New research by Queen’s University is the first time people involved in selling and buying sexual services have been directly approached in relation to prostitution policy in Northern Ireland and their views sought on the legal framework. Lead researcher Dr Susann Huschke, Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, said: “The issue of prostitution has received considerable interest in Northern Ireland over the last year, mainly due to the proposal within Lord Morrow’s Private Member’s Bill (Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill) to criminalise paying for sexual services. This study, commissioned by the Department of Justice, aims to fill some of the existing research gaps by conducting a mixed methods study of prostitution in Northern Ireland.” Welcoming the research report Justice Minister, David Ford said: “Next week the Assembly will consider Lord Morrow’s Bill. Lord Morrow and I share a determination to do all we can to address the misery of human trafficking and modern day slavery, and we have worked closely to agree on almost all of the Bill’s provisions. However, we differ over Clause 6 of the Bill, which, if adopted, will change the existing law from criminalising the purchase of sex from a prostitute subjected to force, to criminalising the purchase of sexual services in any circumstances. “My position is that I don’t believe that the complexities of prostitution can be adequately addressed in a single clause in a Bill. Instead, the law and policy surrounding the distinct issue of selling or purchasing sexual services should be considered separately, in detail, and with the benefit of properly informed research.” The Minister continued: “Earlier this year I commissioned Queen’s University to carry out research into prostitution in Northern Ireland and I have now received their final report. The research has established that the framework of prostitution in Northern Ireland is more complex and diverse than the picture generally painted. I have, however, seen no evidence to suggest that the change proposed by Lord Morrow would reduce the incidence of trafficking. Indeed the report contains evidence to suggest that criminalising the purchase of sex, as a single clause in this Bill, may create further risk and hardship for those individuals, particularly women, involved in prostitution.” The research found that: only 2% of sex workers who responded to the survey supported criminalising the purchase of sex; 61% of NI-based sex workers in the survey thought it would make them less safe; 85% believed that it would not reduce sex trafficking; only 16% of respondents to the client survey said it would make them stop paying for sex altogether. For more information download the report at http://www.dojni.gov.uk/index/publications/publication-categories/pubs-criminal-justice/independent-research-into-prostitution-in-northern-ireland.htm
Fungal diseases which are killing 150 people every hour across the world have become a worldwide catastrophe, according to researchers at Queen’s University Belfast. They join researchers from several countries across the world in an effort led from University of Manchester in a global call for policy makers and health agencies to address the problem of fungal diseases which result in the death of 300 million people worldwide every year. Dr Ronan McMullan from Queen’s University Belfast and Dr Eileen Dorgan from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust have been collaborating with GAFFI (Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections); an international organisation set up last year to highlight what doctors believe is a worldwide catastrophe that is growing year on year. Researchers believe that the problem could be halted with widespread access to diagnostics, antifungal medicines, medical training and better patient awareness. Dr Ronan McMullan from the Centre for Infection and Immunity in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s, said: “Among Ireland’s population fungal infections are estimated to affect around 117,000 people every year. The majority of these infections are recurrent vaginal candidiasis (‘thrush’) with an estimated 95,000 episodes per year. Although life-threatening infections among patients in ICU, as well as patients who have undergone transplantation or had leukaemia, are less common with just over 1,000 infections per year these are an important problem.” “The challenge in Ireland is mostly related to increasing awareness among both the public and doctors as well as developing and implementing cutting-edge diagnostic tests to enable these infections to be diagnosed and treated more promptly.” GAFFI’s founding President is Dr David Denning, Professor of Infectious Disease in Global Health at the University of Manchester. He said: “Fungal disease is the Trojan horse – the silent, unappreciated global catastrophe on an scale no one has grasped until recently. For example, after TB as many as 20 per cent of patients develop lung fungal infection, which slowly progresses to death over five years, unless arrested with treatment, an estimated burden of 1.2 million people worldwide. Severe asthma with fungal allergy could account for half of the 350,000 deaths from asthma each year, yet it is treatable with antifungal drugs. Blindness caused by fungal infection of the eye affects over 1 million adults and children globally yet the tools are not available for rapid diagnosis and treatment for millions of people. “Skin fungal infections affect a billion people worldwide. Fungal meningitis and pneumonia kills in excess of 1 million patients with AIDS every year, including many children, before treatment for HIV can begin to work. In its first year, GAFFI has drawn a roadmap for fighting fungal infections globally, for the first time.” In the last 12 months GAFFI has identified and estimated the burden of fungal disease in almost 40 countries, including both NI and RoI, successfully lobbied the World Health Organisation to include two life-saving drugs on the Essential Medicines List and convinced the World Medical Association to address governments across the world to improve diagnostics and treatments of fungal disease. Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office on email@example.com and 028 9097 3091.
Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have been awarded a major, international grant to investigate if the perinatal condition of pre-eclampsia could be treated with cheap, everyday drugs. Lead researcher Dr Jeremy Yongxin Yu from Queen’s Centre for Experimental Medicine will use the $250,000 to test around 300 drugs – many of them in common usage – which are considered relatively safe to administer to pregnant women. If, as hoped, the two-year research project identifies an effective treatment for pre-eclampsia, it could save the lives of thousands of mothers and babies around the world. Dr Yu described full-blown eclampsia as a “health crisis” which kills 500,000 babies and 75,000 mothers each year, mostly in developing countries. In the UK, it is still responsible for the deaths of 1,000 babies each year. Mothers-to-be with diabetes are four times more likely to develop pre-eclampsia, which involves dangerously high blood pressure and damage to the placenta. There is no known cure, but if it can be diagnosed at the earlier, pre-eclampsia stage, babies can be delivered by emergency Caesarean section, although often prematurely. Dr Yu, from the Centre for Experimental Medicine in School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, at Queen’s, said: “The placenta has to grow a huge amount of blood vessels in a short space of time. What we medical researchers have noticed is that certain molecules promote this growth, while others inhibit it. In the case of women who develop pre-eclampsia, there are too many inhibiting molecules. Following on from my previous research, I now want to see if I can halt these inhibitors with drugs. It’s important these drugs be cheap and widely available – the purpose is to come up with a treatment that can be used all over the world. That way, we will not only be advancing knowledge but changing lives.” Co-researcher Professor Tim Lyons, also from the Centre for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s, said: “Pre-eclampsia can be fatal if not caught, but even when it is, there are long-term health effects: women who’ve had pre-eclampsia are at higher risk from developing kidney and cardiovascular disease later in life, as are their babies.” Honorary Professor of Endocrinology at Queen’s, David McCance said: “Pre-eclampsia can be a devastating complication of pregnancy. This grant offers an exciting research opportunity and is another example of Queen’s being an international research leader and how local talent can have a global impact.” The Queen’s research proposal was one of just 26 selected from over 500 applications from around the world to the Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development funding. The Saving Lives at Birth partnership, launched in 2011, includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the US Agency for International Development, the Government of Norway, and Grand Challenges Canada (funded by the Government of Canada). The Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development is a global call for innovative prevention and treatment ideas, approaches, and technologies that aim to reduce infant and maternal mortality around the time of birth. This project, which will monitor the effect of a variety of drugs on placenta cells, is part of Queen’s expanding research efforts in pre-eclampsia that are being conducted in collaboration with a range of local and international academics, clinicians and NGOs. Consultant obstetrician Alyson Hunter, from the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital in Belfast, said: “The prevention and treatment of pre-eclampsia remains a major challenge in obstetrics. Aspirin has been used with limited success in preventing pre-eclampsia but Dr Yu’s and Professor Lyons' research may discover another commonly used, cheap medication that may be much more effective and help save many lives worldwide.” A full list of Saving Lives at Birth award-winners can be found at http://www.usaid.gov/news-information/press-releases/aug-1-2014-saving-lives-birth-grand-challenge-development-announces-round-4-award-nominees For more information contact Queen’s University communications officers Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Five Queen’s University Belfast students have been recognised by the UK Cabinet Office for their contribution to volunteering. One student has been honoured by the Prime Minister David Cameron with a Points of Light Award and four students have been selected as Young Social Action Ambassadors in recognition for volunteering excellence. Mogue Lawless, a fourth year Business Management student, was named the 123rd recipient of the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award. This award recognises outstanding individuals who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Mogue, who was last year named Queen’s Student Volunteer of the Year, has drawn on his personal experience of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to raise awareness of mental health problems. He set up an initiative called Start Talking, which uses art to promote the importance of keeping healthy in mind and body. He was nominated for the Points of Light Award by the Young Social Ambassadors network, a group of young people who have been selected by the UK Cabinet Office for their own contribution to volunteering. The UK-Wide network will help the government, in its programme Step Up To Serve, to find exceptional examples of volunteers from communities across the UK. Out of six Ambassadors chosen in Northern Ireland, four are from Queen’s University. They are: Fergal McFerran from Dunloy, Paul Loughran from Belfast, David Sands from Lisburn and Ryan Clarke from Newtownabbey. Professor David Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students at Queen’s, said: “This is an exceptional achievement for our student volunteers and I would like to congratulate all of those involved. These students are testimony to the fact that at Queen’s a degree is about much more than an education, it is a gateway to the world. Through the student experience at Queen’s there are many opportunities to get involved in volunteering and to make a very positive impact on society.” Speaking about his award, Mogue Lawless said: “I am delighted to have been honoured by the Prime Minister with a Points of Light Award. Through the excellent support services available at Queen’s I was able to get the help I needed as I battled with my OCD throughout my studies. I am now using my experience to help others with mental illness.” Speaking about his appointment, Fergal McFerran said: “As a Young Social Action Ambassador my role is to celebrate the incredible work that volunteers in Northern Ireland are doing on a day-to-day basis to improve their communities. Quite often those who dedicate themselves to improving society here go about their business unnoticed, we want to recognise their contributions in the hope that it inspires others to participate in community action too.” Announcing the Young Social Action Ambassadors, Charlotte Hill, Chief Executive Officer of Step Up To Serve, said: “It is great to see so many fantastic volunteers from such a wide range of organisations taking part in this vital work. This is an exciting opportunity for them to be working alongside government and Step Up To Serve which will help to inspire more people to volunteer.” Wendy Osborne, CEO, Volunteer Now says: “I am delighted that the Young Social Action Ambassadors from Queens University are bringing the values of volunteering to the wider community through their own volunteering excellence. Having attended training in 10 Downing Street they are searching for inspirational people to record their stories. These case studies will be used by the Cabinet Office to showcase volunteering, used within reports and speeches as well as influencing policy development. The Ambassadors will have the opportunity to reflect the dedication of so many volunteers who offer their time and make a vital contribution to the well being of society.” For further information on Queen’s University volunteering visit: http://www.qubsu.org/VolunteerSU/ Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s Communications Office on email@example.com or 028 9097 3091.
Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast are in a bid to uncover the birth of Belfast’s docklands in a new three-year research study. Dr Liz Thomas from the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP) at Queen’s will undertake a unique new project this autumn, which aims to shed light on living in the 19th century dockland town, Sailortown, in Belfast. Beginning this project, Dr Thomas has appealed for anyone with any connection to Sailortown to come forward with their stories of the town or stories that may have been passed down through the generations about the people and the place. Dr Thomas said: “I have always been interested in every aspect of life related to the sea and docks, probably because my grandfather worked on the docks in Dublin and I really am interested in anyone who has any connection to Sailortown to tell me their stories no matter how mundane it may seem. “I would love to hear stories about the women in Sailortown and I would be delighted for people with any connection to Sailortown to get in touch with me if they would like to be part of the study and excavation. I am truly looking forward to working with this community and feel very privileged to have this opportunity to work with the people of Sailortown. “This dockland area is significant because it represents the origin of Belfast as a world maritime and industrial capital. It has an amazing and complex history and the British Academy has recognized the significance of this area and its people by funding my three-year fellowship.” Dr Thomas has been awarded a highly prestigious three-year British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to complete this project. Over 800 applications were submitted to the British Academy for the 2014 award, but only 45 were successful, of which only four of these awards were assigned to archaeology. This is the first time in 18 years Queen’s has hosted a recipient of this prestigious fellowship. Queen’s University Vice-Chancellor, Patrick Johnson said: “This award is an outstanding achievement, in a highly competitive field. Securing prestigious fellowships of this quality aligns perfectly with my Vision for a world-class international university.” Professor Audrey Horning, mentor to Dr Thomas on this project and Head of the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology at Queen’s said: “This is a significant achievement for Liz, for GAP, and for Queen’s and the School (of GAP) are absolutely delighted.” From the 19th century, Sailortown residents were instrumental in the development of Belfast as one of the world’s first industrial capitals. From the late 1960s, redevelopment of this dockland site had begun. Alongside the redevelopment of this historic dockland site, the community who lived in Sailortown, mostly descended from a long lineage of those working in the docklands, were relocated to different homes spread across Belfast and apart from each other. However even after 40 years, the old Sailortown community spirit endures with the former residents reconvening weekly outside St Joseph’s Church, ‘The Chapel on the Quays’. The local community groups also supporting this project are the Sailortown Regeneration Group (SRG), Shared History Interpretative Project (SHIP) and Harbour Lights. The cross-generational and cross-community excavation is planned for next spring, and will be conducted over a two-week period. Dr Thomas and the Sailortown Regeneration Group are also investigating the possibilities of developing a permanent exhibition in a heritage-themed playground on the site following the excavation. For more information contact Queen’s Communications Officers Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 0044 (0)28 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 0044 (0)28 9097 5310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A Queen’s academic has been appointed to chair a new committee which will support the development of the credit union movement into the future. Professor Donal McKillop from Queen’s University Management School will chair the new Credit Union Advisory Committee. The role of the Committee is to advise the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD, on the improvement of the management of credit unions and the protection of the interests of members and creditors of credit unions. Donal is internationally renowned for his work in this area and his research has led to the introduction of new legislation in the Republic of Ireland and the establishment of a restructuring board to ensure the sector’s long term sustainability. Speaking about his appointment, Donal said: “I am delighted to have been offered Chair of the Credit Union Advisory Committee by The Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD. I am a strong advocate of credit unions. They provide valued services to their members and more generally to the local communities in which they are located. Credit unions never stand still. They are continually evolving influenced by the environment within which they operate and by the changing needs of their members.”
Queen’s University Belfast has once again proven itself to be a hub of innovation at the Northern Ireland Science Park’s INVENT Awards 2014. The awards showcase exciting business start-up ideas and are designed to highlight prototypes with the best chance of commercial success. The burgeoning of spin-out companies from Queen’s points to it being an environment that nurtures entrepreneurship and helps drive the Northern Ireland economy. Queen’s researchers won two of the five overall categories: Life And Health; and Agri-Food. Professor John McCanny, Director of the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) at Queen’s, was also honoured with the INVENT 2014 Special Recognition Award. A £33,000 prize fund will be distributed among all the winners who will also get to take part in a business mission to San Diego and San Francisco later this year. Scott Rutherford of Queen’s Research and Enterprise unit, which helps support spin-out companies from the university, said: “Once again the quality of Queen’s start-up businesses has been recognised at the Invent 2014 awards and I am pleased that Dr Kett and Dr Dalzell topped their categories at this year’s event. This award is just the starting point for two of our most promising researchers and I look forward, together with my team, to helping develop and accelerate the impact of these exciting new ventures, originating here in Northern Ireland. I am also delighted that the visionary leadership of Professor McCanny, who has combined both excellence in research and a strong commercial orientation throughout his distinguished career, was celebrated on the night.” Queen’s topped the Life And Health category with its innovation ‘Vaccine Tabs’. Dr Vicky Kett, from the School of Pharmacy, developed this vaccine nasal delivery system that is needle and pain-free, more stable and more effective than the familiar vaccine jabs. Dr Kett said: “The reason why our vaccine is different is that it offers improved stability over other vaccine formats and is also easy to administer with a simple applicator. This lessens both the dependence on constant refrigeration and the need for dedicated healthcare professionals to administer the vaccine, which are both issues in the developing world. In other words, this research could have a global impact. All the winners were picked for the business potential of their ideas and the quality of their business plan, so this win has helped set us on the road to commercialization.” Queen’s also scooped the Agri-Food award for its development of clean, ‘green’ pesticides. Dr Johnathan Dalzell, from the School of Biological Sciencies, headed up the project to develop a family of non-toxic pesticides that would be specific to crop parasites. Dr Dalzell said: “This marks a new departure for us and one that we really hope to build on – where we work increasingly with local industry and develop partnerships across the whole bio-technology landscape. It’s about taking research out of the university and out into the real world of business and commerce.” Professor John McCanny, Director of the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology, was honoured with the INVENT 2014 Special Recognition Award. Professor McCanny is credited with developing the vision that led to the creation of the Northern Ireland Science Park and its £37 million ECIT institute, of which he is currently Director. He also led the initiative that created the £30 million UK Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) which is based at ECIT. Professor McCanny said: “I was very surprised and very honoured to receive this, marking as it does the 10th year of ECIT’s presence on the Science Park. ECIT’s success, to date, has been very much a team effort, reflecting on the one hand the excellence of the research undertaken at the Institute and on the other the entrepreneurial spirit that strives to translate new ideas created into wider economic benefit. “At ECIT we have created a fairly unique model of ‘Open Innovation’ where academic researchers work alongside industry-experienced engineering and business development staff to make this happen. When ECIT was first established on the Science Park in 2004 it was a fairly derelict site. Today, thanks to the efforts of staff at the Science Park and at ECIT it now hosts over 120 companies employing over 2,100 people. It is very pleasing and rewarding to be part of that.” The overall prize at the INVENT Awards was won by husband and wife team Sean and Leona McAllister who developed software called Plotbox, which has been described as “Google maps for cemeteries”. For further information on the awards visit: http://invent2014.co/uk Media inquiries to Queen’s Communications Office or email@example.com or 028 9097 3091.
A compelling display of the work of Professor Phil Scraton from Queen’s University Belfast in relation to his research on the Hillsborough tragedy in which 96 men, women and children lost their lives, is just one of the items on display in a new exhibition appearing in Belfast City Hall from today (Monday, 6 October). Changing Lives: Our Specialist Subject has been created by Queen’s University and tells the story of how Queen’s staff are putting Northern Ireland in the national and global spotlight. Showing the impact Queen’s, as a world-class University, is having on the world around it, exhibits relate to every School at Queen’s, covering poetry to pharmacy and astrophysics to architecture. An array of objects, including one of the original portable defibrillators developed by Professor Frank Pantridge and original handwritten works by Belfast’s first Poet Laureate Dr Sinead Morrissey, sit alongside striking images of Queen’s researchers from photographers Christopher Heaney, Paul McErlane, Simon Kirwan, Martyn Boyd and Ivan Ewart. Changing Lives: Our Specialist Subject runs until Wednesday, 29 October in the Exhibition Space, Ground Floor, City Hall. Admission is free. Further information is available from the Communications and External Affairs at Queen’s. Telephone 028 9097 3091 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer. Tel: 028 9097 5384 or email email@example.com
Queen’s University Belfast has been successful at this year’s Northern Ireland Science Park’s INVENT Awards 2014. Queen’s researchers won the Life and Health category with their innovation ‘Vaccine Tabs’. Dr Vicki Kett, from the School of Pharmacy, developed a vaccine nasal delivery system that is needle and pain-free, more stable and more effective than the familiar vaccine jabs. Dr Kett joins the other five winners of the categories to win part of the £33,000 prize fund and will now take part in a week-long visit to San Diego and San Francisco on 1-5 December 2014. Professor John McCanny, Director of the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology, was honoured with the INVENT 2014 Special Recognition Award. Professor McCanny is credited with developing the vision that led to the creation of the Northern Ireland Science Park and its £37 million ECIT research flagship for which he is currently Director. He also led the initiative that created the £30 million UK Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) which is based at ECIT. For further information on the awards visit: http://invent2014.co/ Media inquiries Queen’s Communications Office or firstname.lastname@example.org or 028 9097 3087.
A new study led by Queen’s University Belfast into how cheetahs burn energy suggests that human activity, rather than larger predators, may force them to expend more energy and thus be the major cause of their decline. Wild cheetahs are down to under 10,000 from 100,000 a century ago with conventional wisdom blaming bigger predators for monopolising available food as their habitat becomes restricted. The traditional thinking has been that cheetahs no longer have sufficient access to prey to fuel their enormous energy output when engaging in super-fast chases. But, in the first study of its kind, published today in the international journal Science, academics from Queen’s, other Universities and conservation institutions have made the surprising discovery that, in the main, cheetahs do not use significantly more energy than other, similar-sized mammals. The scientists also discovered that, in searching for prey, cheetahs incur more energy loss than in outbursts of running which, although spectacular, are infrequent. So, where their prey have been reduced or re-distributed through human impacts, their ability to balance energy budgets has been severely curtailed. Lead researcher Dr Michael Scantlebury from Queen’s School of Biological Sciences said: “We studied 19 free-roaming cheetahs each for two weeks across two sites in southern Africa, one in the Kalahari desert and the other in a wetter area. We injected heavy water into the animals before tracking them continuously and collecting their faeces. From these samples, we could determine how much of this heavy water they were losing each day and calculate their energy expenditures. “What we found was that the cats’ energy expenditure was not significantly different from other mammals of similar size – cheetahs may be Ferraris but most of the time they are driving slowly. What our study showed was that their major energy costs seem to be incurred by travelling, rather than securing prey. If you can imagine walking up and down sand dunes in high temperatures day in, day out, with no water to drink you start to get a feel for how challenging these cats’ daily lives are, and yet they remain remarkably adapted and resilient. “They can even withstand other species, such as lions and hyenas, stealing their prey. The reality may be that human activities – for example erecting fences that inhibit free travel or over-hunting cheetah prey – are forcing cheetahs to travel ever-increasing distances and that this may be compromising their energy more than any other single factor. Our study, which is the result of ten years’ of research, seriously questions previously held assumptions about the factors affecting population viability in large predators threatened by extinction.” Co-researcher Dr Nikki Marks, also from Queen’s University Belfast said: “Research of this type helps improve our understanding of the challenges facing cheetahs as they strive to survive and helps inform future decisions on conservation strategies for cheetahs and other threatened animals.” Manuscript co-author Dr John Wilson of North Carolina State University said: “Too often we blame lions and hyenas for decimating cheetah populations when in fact, it is likely to be us humans that drive their declines. Imagine how hard it must be for a small cub to follow its mother further and further through the desert to look for food, while she herself is fighting for survival.” Another key member of the research team, Dr Gus Mills from The Lewis Foundation said: “Having spent the best part of six years studying these animals in the Kalahari you get a good understanding at first hand of the challenges they face in order to survive, even without the detrimental impact of human activity.” The Queen’s-led research was carried out in partnership with Oxford University, Swansea University, Ohio State University, North Carolina State University, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Pretoria, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, The Lewis Foundation (South Africa), the South African Wildlife Research Expedition and the Zoological Society of London. It was supported by awards from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Royal Society. For more information contact Queen’s Communications Officers Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 0044 (0)28 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 0044 (0)28 9097 5310 or email email@example.com