the IET said: “The IET is proud to award the Mountbatten Medal in collaboration with the British Computer Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering. Professor Fusco, of Queen’s University Belfast, a pioneer researcher and talented communicator, is a very worthy winner and joins an illustrious list of recipients which includes Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Hermann Hauser and IET President, Professor Andy Hopper.”          

Commenting on the award Professor John McCanny, Director of the ECIT Institute said: “The award of the Mountbatten Medal by the Institution of Engineering and Technology reflects the many outstanding and pioneering contributions that Professor Fusco has made in the field of Microwave and Millimetre wave technology. This includes his research on self-tracking antennae that has resulted in a new class of wireless communication systems, and his research on semiconductor based antennas that are world-leading in terms of the performance they have achieved.

“This is also a very fitting tribute to the very high calibre research team that he leads here at Queen’s. His work is in collaboration with major companies world-wide. These include the European Space Agency, Infineon Technologies (Austria) and OMMIC (France). It has also led to the creation of two new spin-out companies Lamhroe Ltd and Microsense Solutions Ltd here at the Northern Ireland Science Park, creating economic and employment opportunities locally.”

Professor Fusco was presented with the medal at the Mountbatten Memorial Lecture at the IET London, Savoy Place.

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

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Queen's awarded slice of £60 million to help turn science into jobs

Northern Ireland is to benefit from a £60 million investment to help the UK’s leading universities turn their best ideas into good business.

Business Secretary Vince Cable today announced that Queen’s University Belfast has been awarded almost £900K to help it create more successful companies, grow industrial collaboration and foster entrepreneurship.

Already acknowledged as a leader within the UK in terms of revenue and job creation from the commercialisation of its research, and for its work on Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, Queen’s is one of only 31 universities across the UK to receive the Impact Acceleration Account funding award. 

The awards have been made by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) on the basis of previous research excellence and impact demonstrated by each University.

Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor James McElnay, said: “The Business Secretary’s announcement is exactly the type of support Northern Ireland needs right now to ensure our brightest scientists and entrepreneurs can create a sustainable and secure path to continued job creation. In awarding this prestigious and competitive funding, EPSRC has recognised the strength and global impact of Queen’s engineering and science research, and our reputation for successfully commercialising our best ideas and discoveries.

“This award will enable us to further accelerate the process by which our researchers develop their ideas to a stage where a company or venture capitalist will be interested in working with them to commercialise their work. We will also be arranging more impact secondments. These enable scientists and engineering researchers to spend time in a business environment and help researchers better understand the challenges companies face, allowing them to become better entrepreneurs.”

Dr Stephen Farry,Minister for Employment and Learning, said: “I whole-heartedly congratulate the University on this highly prestigious award of funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It reflects both Queen’s established track record of research excellence, coupled with a determined commitment to enterprise and to stimulating economic growth and job creation in Northern Ireland.

“I believe this project has the potential to turn exciting research outputs into viable commercial propositions which will have a real impact on the local economy and on people’s lives.”

The news has been welcomed by Belfast-based Analytics Engines. Established in 2008, as a Queen’s spin-out company, Analytics Engines specialises in high performance data analytics and accelerated computing.

Chief Executive Officer of Analytics Engines Stephen McKeown, said: “Today’s announcement is good news for Queen’s and for the Northern Ireland business community. For companies like ours, funding of this type means we can bridge the gap between early stage research and reaching industry, and avoid the ‘black hole’ that many fantastic innovations and ideas fall into. It is vital that we continue to build a healthy support system for economic growth and I congratulate Queen’s on winning this award.”

Making the announcement, Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “This investment I'm announcing today will help our leading universities become centres of innovation and entrepreneurship, generating commercial success to fuel growth.”

EPSRC chief executive Professor Dave Delpy said: “The research we support is recognised as outstanding on the international stage. These awards aim to make a step change in the impact that has on society: generating new business opportunities which drive economic growth, creating better, more informed, public policy.”

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

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Queen’s award winner helps develop Northern Ireland businesses
Dr Philip Graham
Dr Philip Graham

A Belfast man whose work has benefited hundreds of businesses by opening up access to university research, has been recognised with a top industry award.
Queen’s University’s Dr Philip Graham, from Newtownbreda, has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for University Research and Industry Links (AURIL) – Europe’s largest knowledge exchange association.

Philip is Business Alliance Manager at Queen’s and has received this national recognition for his work in strengthening the links between universities and industry. His award is only the fourth awarded in 20 years.

Speaking about his national recognition Philip said: “Now, more than ever, businesses need to think of new ways to stay ahead of the competition. Through knowledge exchange, they can gain unrivalled access to the world-class research and expertise available at Queen’s and other leading UK universities.

“Queen’s research is world-class and, as one of the UK’s leading universities for knowledge exchange, we use our links with the business community to maximise the impact of that research on society and meet the challenges of the economic downturn head-on.

“Through knowledge exchange, Queen’s already helped hundreds of companies improve their products and services and boost their bottom line, and we want to see more businesses cross our threshold. I would encourage any local company looking for new ways to stay ahead of the competition to get in touch to find out how Queen’s can help them to innovate and increase profits.

“Having spent more than a decade at the helm of Europe’s largest knowledge exchange organisation, I have seen at first hand the positive impact of higher education on business. I will continue to apply that experience to my role at Queen’s to help ensure that the University’s research continues to make a real impact on society in Northern Ireland and beyond.”

A Queen’s graduate, Philip was first elected to the Council of AURIL in 1997. During his time as Executive Director, he grew AURIL into the largest knowledge transfer organisation in Europe, with membership spanning the vast majority of UK and Ireland universities and many public sector organisations. AURIL’s recognised strength in influencing UK policy makers originated from Philip’s personal talents and enthusiasm. He has also sat on most of the UK government’s knowledge exchange working groups, including the Lambert Model Contracts Group, which developed a toolkit to make it quicker and simpler for universities to strike deals with commercial partners, particularly around intellectual property.

Philip received his Lifetime Achievement Award at the organisation’s annual conference in Sheffield. Presenting the award, Dr Anne Craig MBE, former Director of Research and Innovation at Salford University, said: “Philip has an uncanny instinct for recognising the ‘big picture’ and what will work, or not, even when developments are at an embryonic stage. He is one of the best strategists I know. That is probably why so many government departments turn to him at key decision-making times.”

For more information on Business Alliance at Queen’s visit http://www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/ResearchEnterprise/

For more information on AURIL visit www.auril.org.uk

Media inquiries to Michelle Cassidy at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5310 email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Where some women work can increase breast cancer risk by almost double

Where some women work can increase their risk of developing breast cancer by almost double, according to researchers at Queen’s University and the University of Stirling.

A study, published in public health journal Environmental Health, involved 1006 women with breast cancer and 1147 without the disease revealed that women who worked in jobs where they were highly exposed to a “toxic soup” of chemicals for 10 years increased their breast cancer risk by 42 per cent.
The research, lead by the University of Stirling’s Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group along with researchers at Queen’s University Management School found several occupational sectors in which there was elevated breast cancer risk:

Farming: showed a 36 per cent increased breast cancer risk. Several pesticides act as mammary carcinogens and many are endocrine disrupting chemicals. Employment in farming and exposure to pesticides in Canada often begins earlier in women’s lives than other occupations and may play a role. The chemicals may be the same in the UK but exposures may occur at a later date.

Plastics: The risk of developing breast cancer doubles for women working in the Canadian car industry’s plastics manufacturing sector. Among those who were premenopausal, the risk was almost five times as great. Many plastics have been found to release estrogenic and carcinogenic chemicals and cumulative exposures to mixtures of these chemicals are a significant concern. Many of the plastics chemicals used in Canada are identical to ones used all over the world, including the UK, in a variety of manufacturing sectors. The UK is proposing weakening inspections in this sector.

Food Tinning: The risk of developing breast cancer doubles for women working in the tinned food sector. Among those who were premenopausal, the risk was five times as great. Exposures to chemicals in the food canning industry may include pesticide residues and emissions from the polymer linings of tins. There has been little research conducted on women’s health in this industry anywhere in the world.

Metalworking: A statistically significant 73 per cent increased breast cancer risk was found in the metalworking sector. Women working in tooling, foundries and metal parts manufacturing are exposed to a variety of potentially hazardous metals and chemicals. There has been little research conducted on breast cancer risk in this area, but this could have relevance for a broad range of unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers in various industrial operations.

Bar/Casino/Racecourses: The risk of developing breast cancer doubles for women working in the bar/casino/racing sector. The elevated risk of developing breast cancer may be linked to second-hand smoke exposure and night work which has been found to disrupt the endocrine system.

Professor Matthias Beck from Queen’s University Management School said: "The link between occupations and cancer is still poorly understood and much of the literature in this field ignores the importance of occupational exposures.  I hope that others will follow our lead in acknowledging the relevance of investigating work-based exposures."

Lead researchers for the study, Dr James Brophy and Dr Margaret Keith, work for OEHRG as well as the University of Windsor in Ontario. Dr Brophy said: “Breast cancer causality is complex. It is believed to result from a combination of factors including genetic, hormonal and lifestyle influences as well as environmental exposures. However, studies have shown that breast cancer incidence rose throughout the developed world during in the second half of the twentieth century as women entered industrial workplaces and many new and untested chemicals were being introduced. Diverse and concentrated exposures to carcinogens and hormone disrupting chemicals in some workplaces can put workers at an increased risk for developing cancer.”

The study, which also involved researchers from Canada, USA and the UK, contributes to a better understanding of cancer causation, particularly for work related cancer. While the research was conducted in Southern Ontario, Canada where there is extensive manufacturing and agriculture, its findings have relevance to women working in a variety of industries across the globe.

Professor Andrew Watterson, Head of the OEHRG at Stirling and a co-investigator on the project said: “Many workers face multiple exposures to chemicals, not only from their employment, but from their everyday environment. Many of the women included in the study were exposed to a virtual “toxic soup” of chemicals. Untangling work and wider factors in the possible causes of breast cancer is an important global issue.”

The study could also have wider implications for society as a whole. Dr Keith added: “The findings from this occupational study have important implications for the general public. We may be exposed to many of these same cancer-causing and endocrine-disrupting chemicals on a daily basis, albeit likely at much lower levels. The study also points to the need to re-evaluate occupational and environmental exposure standards, keeping in mind that there may be no determinable safe levels to cancer-causing or hormone-disrupting chemicals.”

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5391

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Queen's research gives fresh hope to couples with 'unexplained infertility'

New research from Queen’s University Belfast has uncovered the cause of infertility for 80 per cent of couples previously diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’.

At present some 50,000 couples require fertility treatment across the UK each year, with the figure reaching one million worldwide. Up to one third of these couples are diagnosed with unexplained or idiopathic infertility. This means that, using current tests, neither partner has been diagnosed with any detectable problem.

Published in Reproductive Biomedicine Online, and carried out by Professor Sheena Lewis from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s, the new research reveals 80 per cent of couples with unexplained or idiopathic infertility in the large study of 239 couples have a detectable cause known as high sperm DNA damage. 

The new study is the first of its kind and will lead to better treatment for these couples, saving them time, money and heartache.

Explaining the research, Professor Lewis said: “The majority of couples experiencing problems with fertility are able to receive an explanation for their infertility. These causes range from low sperm count, poor sperm motility in the man to blocked fallopian tubes or endometriosis in the woman. Once the causes for infertility have been established the appropriate course of assisted conception treatment can be undertaken.

“For almost one third of couples, until now, there has been no obvious cause for infertility and these couples are given the diagnosis of ‘unexplained fertility’.  These couples often invest a lot of time and money in fertility treatments like intrauterine insemination (IUI) unlikely to be successful. In our study we have now had a breakthrough which explains the cause of infertility for many of those couples.  Now that we have found the cause of infertility for these couples suitable treatments can be tailored for them which will direct them straight to the best treatment and increase their chances of having a baby.”

The study also has a second major finding.  It is the first study to show that the chances of having a baby after IVF is closely related to the amount of DNA damage a man has in each of his sperm. A little damage is normal (under 15 per cent per sperm), as is seen in the sperm of fertile men. But if the damage reaches clinically important levels (high sperm DNA damage more than 25 per cent per sperm) it will reduce the couples’ chances of a family, even with some forms of fertility treatment.  These findings are the latest in a series of studies performed by the internationally recognised male fertility research team based at Queen’s Centre for Public Health involving over 500 couples.

The research was carried out using a unique test for male fertility called the SpermComet™.  Professor Lewis said: “We at Queen’s have developed the SpermComet™, which is a unique test for male infertility that measures damaged DNA in individual sperm – providing all couples with specific information about the causes and extent of their infertility.  This test can predict the success of infertility treatments and fast-track couples to the treatment most likely to succeed, leading to reduced waiting times and improved chances of success.

“With one million couples worldwide requiring fertility treatment, these new research findings will give many fresh hope of having a family.”
Professor Lewis, in partnership with Queen’s venture spinout arm, QUBIS, has now set up a company called Lewis Fertility Testing Ltd which is already marketing the test. For more information visit www.lewisfertilitytesting.com

For media inquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 028 90975391 or email c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Professor Sheena Lewis discusses her infertility research
International award for Queen's student

Philip Rea receives his award from President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins

Queen’s student Philip Rea, from Carrickfergus, has received an international student award from President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins for his understanding of Belfast as a global city.

Philip, a third year Sociology student, received the award from President Higgins in Dublin. A further 16 Queen’s students were highly commended in the 2012 Undergraduate Awards – an international programme that identifies top students across the globe through their innovative undergraduate research. 

Philip was announced as the Irish winner of the Undergraduate Award for Social Studies for his essay entitled ‘How useful is it to understand Belfast as a Global City?’ The judges assessed 2,890 entries from students attending third level institutions across Ireland, the USA, UK and Canada, and selected two winners – an international winner and Irish winner – in each of 20 academic categories. 

Philip said: “My winning essay was written as part of my Sociology studies at Queen’s, exploring how cultural, political, economic and spatial change is manifest within Belfast and helping to understand why cities are so important for a whole range of groups and individuals within society. 

“I feel that Belfast is too often considered in the insular, post-troubles rhetoric of neutral space and political stability. Through lectures, seminars and reading, I recognised that there is a huge potential for Belfast to be understood as a truly global city. The explosion of Titanic related products and services to attract tourism and overseas business was one notable engagement with the notion of globalisation that I felt could be explored, and I tried to do this within the essay.

“It is a great honour to win this award, and somewhat unexpected. I would like to thank all those involved in the City Life module at Queen’s for encouraging me to submit my essay to the competition. I would encourage any other students who are considering submitting their work to the Undergraduate Awards to go ahead and do so – you might just win.”

The awards ceremony formed part of the Undergraduate Awards Summit – a “Davos for students”, which takes place in Dublin from 7-10 November.

Louise Hodgson, UA Programme Director, said: “The UA Summit will serve as a three-day pop-up incubation centre for some of the world’s most exceptional young minds. From hands-on workshops and talks with inspiring young achievers, entrepreneurs and academics to networking events with top graduate recruiters, the UA Summit is going to be one of the most exciting student-focused events in Europe”.

The three-day conference also includes the Forum on Higher Education that will bring together edupreneurs and pioneers in the field of education to discuss disruptive education.  Speakers include CEO of the Wolfram Group and world famous TEDster, Conrad Wolfram.  For further information on the UA Summit and the results of the 2012 Undergraduate Awards, please see www.undergraduateawards.com.

For more information contact Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5320 email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Adolescents 'still vulnerable' to suicide

A report by Queen’s research team, in conjunction with NSPCC, has warned that older teenagers in Northern Ireland are still vulnerable to suicide because of negative experiences in their childhood.

Dr John Devaney from Queen’s School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work led the team, which compiled the ‘Still Vulnerable’ report on behalf of the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley-Mooney.

The report contains recommendations designed to better support and protect young people at risk of suicide. It also outlines how exposure to problems in early childhood is linked to poor outcomes in later years, including suicide in adolescence.

Dr Devaney said: "We hope this research highlights the importance of seeing young people's presenting behaviour in the context of their lifelong experiences.

“Our findings highlight that too many young people have experienced multiple adversities, and that if professionals are to make a difference, it will require earlier, more sustained and better co-ordinated intervention for those young people.

“In our research we found many examples of professionals such as teachers, social workers and health workers engaging in work of the very highest standard with young people and their families.

“We hope that the recommendations from our study can ensure that politicians and policy makers support these professionals in what is often challenging but extremely important work."

Mrs Lewsley-Mooney said: “The loss of a child or young person due to suicide or accidental death is a tragedy and I am deeply aware of the profound impact of this loss on everyone it touches.

“If you are having thoughts about suicide or want to harm yourself or you are worried about a friend, please talk to an adult you trust or contact ChildLine online or on 0800 1111, ChildLine’s volunteer counsellors are trained to support you through a difficult time.

“Too often negative early childhood experiences mean that teenagers are not able to deal with additional pressures as they grow older. Experiences in childhood affect how we learn to cope with life problems, and reduced resilience and ability to cope may mean young people are more vulnerable to risks such as suicide and accidental death.

“Sadly, Northern Ireland continues to experience higher rates of suicide among adolescents and young adults than other parts of the United Kingdom.”

Recommendations have been set out in the report and detail how services can be planned and delivered to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and young people.

“Suicide is a complex phenomenon and unfortunately there is no single solution,” said the Commissioner. “Adolescent suicide requires an approach that is not just focused on responding to an immediate crisis or problem.

“Services and support should be provided on an individual basis, from an early stage and delivered in a sustained and co-ordinated manner to limit negative life experiences.

“Young people may present with what adults can view as 'challenging' behaviour, however this is often a result of negative life experiences and a reduced ability to cope.

“The research reminds us that services must be designed to engage these most vulnerable young people, in order to support and protect them.”

If you are worried about yourself or a friend, please talk to someone. Contact ChildLine online or on 0800 1111. ChildLine is open 24 hours a day.

For further information contact Patrice Morris, Communications and Engagement Officer, NICCY on +44 (0)28 90 316 392 or 07917 544 177 or email Patrice@niccy.org.

For more information on Dr John Devaney contact Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 3087/3091 email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's and Lancaster in new bid to tackle £billions lost to cyber-crime

Experts in the UK’s largest cyber security research lab at Queen’s University Belfast are joining forces with their colleagues in Lancaster University to wage a new war on the type of cyber crime which is costing the UK at least £27bn a year.

The new partnership between Queen’s and Lancaster will produce the UK’s biggest ever group of creative and innovative cyber security researchers.

Currently, the economic cost of cyber crime globally is estimated to be between $250 billion to $1 trillion per year, while the UK cyber crime total is made up of £21bn of costs to businesses, £2.2bn to government and £3.1bn to citizens.

Addressing the serious lack of highly qualified cyber security personnel will be one of the main aims of the new collaboration between the universities, both of which have been declared Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Research.

The new alliance, which has been formalised with the signing of a memorandum of understanding, will also share resources, ideas, knowledge and discoveries in the fast-moving research field. Experts will address some of the key threats to security, including responding to unanticipated cyber threats, securing mobile and embedded infrastructures, coping with the fluid nature of online identity, cyber security behaviours and secure communications.

The work at Queen’s will take place in its Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), the UK’s lead university centre for cyber security research and an innovation and knowledge centre (IKC). Staff at the centre have already pioneered the Internet Traffic and Content Analysis engine (ITACA), a software and hardware platform for real-time analysis of IP network traf?c links and lightweight Physical Unclonable Functions (PUFs), the next generation of anti-counterfeiting technology.

Speaking about the opportunities arising as a result of the new partnership, Dr Godfrey Gaston, Director of CSIT, said: “At CSIT we are solving some of the world’s biggest cyber security challenges of both the present and the future, as well as creating a dynamic environment that fosters entrepreneurship. It is core to our thinking that research needs to be multi-disciplinary and is informed by industry to ensure maximum potential for impact on commercialisation and implementation. This new partnership will complement our expertise and open up new opportunities for our industrial partners in terms of technology and access to an even broader cyber security research base.”

Over the last decade Lancaster University has made significant contributions in security research, from tackling online crime to the impact of domestic violence and abuse in vulnerable groups and helping eye witnesses in interview settings. 

Lancaster University’s new centre dedicated to security and protection science called Security Lancaster was opened this October by the former Minister for State Security and Counter Terrorism The Rt Hon Baroness Neville-Jones DCMG.

Professor Awais Rashid is Co-Director of Security Lancaster. He said: "Cyber security is an area that presents major challenges to the security of the UK and the world. Currently, there is a serious lack of highly qualified cyber security personnel and this skill gap is widening at a fast pace given the increasing number and variety of cyber threats aimed at individuals, organisations and infrastructures. This is an exciting partnership that will enable us to develop future leaders in cyber security - not only capable for world class research but also able to play a leading role in in industry and policy-making bodies."

 

For media enquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on +44 (0) 28 9097 5391 or 07814 415 451 or atc.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

 

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Queen’s scientists in new bid to develop anthrax vaccine
Dr Rebecca Ingram
Dr Rebecca Ingram

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast are aiming to help counteract the threat of bioterrorism by undertaking new research to develop a vaccine against anthrax.

Dr Rebecca Ingram from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s is working with scientists from Cardiff University, the Republic of Georgia, Turkey and the USA in a €255,000 NATO funded project to tackle the potential misuse of anthrax. The research project is expected to take three years to complete.

Dr Ingram is based in Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity which, last year, developed the first ever drug to treat the ‘Celtic Gene’ in Cystic Fibrosis sufferers. Speaking about the research, she said: “Currently the majority of the world’s population is susceptible to infection with Bacillus anthracis the bacterium which causes anthrax.  The US postal attacks in 2001 highlighted the vulnerability of civilian populations and brought home the need to develop effective, rapid, robust medical countermeasures to combat the threat posed by terrorist use of this organism.

“We at Queen’s will be working with lead investigator Professor Les Baillie from Cardiff University and colleagues in the US, Turkey and Georgia to develop effective vaccines to tackle the problem.

“Within the study we will be testing the antibodies and immune cells from the blood of people who have been exposed to anthrax.  Either people known to have been previously infected who live in endemic regions of Turkey and Georgia, or people who have been vaccinated with the licensed UK, US or Georgian vaccines.  This research will allow identification of key protective targets for the immune system on the bacteria helping to underpin the development of future vaccines capable of conferring broad-spectrum, rapid, robust protection following minimal dosing.”

Professor Les Baillie from Cardiff University and who leads the multi-national research collaboration said: “It is the growing concern over the threat posed by bioterrorism that has prompted world authorities like NATO through its Science for Peace and Security Programme to support efforts to develop more effective vaccines and medical countermeasures. 

“Such vaccines would impact on two levels, locally they would directly improve the lives of workers at risk of contracting anthrax such as farmers in Georgia and Turkey, and globally they would contribute to the protection of citizens from the use of anthrax as an agent of bio-terrorism.”

An additional benefit of this work will be the establishment of a vaccine research centre in Georgia. Scientists from the research institute in Georgia will spend a period of time training at Queen’s in order to learn the cellular immunology techniques required in this project.  This capacity building will support infectious disease research and ultimately improve the lives of all of the people in the region.

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

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New urban history of Belfast published

Belfast 400: People, Place and History  will be published in November to mark the 400th anniversary of the granting of Belfast’s City Charter.

The most comprehensive history of Belfast will be published in November 2012 by Liverpool University Press, and officially launched at City Hall, Belfast on 24th January 2013. Supported by Queen’s University Belfast and Belfast City Council, Belfast 400, People, Place and History tells the story of the city’s unique urban history and has been published to mark the 400th anniversary of the granting of Belfast’s City Charter in 1613.

Beautifully produced and illustrated, Belfast 400 has been written by a team of experts on the city’s history: historians, archaeologists, geographers and social scientists from Queen’s University and NUI, Maynooth, led by Professor Sean Connolly from Queen’s University’s School of History and Anthropology.

The project was awarded a grant of £60,000 by the Leverhulme Trust and has been three years in the writing. It explores the full range of developments in Belfast’s urban history, from its emergence as a settlement, through its rise as an industrial town, through urban decay and renewal.

The book looks at how Belfast, which began as a settlement at a waterlogged river mouth, developed into one of the world’s great centres of shipbuilding and linen manufacture - and the effects of this industrialisation and its subsequent decline on its citizens. It asks how the city of Belfast can now redefine its identity, and the still often fraught relationships that exist between different sections of its population, to face the challenges of the twenty-first century.

Editor of the book and Professor of Irish History at Queen’s University Belfast Sean Connolly said: “This is one of those opportunities that comes along once or twice in a career. Over the past few years specialists in several fields have started to show us just how much there is to be discovered about Belfast past and present. I have been very lucky in being given the opportunity to pull the results of all that work together into an overview that should make anyone interested in Belfast look at the city in a new light.”

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Gavin Robinson, commented: “There have been many books written about our city’s rich history, but this is undoubtedly the most ambitious, and also the most timely, coinciding as it does with the 400th anniversary of the granting of the original charter. It will be a worthy addition to the canon of literature on our city, and no doubt will be essential reading for everyone with an interest in the story of what has made the Belfast we know today.”

Alison Welsby, Editorial Director of Liverpool University Press said: “Liverpool University Press is very proud to be publishing this landmark publication. Professor Connolly is one of the leading historians on Belfast. He and his team of contributors have crafted a compelling study of a city whose rich urban history has often been overshadowed.”
Belfast 400 is available in both hardback (R.R.P. £35.00) and paperback (R.R.P. £14.95) and also as a special limited edition slip-cased volume priced at £100.00.

Ends.

For media and sales enquiries and review copy requests, contact Jenny Howard, Sales and Marketing Manager on +44 (0)151 794 2234 or jennifer.howard@liverpool.ac.uk
 

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Queen's invites businesses to find finance 'gold'

Frank Bryan, Chief Executive of QUBIS Ltd.

At a time when many businesses are finding it difficult to access finance, an event at Queen’s University this week (Wednesday, 7 November) will explore some of the alternative funding options available to local companies.

The University’s successful venture spin-out company, QUBIS Ltd, and The Chief Executives’ Club at Queen’s, have organised the ‘Why settle for Bronze, when the Gold is out there?’ event to allow business leaders to learn from funding specialists, and each other, about the range of options currently available to fund business growth strategy.

As well as hearing about alternative sources of capital, including private equity, venture capital, and listing on the public markets, senior managers will also hear from two experienced business leaders who have successfully led their own companies in overcoming funding challenges to realise their ambitions for growth.

Frank Bryan, Chief Executive of QUBIS Ltd said: “Since its creation, QUBIS has leveraged some £68.5 million from external investors, and Queen’s remains one of the top universities in the UK for the level of revenue generated by its spin-out companies.  We know there are some great companies in Northern Ireland being held back from reaching their potential simply because of the lack of readily available finance, and so Queen’s wants to do all it can to facilitate an exchange of experience and expertise from across the business community.

“In order to strengthen and grow our economy, it is essential that local SMEs are able to access the funding they need to develop and expand. In recent years the banks, their traditional first port of call, have not always been able to provide the financial solutions that local businesses require.

“Queen’s has organised this event so that speakers from leading organisations including CBI, Shore Capital Stockbrokers, The London Stock Exchange and Deloitte can offer an insight into the funding options available to businesses.  Local companies, Cirdan Imaging and Aepona, will also share their experience of securing capital. We hope this event will fuel the debate on the funding options that are essential to business growth, and generate fresh ideas on how to access finance and boost the bottom line.”

At the event, Gerard Lane from Shore Capital Stockbrokers will give an insight into the opportunities available through listed equity capital and corporate bonds. His colleague, Dr Clive Black, Head of Research at Shore Capital Stockbrokers, welcomed the event saying:  “It is important not to be discouraged by the current economic challenges. Northern Ireland has a strong business community, whose contribution to the economic welfare of its people has never been more important.

“Economic needs increasingly require commercial solutions and the good news is that there is capital available for growing companies. Shore Capital warmly welcomes and applauds the lead taken by Queen’s to help create the climate for entrepreneurial firms to explore and enhance their growth credentials through this important economic conference.”

Speakers also include Michael Black, Chief Financial Officer of Aepona Holdings Ltd, a Belfast company and global market leader in monetizing cloud and network services, who said: "Raising capital for a high potential venture is undoubtedly a challenge, and not one unique to Northern Ireland based businesses. This challenge, however, can be overcome through a focused effort to target investors, both private and institutional, located both here and further afield, with a well thought through ‘win-win’ proposition."

‘Why settle for Bronze when the Gold is out there?’ will be held from 9am to 1pm on Wednesday, 7 November in The Great Hall at Queen’s. The event is now fully subscribed.

Ends.

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

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Queen’s secures £32 million to help find cures for eye disease and diabetes

 Watch the Q in 60 coverage of this story  

Queen’s University today announced that it had secured £32 million to establish a world-leading Centre for Experimental Medicine, a Centre which will help transform health care in Northern Ireland and beyond.

The new Centre will specialise in scientific research into finding cures for eye disease, diabetes and developing a global programme into understanding the genetics of complex chronic diseases.

Thanking those funders who have made the Centre possible Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson said: “Queen’s University is well advanced in creating an internationally recognised Institute of Health Sciences that will become a global leader in medical research and education. This will be further enhanced through the creation of the Centre for Experimental Medicine, a Centre that will transform healthcare in Northern Ireland and beyond.  This exciting new development has been made possible through generous philanthropic support with leveraged investment through the UK Research Partnership Infrastructure Fund. The philanthropic support has included £15 million from The Atlantic Philanthropies, the largest gift that Queen’s has ever received.

“Queen’s is celebrating this announcement today, but so too should the citizens of Northern Ireland as they will be the real winners from improved diagnosis and treatments of debilitating diseases."

Commenting on the importance of this new initiative Queen’s Dean of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences Professor Patrick Johnston said: “As a key driver for change and future development Queen’s has established an Institute of Health Sciences made up of a number of dedicated, high quality Research Centres focussed on Cancer, Infectious Disease, Public Health and Population Genetics. We have created the critical mass to deliver cutting edge research, improvements in the quality of life and health care, a deeper understanding of disease, leading to the creation of new therapies, and new diagnostic approaches.

“The Centre for Experimental Medicine will allow the expansion of the Vision Sciences programme and the establishment of two new programmes in Diabetes and Genomics. It will also stimulate additional investment, lead to further global collaborations and create more opportunities for new health and biotech companies. Five new bio-tech companies, employing more than 200 people in Northern Ireland, have already been set-up by investigators within the Institute of Health Sciences at Queen’s.

“To achieve this vision over £90 million has already been invested with a further £85 million expenditure anticipated over the next five years in academic leadership, research, buildings, equipment and facilities.

“Today’s announcement will take us further along this journey and help provide a synergy between clinicians and scientists ensuring that laboratory discoveries translate into advances in patient diagnosis and treatment.”

The Centre is being funded through a series of grants and philanthropic donations from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), The Atlantic Philanthropies, The Wellcome Trust, The Wolfson Foundation, The Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust, Insight Trust for the Visually Impaired and The Queen’s University of Belfast Foundation.

The new Centre will build on established research quality in vision science by bringing it alongside new programmes in diabetes and genomics and will be open in 2016. 

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: "It is fantastic that our top businesses and top charities are queuing up to collaborate with our world-class universities. They want to work together to deliver innovation, commercialisation and growth, which will help make sure the UK competes and thrives in the global race.

"This excellent project between Queen's University Belfast and its co-investors will tackle the key issues we face."

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

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Queen's research gives fresh hope to couples with 'unexplained infertility'

New research from Queen’s University Belfast has uncovered the cause of infertility for 80 per cent of couples previously diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’.

At present some 50,000 couples require fertility treatment across the UK each year, with the figure reaching one million worldwide. Up to one third of these couples are diagnosed with unexplained or idiopathic infertility. This means that, using current tests, neither partner has been diagnosed with any detectable problem.

Published in Reproductive Biomedicine Online, and carried out by Professor Sheena Lewis from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s, the new research reveals 80 per cent of couples with unexplained or idiopathic infertility in the large study of 239 couples have a detectable cause known as high sperm DNA damage. 

The new study is the first of its kind and will lead to better treatment for these couples, saving them time, money and heartache.

Explaining the research, Professor Lewis said: “The majority of couples experiencing problems with fertility are able to receive an explanation for their infertility. These causes range from low sperm count, poor sperm motility in the man to blocked fallopian tubes or endometriosis in the woman. Once the causes for infertility have been established the appropriate course of assisted conception treatment can be undertaken.

“For almost one third of couples, until now, there has been no obvious cause for infertility and these couples are given the diagnosis of ‘unexplained fertility’.  These couples often invest a lot of time and money in fertility treatments like intrauterine insemination (IUI) unlikely to be successful. In our study we have now had a breakthrough which explains the cause of infertility for many of those couples.  Now that we have found the cause of infertility for these couples suitable treatments can be tailored for them which will direct them straight to the best treatment and increase their chances of having a baby.”

The study also has a second major finding.  It is the first study to show that the chances of having a baby after IVF is closely related to the amount of DNA damage a man has in each of his sperm. A little damage is normal (under 15 per cent per sperm), as is seen in the sperm of fertile men. But if the damage reaches clinically important levels (high sperm DNA damage more than 25 per cent per sperm) it will reduce the couples’ chances of a family, even with some forms of fertility treatment.  These findings are the latest in a series of studies performed by the internationally recognised male fertility research team based at Queen’s Centre for Public Health involving over 500 couples.

The research was carried out using a unique test for male fertility called the SpermComet™.  Professor Lewis said: “We at Queen’s have developed the SpermComet™, which is a unique test for male infertility that measures damaged DNA in individual sperm – providing all couples with specific information about the causes and extent of their infertility.  This test can predict the success of infertility treatments and fast-track couples to the treatment most likely to succeed, leading to reduced waiting times and improved chances of success.

“With one million couples worldwide requiring fertility treatment, these new research findings will give many fresh hope of having a family.”
Professor Lewis, in partnership with Queen’s venture spinout arm, QUBIS, has now set up a company called Lewis Fertility Testing Ltd which is already marketing the test. For more information visit www.lewisfertilitytesting.com

For media inquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 028 90975391 or email c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's research gives fresh hope to couples with 'unexplained infertility'

New research from Queen’s University Belfast has uncovered the cause of infertility for 80 per cent of couples previously diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’.

At present some 50,000 couples require fertility treatment across the UK each year, with the figure reaching one million worldwide. Up to one third of these couples are diagnosed with unexplained or idiopathic infertility. This means that, using current tests, neither partner has been diagnosed with any detectable problem.

Published in Reproductive Biomedicine Online, and carried out by Professor Sheena Lewis from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s, the new research reveals 80 per cent of couples with unexplained or idiopathic infertility in the large study of 239 couples have a detectable cause known as high sperm DNA damage. 

The new study is the first of its kind and will lead to better treatment for these couples, saving them time, money and heartache.

Explaining the research, Professor Lewis said: “The majority of couples experiencing problems with fertility are able to receive an explanation for their infertility. These causes range from low sperm count, poor sperm motility in the man to blocked fallopian tubes or endometriosis in the woman. Once the causes for infertility have been established the appropriate course of assisted conception treatment can be undertaken.

“For almost one third of couples, until now, there has been no obvious cause for infertility and these couples are given the diagnosis of ‘unexplained fertility’.  These couples often invest a lot of time and money in fertility treatments like intrauterine insemination (IUI) unlikely to be successful. In our study we have now had a breakthrough which explains the cause of infertility for many of those couples.  Now that we have found the cause of infertility for these couples suitable treatments can be tailored for them which will direct them straight to the best treatment and increase their chances of having a baby.”

The study also has a second major finding.  It is the first study to show that the chances of having a baby after IVF is closely related to the amount of DNA damage a man has in each of his sperm. A little damage is normal (under 15 per cent per sperm), as is seen in the sperm of fertile men. But if the damage reaches clinically important levels (high sperm DNA damage more than 25 per cent per sperm) it will reduce the couples’ chances of a family, even with some forms of fertility treatment.  These findings are the latest in a series of studies performed by the internationally recognised male fertility research team based at Queen’s Centre for Public Health involving over 500 couples.

The research was carried out using a unique test for male fertility called the SpermComet™.  Professor Lewis said: “We at Queen’s have developed the SpermComet™, which is a unique test for male infertility that measures damaged DNA in individual sperm – providing all couples with specific information about the causes and extent of their infertility.  This test can predict the success of infertility treatments and fast-track couples to the treatment most likely to succeed, leading to reduced waiting times and improved chances of success.

“With one million couples worldwide requiring fertility treatment, these new research findings will give many fresh hope of having a family.”
Professor Lewis, in partnership with Queen’s venture spinout arm, QUBIS, has now set up a company called Lewis Fertility Testing Ltd which is already marketing the test. For more information visit www.lewisfertilitytesting.com

For media inquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 028 90975391 or email c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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Queen's research gives fresh hope to couples with 'unexplained infertility'

New research from Queen’s University Belfast has uncovered the cause of infertility for 80 per cent of couples previously diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’.

At present some 50,000 couples require fertility treatment across the UK each year, with the figure reaching one million worldwide. Up to one third of these couples are diagnosed with unexplained or idiopathic infertility. This means that, using current tests, neither partner has been diagnosed with any detectable problem.

Published in Reproductive Biomedicine Online, and carried out by Professor Sheena Lewis from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s, the new research reveals 80 per cent of couples with unexplained or idiopathic infertility in the large study of 239 couples have a detectable cause known as high sperm DNA damage. 

The new study is the first of its kind and will lead to better treatment for these couples, saving them time, money and heartache.

Explaining the research, Professor Lewis said: “The majority of couples experiencing problems with fertility are able to receive an explanation for their infertility. These causes range from low sperm count, poor sperm motility in the man to blocked fallopian tubes or endometriosis in the woman. Once the causes for infertility have been established the appropriate course of assisted conception treatment can be undertaken.

“For almost one third of couples, until now, there has been no obvious cause for infertility and these couples are given the diagnosis of ‘unexplained fertility’.  These couples often invest a lot of time and money in fertility treatments like intrauterine insemination (IUI) unlikely to be successful. In our study we have now had a breakthrough which explains the cause of infertility for many of those couples.  Now that we have found the cause of infertility for these couples suitable treatments can be tailored for them which will direct them straight to the best treatment and increase their chances of having a baby.”

The study also has a second major finding.  It is the first study to show that the chances of having a baby after IVF is closely related to the amount of DNA damage a man has in each of his sperm. A little damage is normal (under 15 per cent per sperm), as is seen in the sperm of fertile men. But if the damage reaches clinically important levels (high sperm DNA damage more than 25 per cent per sperm) it will reduce the couples’ chances of a family, even with some forms of fertility treatment.  These findings are the latest in a series of studies performed by the internationally recognised male fertility research team based at Queen’s Centre for Public Health involving over 500 couples.

The research was carried out using a unique test for male fertility called the SpermComet™.  Professor Lewis said: “We at Queen’s have developed the SpermComet™, which is a unique test for male infertility that measures damaged DNA in individual sperm – providing all couples with specific information about the causes and extent of their infertility.  This test can predict the success of infertility treatments and fast-track couples to the treatment most likely to succeed, leading to reduced waiting times and improved chances of success.

“With one million couples worldwide requiring fertility treatment, these new research findings will give many fresh hope of having a family.”
Professor Lewis, in partnership with Queen’s venture spinout arm, QUBIS, has now set up a company called Lewis Fertility Testing Ltd which is already marketing the test. For more information visit www.lewisfertilitytesting.com

For media inquiries please contact Claire O’Callaghan on 028 90975391 or email c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk

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