Medical Research Foundation Award made to Dr Donna Small

Post-doctoral researcher is the recipient of a Medical Research Foundation (MRF) award

Dr. Donna Small, a post-doctoral researcher in Prof. Cliff Taggart’s laboratory, has recently been awarded a Medical Research Foundation (MRF) award for a new two-year research programme.

Donna’s research project entitled ‘Does secretory leukocyte proteinase inhibitor (SLPI) promote Th17 inflammation and poor host immune surveillance in malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM)?’ will focus on the role of SLPI, a serine antiprotease, and CD4+ T helper Th17 cells in the development and progression of MPM. The UK has one of the highest MPM death rates in the world and more treatments are needed due to the limited number of efficient therapies available for MPM. Donna’s project will consider if high levels of SLPI, which are observed in pleural effusions from MPM patients, are involved in the up-regulation of a particular inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-17 (IL-17). IL-17 is produced by Th17 cells and has been reported to play important roles in tumour cell proliferation, metastases and neo-angiogenesis in several malignancies with both IL-17 and Th17 cells negatively correlated to patient prognosis.

It is hoped that this project will (1) shed light on the complex relationship between SLPI and IL-17 in the MPM microenvironment, (2) demonstrate the effect this relationship has on T-cell infiltration, particularly Th17 cells and (3) highlight SLPI as a potential immunotherapeutic target for the effective treatment of MPM.

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NI Science Festival 27th & 28th February 2016

NI Science Festival

There is an opportunity for staff/students to volunteer at this event organized by the Biochemical Society during the NI Science Festival. For more details see the flyer below.

NI Science Festival

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NI Science Festival
2016 Summer Studentships

The application process for 2016 Summer Studentships is now open with a deadline of 5pm on 12th February 2016.

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Mark Mark
Jasmine Jasmine
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students students
Cii 3rd year PhD Symposium - 14 May 2015

Winner - 3rd year PhD Symposium - 14 May 2015

The winner of the best talk at the Cii 3rd year PhD Symposium was Thomas O'Hagan.  Here he is being presented with an Amazon voucher by Dr Ultan Power, Chair of the Cii Postgraduate Education & Teaching Committee.

Well done to Thomas and all the other students who presented talks on the day.

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Cii SEMINARS in November 2014


Dr Heather Wilson, Aberdeen University

Modulation of macrophage function by SOCS proteins and other mediators

Date - Tuesday 18th November 2014 @ 12.30pm

Host – Dr Shaun Spence

Venue – Seminar Room 2, HSB

All welcome


Dr Pavel Kovarik, Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University of Vienna

“Type I Interferon Signaling: A Balancing Act”

Date - Tuesday 25th November 2014 @ 12.30pm

Host – Prof Jose Bengoechea

Venue – Seminar Room 2, HSB

All welcome


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Cii Seminar in October 2014 - all welcome to attend


Speaker:- Prof Chris Mueller, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Boston, USA

Title:- “Using recombinant adeno associated vectors as a gene therapy platform for gene augmentation and knockdown

Date:- Tuesday 21st October 2014 @ 12.30pm

Venue:- Seminar Room 2, Health Sciences Bldg

Host:- Professor Cliff Taggart, Cii

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Upcoming Cii Seminars in September 2014 - all are welcome to attend


Tuesday 9th September 2014

Dr. Markus Heimesaat,  Dept of Microbiology & Hygiene, Charité - University Medicine Berlin.

Title -  "Novel murine infection models provide deep insights into the "ménage à trois" of Campylobacter jejuni, microbiota and host immunity".

*Seminar Room 1 HSB @ 12.30pm * note this is being held in the smaller Seminar Room 1 *

Host – Dr Denise Fitzgerald, Cii


*Thursday 11th September 2014 – note this is being held on a Thursday, not the usual day, Tuesday *

Dr Valentin Jaumouillé, Research Fellow, University of Toronto

Title- ‘The cortical actin cytoskeleton, a critical determinant of immunoreceptor signalling’

Seminar Room 2 HSB @ 12.30pm

Host – Prof Cliff Taggart


Tuesday 16th September 2014

Dr Pat Geraghty - Research Scientist, St Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, New York

Title - "An animal model approach to investigate the impact of viral exacerbations on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease progression"

Seminar Room 2 HSB @ 12.30pm

Host – Prof Cliff Taggart


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Medical researcher’s work on respiratory illnesses reduces need for animal testing

A major research project into respiratory illness, which reduces the need for animal testing, has been recognised internationally.

Leading the pioneering study, Rebecca Clarke from Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity, was awarded a €50,000 grant from herbal-medicine producer Bionorica to continue her research into respiratory illness, using human stem cells rather than traditional testing on mice, rats and guinea pigs.

Read the whole story at,456666,en.html

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Science in the Nursery - Dr Beckie Ingram

Community outreach – starting them young!

Community outreach activities that engage children with STEM are crucial to inspire subsequent generations of scientists.  Here in Cii we believe in captivating children at an early age to instill curiosity at the wonder of the world around them and engross them in fun scientific activities.  In March 2014, Dr Beckie Ingram (Cii) visited a local pre-school, Kids@BT9 in Ulsterville Avenue.  Dressed in their yellow lab coats the children got to be scientists for the morning and learnt about ‘Germs’. There was discussion around what germs are and the importance of good washing your hands after the toilet and before you eat so your tummy doesn’t get sore.  They also enthusiastically practiced catching their coughs and sneezes so as not to spread diseases! The part of the session most relished by the children was the experiment where they all got to make bogies! They carefully measured out the required amount of sodium bicarbonate into test tubes and then used a pasteur pipette to add washing up liquid.  The tubes were agitated with the shaking dance until a sufficiently slimy texture was achieved.  The kids had a wonderful time and by the end a few had even decided they were going to be scientists when they grew up.

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Dr Sorcha Finnegan awarded RBHSC research fellowship - July 2014

Dr Sorcha Finnegan has been awarded the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children Research Fellowship with PI Dr Madeleine Rooney. Sorcha’s project ’ Autoantibodies PrEdicTive of Uveitis in juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis  (APErTURe)’ will focus on identifying  novel antibodies that could predict the development of uveitis, a sight threatening condition, which can affect between 15-40% of children who have juvenile idiopathic arthritis.  At present there is no way of predicting whether a child with juvenile arthritis will develop uveitis. Thus all children with JIA have to be screened for many years. This wastes patient time and valuable NHS resources. This project could have important implications for the diagnosis of juvenile arthritis-related uveitis. It may enable us to identify those patients at risk, resulting in earlier diagnosis and more cost effective management.

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Katherine O'Neill - recipient of ECFS award

Congratulations to Katherine O’Neill who was recipient of a recent European Cystic Fibrosis Society (ECFS) Young Investigator Award.

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Dr Bronagh Blackwood, elected as President of the European Federation of Critical Care Nursing

Dr Bronagh Blackwood has recently been elected as President of the European federation of Critical Care Nursing associations at the Spring Meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland on 11 May 2014 for a 3-year term of office.

The federation comprises a Council of 26 representatives from National Associations across Europe representing approximately 25,000 European critical care nurses. Its mission is to promote collaboration and equity among the national critical care member associations in order to improve nursing care of critically ill patients and their families.

Congratulations Bronagh, who is power dressing in red in the middle of the photograph!


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ERS Young Scientist Sponsorship 2014

Congratulations to Arlene Glasgow, a PDRA in Prof Cliff Taggart's laboratory in Cii.

Arlene has received The European Respiratory Society (ERS) Young Scientist Sponsorship to attend its 2014 Congress that will be held in Munich, Germany on September 6-10, 2014.

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Recruitment of Healthy Controls - March 2014

Researchers from Queen’s University are looking for healthy volunteers aged 18-60 years who would be interested in contributing to a research study looking at the normal immune response to infection. 

In this study the researchers will identify the “normal range” of results for levels of anti-bacterial proteins and immune cells in blood samples derived from healthy individuals.  These ranges will be used as reference values for the detection of defects in the immune system of patients with a condition known as Primary Immunodeficiency.

The study involves volunteers attending the Health Sciences Building for one study visit lasting approximately 30 minutes.  During this visit we will collect one 50ml sample (approximately 10 teaspoons) of your blood.

Volunteers should be 18-60 years of age and not have a respiratory condition (for example; asthma) or a history of problems with their immune system.  Participants should also be non-smokers and not have taken antibiotics during the three months prior to the study visit.

If you would be interested in taking part, please contact Elinor Johnston for more information, phone 028 90972242 or email


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Belfast Telegraph Woman of The Year 2014

Improved health, hope and happiness are the priceless gifts which Dr Madeleine Rooney has brought to her  patients and their families in her role as Northern Ireland's first and only paediatric rheumatologist.  She is also a  renowned medical researcher in her field, and has not only transformed the lives of her young patients with her skills, but with her dedication and  compassion to finding new treatments, too.  Dr Rooney is a researcher in the Centre for Infection & Immunity.  Click on the link below and go to picture 15 to see her receiving  her award.





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Queen’s scientist in bid to battle pneumonia superbug

Professor Jose Bengoechea will conduct the research at Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity.  See the full story by clicking the link below.,439052,en.html

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64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting - June/July 2014


Congratulations to Dr Yvonne Dombrowski from the Centre of Infection and Immunity! She has been selected to participate in the 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, to be held from 29 June to 4 July 2014, in Lindau, Germany as an Academic Guest. Only the 600 most qualified applicants can be given the opportunity to enrich and share the unique atmosphere of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.  Well done to Yvonne!

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School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

Postgraduate Research Opportunities for September 2014

Centre for Infection and Immunity


  • Characterisation of the regulatory role of bronchial epithelial SOCS1 in refractory asthma using a murine tissue specific knockout model

(Professor Liam Heaney and Dr Adrien Kissenpfennig) (International Studentship)


  • The Interaction between streptococcus spp and Pseudomonas within CF lung

(Dr Rebecca Ingram and Dr Michael Tunney) (International Studentship)


  • Langerhans cells of the skin take the ‘sting’ out of vaccines

(Dr Adrien Kissenpfennig and Dr Ryan Donnelly) (DEL)


  • Development of Novel Small Molecule Adjuvants against Multidrug Resistant Gram-negative Bacteria

(Dr Tammie Schneiders and Professor Malcolm Walkinshaw, Edinburgh University) (DEL)


  • Defining the action of parasite-designed immune-modulatory peptides in protection against immune-related diseases

(Professor Cliff Taggart and Professor John Dalton, Biological Sciences) (DEL)


  • The role of simvastatin in the inhibition of cutaneous epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) in scleroderma

(Professor Danny McAuley and Dr Donal O’Kane) (DEL)


  • Investigating interplay of human Treg cells and oligodendrocyte lineage cells

(Dr Denise Fitzgerald and Professor Siddharthan Chandran, Edinburgh University) (DEL)


  • Why can’t I go home?  Improving hospital discharge for children requiring home ventilation

(Dr Bronagh Blackwood and Dr Bronagh Byrne, Sociology) (DEL)


  • Investigation of host and pathogen-mediated proteolytic responses in pulmonary Mycobacterium avium complex infection

(Dr Cecilia O’Kane and Dr Ronan McMullan) (DEL)


  • Designing a process evaluation framework for understanding factors that impact on successful delivery of trials investigating complex critical care interventions

(Dr Bronagh Blackwood, Professor Mike Clare and Professor Danny McAuley) (MRC)


You will spend three years undertaking a designed research project in a Research Centre.

More detailed information on the targeted studentships available can be accessed through the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences website and/or by contacting the relevant project supervisor at email addresses provided on the website.  Additional studentships will be added as they become available.


To Apply:

Applicants should hold or expect to obtain a first class honours or upper second class degree (or equivalent). 

Specific projects may have additional criteria, details of which are available from the School website above.

Applications for admission and studentship awards must be made through the Queen’s online application portal at:

Closing date for receipt of applications is: Friday, 10 February 2014(Unless stated otherwise)


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Summer Studentships

**Announcing Cii Summer Studentship Research Programme 2014**

The CII Summer Research Programme provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in laboratory-based research during the summer months.  Each participant will be assigned to a discovery research project in the laboratory of a Principal Investigator. Students will work as part of an enthusiastic research team comprising postdoctoral fellows, research assistants, PhD students and/or technicians.  The projects will run for a specified 8-week period (dates between June and August) during summer 2014 and students will work in the laboratory from Monday to Friday on a full-time basis. Students will also attend social, career and research events. At the end of the programme, students will present their work in a short talk at our Summer Studentship Research Symposium.

Students currently enrolled for Biomedical Sciences, Medicine, Dentistry or a related discipline who have completed at least one year of full-time study will be eligible to apply.  Several funded studentships will be available; these typically pay a student stipend of £150 per week for 8 weeks. In addition, students that have secured an externally-funded summer studentship from a funding body (e.g. Wellcome Trust, Society for General Microbiology, etc.) with a host lab in Cii will be permitted to enrol in this programme. In some circumstances, students that are volunteering on a full-time basis with a Cii research group may also be eligible to enrol.

To maximise your competitiveness for a studentship, it is strongly recommended that you identify a Principal Investigator (PI) in Cii that you would like to work with and arrange 'agreement in principle' that they will host you in their group.  If you have made such arrangements, highlight this in your application. 

Details of other PIs and their research areas can be found in the staff pages of the Cii website.

Cii Summer Student Projects 2014


 Students from all Universities are welcome to apply.

The application process will open around Dec 2013 with a deadline of Feb 14th 2014.




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QUB Scholarships available

QUB Academic Affairs are currently advertising scholarships which are listed below.  Click on the web links for more information on these.

William and Betty MacQuitty Scholarship (Closing Date: 23 January 2014)


University Travel Scholarships – Emily Sarah Montgomery, Sir Thomas Dixon & First Trust (Closing Date: 29 January 2014)


Alan Graham Fund Travel Scholarship (Closing Date: 29 January 2014)


For more information, contact Academic Affairs | Level 6, Administration Building | Queen's University Belfast | BT7 1NN

E-mail: | Tel:  028 9097 3006


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Queen's scientists in €6m bid to find new Cystic Fibrosis treatments (October 2013)

Queen’s scientists in €6m bid to find new Cystic Fibrosis treatments

Queen’s University Belfast is a lead partner in a new €6 million (euro) global research programme to develop new ways to treat Cystic Fibrosis.

Affecting more than 10,000 people in the UK, Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is one of the most common life-threatening inherited diseases. Symptoms include repeated chest infections, the major cause of death for patients.

The new global programme, known as CF Matters, aims to develop personalised antibiotic treatments for these chest infections. The work could revolutionise the practice of antibiotic prescription and limit resistance to the drugs globally. The study brings together renowned CF clinicians and scientists from 12 academic institutions and hospitals across Europe and the USA. It is led by University College Cork with Queen’s as a lead partner. It will involve lab-based research and clinical trials with 252 patients in seven countries, including around 40 in Northern Ireland.

 Queen’s lead on the study is Professor Stuart Elborn, Director of Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity.  An internationally recognised CF expert, he led the original trial for a drug which has now been approved for use by CF patients with the G551D gene mutation or ‘Celtic Gene’. The drug Ivacaftor, also known as Kalydeco, treats the root cause of CF for people with the Gene.

 Professor Elborn said: “When patients have a flare-up they are treated with several antibiotics but it isn’t always effective and can lead to antibiotic resistance. In this study we will use molecular next generation DNA sequencing methods to detect all the bacteria present in the sputum of CF patients and use this knowledge to determine what antibiotics should be used in individual patients.

 “This personalised antibiotic treatment will be compared with standard therapy for CF patients. We will determine the patient’s immune response to all the different bacteria present in the sputum. Using models of infection we will also discover the effect of these bacteria on lung inflammation and infection. The overall impact will be to determine if all bacteria present contribute significantly to lung infection in CF patients and subsequently identify the most effective antibiotic treatment for patients infected with these bacteria.”

 The study will involve a team of scientists from Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity including Professor Cliff Taggart, Dr Rebecca Ingram and Dr Sinéad Weldon and Dr Michael Tunney from the School of Pharmacy. They will collaborate with Dr Damian Downey, Co-Director of the Regional Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. Dr Downey said: “This important collaborative study with our colleagues in Queen’s University will investigate the use of directed antibiotic therapy to treat lung infections. The aim of a more focused treatment plan is to limit the damage that occurs to the lung.”

 The CF Matters grant comes just weeks after Queen’s work on managing Bronchiectasis, another chronic lung condition affecting thousands of people in the UK, was published in leading scientific journals. The three papers by Dr Michael Tunney from Queen’s School of Pharmacy and Professor Elborn, address key issues in the management of the condition, including the detection of bacteria that cause lung infection and how long-term antibiotic use to treat Bronchiectasis can result in antibiotic resistance. Commenting on the work, Dr Tunney said: “We found that large numbers of different types of bacteria were present both when bronchiectasis patients were stable, and during a lung infection. The results clearly demonstrate that routine diagnostic techniques do not detect many of these bacteria.

 “Further studies are required to better understand the relationship between the presence of the bacteria found in the lungs of Bronchiectasis patients and the severity of the condition. More research is also needed into the effects of long-term antibiotic use and development of antimicrobial resistance.”

For more information on the Centre visit


Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office.

Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5320 or email: 

Notes to editors:

  • Professor Stuart Elborn is available for interview
  • Queen’s University has been given €1.36m from the overall grant awarded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme.
  • The full trial name is Cystic Fibrosis Microbiome-determined Antibiotic Therapy Trial in Exacerbations: Results Stratified – CF MATTERS
  • The study is led by Dr Barry Plant at University College Cork. Research partners include Queen’s University Belfast, Université Parus Descartes (France), University of Dundee (Scotland), University of Washington (USA), University of Heidelberg (Germany), Teagasc Food Research Centre (Ireland), Clininfo SA (France), GABO (Germany), Papworth Hospital (UK), University Hospital Leuven (Belgium), Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris (France).
  • The results of the study will be reviewed by an expert panel who will then develop a tailored treatment plan for each patient. The analysis of all the bacteria present will pave the way for more effective therapeutic regimes and ultimately contribute to the development of personalised treatment for CF patients.

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Australian New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) Intensive Care Global Rising Star Programme Fellowship 2013

The Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society have awarded Danny McAuley the Australian New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) Intensive Care Global Rising Star Programme Fellowship 2013.

“I was delighted to receive the award which acknowledges the work of all the team who are involved with this research programme”   Danny McAuley

Danny travelled to the 28th ANZICZ/ACCCN Annual Scientific Meeting held in Hobart Tasmania, Australia in October and gave a presentation title “Developing a New Therapy for Acute Lung Injury: The Potential Role of Simvastatin”. His presentation discussed his programme of work investigating simvastatin as a potential therapy for Acute Lung Injury, a devastating clinical condition in the critically ill.

The Intensive Care Global Rising Star Programme Awards aims to identify promising and innovative clinician/scientists. The recipients will have the opportunity to present an overview of their past and on-going research activities during a dedicated symposium.  Only four fellowships were awarded to clinician/scientists from following regions: America (Canada, USA and South America), Europe (including United Kingdom and Ireland) and Asia.

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Healthy Volunteers Required (October 2013)

Researchers from Queen’s University are looking for healthy volunteers aged 18-60 years who would be interested in contributing to a research study looking at the normal immune response to infection. 

In this study the researchers will identify the “normal range” of results for levels of anti-bacterial proteins and immune cells in blood samples derived from healthy individuals.  These ranges will be used as reference values for the detection of defects in the immune system of patients with a condition known as Primary Immunodeficiency.

The study involves volunteers attending the Health Sciences Building for one study visit lasting approximately 30 minutes.  During this visit we will collect one 50ml sample (approximately 10 teaspoons) of your blood.

Volunteers should be 18-60 years of age and not have a respiratory condition (for example; asthma) or a history of problems with their immune system.  Participants should also be non-smokers and not have taken antibiotics during the three months prior to the study visit.

If you would be interested in taking part, please contact Elinor Johnston for more information, phone 028 90972242 or email

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Nuffield Student, Beth Malcomson has been selected as a Queen’s Scholar

Beth was a Nuffield Student in the Centre for Infection & Immunity in the Summer of 2012 with Dr Bettina Schock, who described her as 'an excellent student'.  Read a little more about Beth below.

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Queen's Scientist to tackle Cystic Fibrosis superbug (October 2013)

Queen’s scientist to tackle Cystic Fibrosis superbug (October 2013)

Queen’s University Belfast is to lead a £139,000 study into the way cystic fibrosis sufferers are affected by a superbug that destroys lung function.

The research, funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust will investigate how the immune cells of cystic fibrosis patients are infected when they contract Burkholderia Cepacia (B.cepacia). The superbug can colonise in people with cystic fibrosis causing serious lung damage.

The two year study will be coordinated by Professor Miguel Valvano, Chair of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity.

There are around 500 people living with cystic fibrosis in Northern Ireland, and the B.cepacia bug affects around six per cent of people with the illness.

Professor Valvano said: “We have reached a point in which it may be possible to directly identify molecules that can help immune cells,especially those that engulf bacteria to deal with the intracellular B.cepacia. Our research effort will be focused on developing the appropriate procedures that will enable us to screen libraries of chemical compounds to find molecules that can help cystic fibrosis patients’ immune cells clear invading bacteria.”

Professor Valvano aims to develop a better understanding of how cystic fibrosis affects the normal functioning of cells and how B.cepacia disrupts cell breakdown in people with cystic fibrosis. The second stage in the project will involve developing a quick and efficient way of testing large numbers of compounds with a view to finding a drug that can effectively treat B.cepacia.

Dr Janet Allen, Director of Research at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said: “Professor Miguel Valvano is one of the world’s leading experts in this field. His molecular research aimed at dissecting key bacterial components that directly interact with host cells to cause infections is internationally recognised.

“A key part of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s research strategy is supporting research aimed at finding new ways to treat chronic infection and inflammation in people with cystic fibrosis. In people with cystic fibrosis certain bugs are able to turn the body’s immune system against itself by disrupting the normal processes for dealing with invaders and causing harmful levels of inflammation. They are also very difficult to treat because they are able to block conventional antibiotics.”


Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s Communications Office Tel: +44(0)28 9097 5320 or email or Louise Banks at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust on +44(0)208 290 7912 / +44(0)7989 436 204 or email:

Notes to Editors:

  • This grant aims to establish how cystic fibrosis affects macrophage cells infected with B. cepacia and to develop associated drug discovery tools. The objective is to enable the development of more effective treatments for B. cepacia and other emerging CF pathogens.  Further information about this study can be found at:
  • Professor Miguel Valvano was appointed Chair of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Queen’s University Belfast in July 2012. His team, at the Centre for Infection and Immunity (CII) based at Queen’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, explores infections that cause major health risks for children and young adults with cystic fibrosis. For more information visit

  • Professor Miguel Valvano leads the world-class team, building on pioneering work at the University of Western Ontario, funded by CF Canada
  • A copy of the research strategy is available to download from 

  • Cystic fibrosis is chronically misunderstood, kills thousands worldwide and is carried unknowingly in the genes of millions. It's often invisible to the naked eye yet destroys lives, stopping them short, inflicting hardship and distress on patients, their families and carers. Cystic fibrosis directly affects around 10,000 people in the UK.
  • Fighting it is a battle we must win. That’s why we must keep working for and fundraising for change.  That's why we must develop better treatments and, ultimately, a cure.
  • Because cystic fibrosis is beatable.
  • The faulty gene is carried by over two million people in the UK, most of whom have no idea. If two carriers have children, there’s a one in four chance their child will have the condition, which slowly destroys the lungs and digestive system. 
  • We’re here to beat it and make a daily difference to the lives of those with cystic fibrosis, and the people who care for them. Find out more at:  or call our helpline 0300 373 1000.

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Belfast Half Marathon Sunday 22nd September 2013

Dr Bronagh Blackwood (Cii) and her brother who completed the Belfast Half Marathon Sept 2013

Mr Barney O'Loughlin (Cii) (orange shirt) who completed the Belfast Half Marathon Sept 2013

Congratulations to two members of Cii who completed the Belfast Half Marathon on 22nd September 2013.

Barney ran to collect funds for the Northern Ireland Cancer fund for Children.

Well done Bronagh & Barney!

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John Widdecombe Award 2013

Cii PhD student, Rebecca Clarke won the John Widdicombe award for the best oral presentation at the 4th American Cough Conference.  She was up against strong international competition (14 other presenters!).  Well done Rebecca!


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Would you like to work in the Centre for Infection and Immunity?    

We are recruiting at all levels and are looking for dynamic individuals to join our vibrant Centre.

In the Centre for Infection and Immunity we are currently recruiting as part of a clinical   recruitment campaign in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences.  We are targeting clinicians who have expertise in respiratory medicine (in either Adult or Peadiatric services). 

These clinical disciplines align with strategic scientific programmes within the Centre and we can offer a strong infrastructure which supports translational research.


For more information see the advertisement at


For post doc level, we advertise current vacancies on


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Breakthrough Cystic Fibrosis Drug

12 March 2013

Some press and news links below regarding a breakthrough Cystic Fibrosis drug which has been made available

Listen again: Professor Stuart Elborn explains how a new drug, trialled at Queen’s, will transform the lives of people living with Cystic Fibrosis. Click here to listen to the interview on Good Morning Ulster (scroll to 57mins 30 secs)


A new drug which will benefit Cystic Fibrosis (CF) sufferers with the ‘Celtic Gene’ has been approved for use.

The drug Ivacaftor (also known Kalydeco), will be made available where appropriate, to patients who have the G551D genetic mutation also known as the ‘Celtic Gene’, which is particularly common in Ireland. 

Speaking about the new drug, the Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “The drug Ivacaftor is a significant breakthrough, not only for those with the ‘Celtic Gene’, but also for all other CF sufferers, as it indicates that the basic defect in CF can be treated.  This is the first drug aimed at the basic defect in CF to show an effect.

 “The study found significant improvement in lung function, quality of life and a reduction in disease flare-up for those receiving the new drug treatment. This is an extremely positive decision which means that eligible patients here will, in common with their counterparts elsewhere in the UK, be able to gain access to Ivacaftor.”

There are about 500 people living with CF in Northern Ireland and about 7% of them carry the G551D mutation. CF affects the cells that secrete mucus in the lungs and those that secrete digestive juices in the gut and pancreas, causing these secretions to become thick and cause long term problems. Ivacaftor is the first in a new class of medicines and targets the underlying cause of CF rather than simply treating its symptoms. 

Professor Stuart Elborn, Director of Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Infection and Immunity, led the original trial for the drug. Commenting on the Minister’s announcement today, he said: “We led an international team on this study which involved colleagues at Queen’s, the University of Ulster, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and researchers in Europe, USA and Australia, but what the success of this study also illustrates are the benefits that come from collaborative work here in Northern Ireland and the impact of Queen’s research. 

“Not only will this breakthrough help patients in Ireland and the UK but it has the potential to change the lives for those with Cystic Fibrosis around the world.”

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UTV Live News (11 March 2013) featuring Dr Thamarai Schneiders, Cii

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Medical Research at Queens : Discovery to Recovery : Local Talent, Global Impact

An event was held recently at QUB on 30th January 2013 which comprised of short presentations by four leading medical researchers to impart first-hand knowledge of their ground-breaking work and its impact on patient outcomes locally and globally.

One of the researchers was Professor Danny McAuley who is a Consultant and Professor in Intensive Care Medicine in the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Centre for Infection & Immunity at Queen's University Belfast.  He is Director of the Wellcome Trust Wolfson NI Clinical Research Facility and the NI Clinical Trials Unit.  He is Co-Director of Research for the UK Intensive Care Society and Chair of the Irish Critical Care Trials Group.  His major research area is acute lung injury (ALI). 

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New Years Honours

Congratulations to Professor Stuart Elborn, Director of the Centre for Infection and Immunity, who has been awarded the CBE for services to Healthcare in Northern Ireland.

More information is available at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust press release


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I+I TRG Young Scientist Symposium 2013

Young researchers throughout Northern Ireland will be coming together on the 22nd February to present their work in the area of infection and immunity. This event has been organised by students and postdocs and aims to encourage collaboration between different institutes.

This one day symposium will include delegate talks and a poster session. There will also be a careers session with invited speakers and a keynote lecture from Prof. Paul Moynagh (NUI, Maynooth).

Abstract deadline for this event has been extended to February 8th2013. If you are interested in attending this event please follow link.

Queen’s scientists in new bid to develop anthrax vaccine

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.

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£425K Queen’s study could lead to new treatments for reversing symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

Dr Denise Fitzgerald

£425K Queen’s study could lead to new treatments for reversing symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

A novel study at Queen’s University Belfast which could eventually lead to new treatments for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has been awarded £425K by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Currently some 100,000 people in the United Kingdom have MS which affects the ability of nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord and eye, to communicate with each other effectively.

The new study, based in Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity, will investigate how parts of the immune system can help repair the damage caused by MS attacks. 

The project is being led by Dr Denise Fitzgerald, who herself experienced a condition similar to MS, called Transverse Myelitis when she was 21. As a result of inflammation in her spinal cord, she was paralysed in less than two hours.

Dr Fitzgerald had to learn to walk again as the damage in her spinal cord repaired itself over the following months and years. It is this natural repair process that often becomes inefficient in MS, a chronic life-long condition, and this failure of repair can lead to permanent disability.
Boosting this natural repair process in the brain and spinal cord is the next frontier in treating MS, as currently there are no drugs that are proven to do so.

Speaking about the importance of the new study, Dr Fitzgerald said: “The central goal of our research is to identify new strategies to treat MS and other inflammatory and demyelinating disorders.

“Nerve cells communicate by sending signals along nerve fibres which are contained within a fatty, insulating, protective substance, known as Myelin. In MS, Myelin is attacked and damaged (demyelination) which can lead to either faulty signalling by nerves, or death of the nerve cells. As a result, patients experience loss of nerve function in the area of the brain/spinal cord that has been damaged. This research project centres around understanding Myelination, a process of insulating the nerve fibres with Myelin, and Remyelination, a natural regenerative process that replaces damaged Myelin.

“We already know that the immune system is implicated as a potential culprit in MS, as the damage is thought to be caused by inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS; brain, spinal cord and optic nerve). But in recent years we have learned a great deal about how the immune system also supports tissue repair in the CNS.

“In particular, there is a group of immune cells called T cells which have recently been shown to support remyelination. There are different subsets of T cells, however, and little is still known about which subsets are beneficial in this process. In our study we aim to discover if these different T cell subsets influence remyelination of the CNS, and if ageing of the T cells impairs remyelination in older individuals.

“The outcomes of this study will include new knowledge of how the immune system, and T cells in particular, influence remyelination in the Central Nervous System. We will also learn a great deal about how ageing affects the ability of T cells to help tissue repair.

“Given the profound neurological impairments that can accompany ageing, and our growing aged population, is it imperative that we understand how normal CNS  repair can become impaired with age.

“By understanding this process of CNS repair in detail. we will also gain an insight into other inflammatory and demyelinating disorders.”

Further information on Dr Fitzgerald’s research group within the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s University Belfast can be found online at

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer. Tel: +44(0)28 90 97 5384 or email

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Some of the Cii team taking part in the NICHS Causeway Trek

Staff and studentsfrom the Centre for Infection and Immunity  (plus a few friends) took part in the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Causeway Trek on 12th May 2012.  

Well done to the Cii team and their friends, not only did they all make it round the 10 mile walk, they also raised over £1,000 for NICHS.


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The 41st Annual Meeting of the European Histamine Research Society, held jointly with COST Action BM0806 in Belfast

Delegates at Giant's Causeway  

The 41st Annual Meeting of the European Histamine Research Society, held jointly with COST Action BM0806 in Belfast on 2nd - 5th May 2012

This meeting, organised by Madeleine Ennis, was attended by 130 delegates from 28 countries, including well known European countries (!) such as Argentina, Australia, Japan, United Arab Emirates and USA. Before the meeting, Rob Thurmond of Janssen, San Diego gave a talk in the Centre for Infection and Immunity entitled: “The role of the histamine H4 receptor in allergy and inflammation”, which made many of our local scientists realise that there is life in the old mediator.

The conference covered all aspects of histamine research from synthetic organic chemistry, through immunology, neurobiology to clinical work. There were 7 invited talks, 27 oral presentations and 40 poster presentations. Dr. Tomas Perecko won second prize in the Young Investigator’s award based on the work he had performed with Madeleine Ennis and Karim Dib during a 3 month placement in Belfast.

Overall it was a great success, with comments such as: “Thank you for a wonderful conference and thank you for allowing me to squeeze in a poster on such short notice...I really appreciate all your help.  It was a terrific venue and I had a chance to meet and interact with some terrific potential collaborators." (Ed Holson, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard).


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Arthritis Research Group Publish Results in Top Rheumatology Journal – June 2011


Dr Sorcha Finnegan, a member of The Arthritis Research Group funded by Arthritis Research UK has recently had her work published in the top international peer-reviewed journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

The group, lead by Dr Madeleine Rooney carry out research into juvenile arthritis. One in every thousand children in the UK are affected by this illness and it can cause chronic pain, joint damage and disability.

In the paper entitled “Synovial membrane immunohistology in early untreated juvenile idiopathic arthritis: differences between clinical subgroups” Dr Finnegan was able to demonstrate that at very early disease stages before the initiation of any disease modifying treatment there were significant immunohistological differences in the synovial tissue between three different subgroups of the disease. The most important finding was that in one of these disease subgroups, known as extended oligoarticular JIA there were early changes in the synovial membrane cell infiltrate that could possibly be used to predict the extension of this disease, this is important as at present there is no reliable way of predicting disease extension in this particular JIA subgroup. 

Dr Finnegan was also chosen to present her work at this prestigious international Annual European Congress of Rheumatology in London this year.

Two of the papers authors Dr Sorcha Finnegan and Dr David Gibson, under the guidance of Dr Madeleine Rooney, are carrying out research which involves discovery and validation of biomarkers from synovial fluid and tissue of children with newly diagnosed JIA, with the ultimate aim that these biomarkers will help clinicians to predict which course the disease might take so that appropriate treatments can be given.

The article can be accessed online at

Please contact Dr Finnegan at with any queries




Roger Lowry Medal Presentation

Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Association Conference 2011

Dr. Jeremy Parker (CII, QUB) was awarded the Roger Lowry medal for his presentation at this years NICHSA conference. His presentation covered a recently completed study looking at the role of IL-9 and IL-9 combined with IL-13 (two key cytokines implicated in causing an increase in mucus producing cells and mucus overproduction in asthma) in paediatric well differentiated cultures of bronchial asthmatic epithelium. The findings suggest that the central role attributed to IL-9 in terms of the above characterisitics may not actually be the case. In the study presented, IL-9 was found to have no evident effect on the numbers of goblet cells or mucus production in either normal or asthmatic epithelium. Instead the study suggests a role for IL-9 in the inhibition of differentiation to ciliated cells in the epithelium, another important characteristic of asthma.

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PhD Student Wins Award (Feb 2011)

Dr Donal O'Kane has recently won the prestigious Everett C. Fox, MD award for best presentation of laboratory research at the American Academy of Dermatology 69th Annual Meeting in New Orleans, February 2011.  He also won the best poster presentation at the meeting.  Donal presented his research on 'The role of epithelial to mesenchymal transition in scleroderma'. 

Scleroderma is an untreatable progressive fibrotic disease of the skin and often internal organs.  Donals results support EMT as a pathogenic mechanism for fibrosis in scleroderma and highlight the SMAD signalling pathway as a key therapeutic target.  Donal is currently a 2nd year PhD student supervised by Dr Cecilia O'Kane, Prof Danny McAuley, and Prof Stuart Elborn.  His work is funded by the Health and Social Care, Research and Development Division. 

Professor Stuart Elborn - Cystic Fibrosis Grant


A £1.7m cystic fibrosis study is being carried out at Queen's University in Belfast to help improve the quality of life of sufferers. 


Read more about it at the link below


watch the video below



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Applications for the CII Summer Studentships 2011 are now open. Please look under the 'Research' tab for details. Closing date is 1st March 2011.
Post-doctoral fellow award

Dr. Hani’ah Abdullah a postdoctorial fellow funded by Asthma UK has won the prestigious ‘Michael B.A.Oldstone Neurovirology Lectureship award’ at the USA based ‘International Society for Neurovirology’ (ISNV), held in Milan from 12th -16th October 2010. This was for her oral presentation on work on ‘the effect of virus infection on cough receptors on airway sensory nerves’.  This is a collaborative research project with Professor Louise Cosby, Dr. Lorcan McGarvey and Dr. Liam Heaney in the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s. The work has important implications for the understanding of the mechanism of viral induced cough in diseases such as asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).


The presentation was made at the Society Gala dinner. One photograph shows Dr Abdullah (centre) with the president of the ISNV Professor Lynn Pulliam (Professor of Laboratory Medicine, University of California, San Francisco) (right). The second photograph shows Dr. Abdullah (third from left with her engraved plaque) and Professor Louise Cosby (4th from left) along with winners of other awards and their mentors.

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Professor Mike Shields
Professor Mike Shields

Meningitis research breakthrough could save children’s lives

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust have developed a groundbreaking test for meningitis which could help save lives.

A rapid diagnostic test for meningococcal bacteria that can produce results within an hour has been developed by scientists from Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity and the Trust. The speed of this new test is a vital factor in the treatment of young children with meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia who become very ill over a short period.

This research has been supported by the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF).

Professor Mike Shields, of Queen’s University and the Belfast Trust, explained: “The first symptoms of meningococcal infections are the same as a simple viral infection, making it difficult to diagnose in the early stages. Parents often use the ‘tumbler test’ on their children’s bodies, but the non-blanching rash that is associated with a positive outcome of this test is a late sign and is not always present in children who have meningitis.

“Currently doctors will admit and treat with antibiotics any child that they suspect of having meningococcal disease while they await the traditional test results that take between 24 and 48 hours. Some children are not diagnosed in the early stages while others are admitted and treated ‘just in case’ when they don’t actually have the disease.

“With the development of a small piece of equipment, which resembles a portable home printer, a sample of blood or a secretion such as saliva, can be tested quickly by the machine. This produces a colour reading that determines if the patient has meningitis or not.”

Alongside saving lives, early detection can potentially improve outcomes for meningitis patients who are often left with life-altering conditions such as deafness and cerebral palsy.

The machine is now being trialled in the A&E Department of the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast.  

Professor Shields explained how the breakthrough is a great example of research benefitting patients.

“There is no other rapid test that can confirm the diagnosis in such a short time. The current tests are expensive and take up to two days to obtain. Speedy identification of the cause of infection can enable doctors to make life-saving decisions about the treatment of patients. If we have the results within an hour we will be able to start the appropriate course of treatment right away.”

The new test is very different to standard culture based detection methods that have been used up until now.

Professor Shields: “In recent years molecular diagnostic tests, that use the DNA finger print from ‘bugs’ for diagnosis, have been developed, but they still require the specimen sample to be transported to the laboratory and takes a considerable time to get the result back to the doctor. This means that doctors have to make clinical decisions before results are available.

“The new test called ‘loop mediated isothermal amplification’ also utilises a molecular method to detect genes that are common to all strains on the meningococcus. The real advantage of the new LAMP test is that it has the potential to be a simple bedside test that is rapid, cheap, easy to use and doesn’t require laboratory trained staff.”

Currently there are 1,200 to 1,500 laboratory confirmed cases of meningococcal disease in the UK each year and it is thought that actual numbers could be higher.

The medical team behind this breakthrough was recognised for its work in June of this year when they won an Elevations Diagnostics idea of the year award, organised by HSC innovators, a panel of experts from industry, healthcare and business support organisations.


Media inquiries to Donna McCullough 0044 (0) 28 9097 5391 or 07980013362

Notes to the Editors

Professor Mike Shields is available for interview.

The Research Team:

Professor Shields is Professor of Child Health at Queen’s and Consultant Paediatrician at the Royal Belfast hospital for Sick Children. He is a member of the Centre of Infection & Immunity Research Group and has research interests in childhood respiratory disorders and the rapid diagnosis of infection in children.

Dr Peter Coyle, Head of Virology & Microbiology, Belfast HSC Trust

Dr Derek Fairley, Scientist, Belfast HSC Trust

MRF’s research programme is made possible through charitable donations.

Professor Jim Johnston receives the ISI Public Lecture Award

The 2010 recipient of the lecture award is Prof. James Johnston (CII)

A Web-Cast of his talk is available on the RDS Website at the link below

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Cii PhD Studentships 2014