Kent in fight against parasites

The University’s School of Biosciences is to play a major role in a global project to develop new drugs to combat parasites.

A Kent-based team led by Professor David Brown will be part of a four-year, multi-centre research programme funded by the European Union. The programme will focus on neglected parasitic diseases (NPDs) – classified as ‘neglected’ because investment in finding cures for these illnesses is extremely low, despite their devastating impact on human and veterinary health. A cause of this drug development standstill is a lack of financial incentive and low return on investment for the pharmaceutical industry.

The project titled PDE4NPD (PhosphoDiEsterase inhibitors to target Neglected Parasitic Diseases) will focus specifically on Chagas’ disease, human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis and schistosomiasis.

Professor Brown is Programme Director for the MSc Drug Design. Further information about the project and its global academic and industrial partners can be found here.

 

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Tamiflu could save many lives

JSRMuch has been made in recent days about the Cochrane Review, and subsequent media coverage, concerning anti-influenza drugs. Dr. Jeremy Rossman, Lecturer in Virology in the School of Biosciences, says that while the review questions the economic benefits of stockpiling Tamiflu, the drug could save many lives in the event of another serious influenza pandemic. Despite the apparently modest alleviation of influenza symptoms in adults, Dr. Rossman contends that this may still be of substantial benefit to public health in the case of a pandemic with highly-pathogenic influenza strains.

For more information, see Dr. Rossman’s full commentary.

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Biosciences Teacher of the Year 2014 Finalist

pkWe are delighted to report that Dr Peter Klappa, Reader in Biochemistry, was a Finalist in the UK Higher Education Biosciences Teacher of the Year competition. All three finalists were invited to give presentations at the Heads of University Biosciences Spring meeting, April 8-9 2014 at Chicheley Hall, Bucks. Peter gave an excellent and very engaging presentation entitled “Providing effective feedback”, where he demonstrated novel methods he’d developed using an iPad as an interactive whiteboard in lectures, as well as methods for providing automated feedback from tests.

Peter is pictured receiving his award as joint runner-up in the competition. Congratulations on an outstanding achievement!

https://www.societyofbiology.org/get-involved/awards-and-competitions/he-teacher-of the-year

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Marking the end of the Spring term research seminar programme

seminarIt has been quite a year for the School of Biosciences Research Seminar programme. In the past academic year, staff and students have benefited from outstanding research presentations from two Fellows of the Royal Society (Professor Anne Dell and Professor Judith Armitage), speakers from universities widely acknowledged as among the top ten in the world (Cambridge, Oxford, and Princeton), speakers from across Europe (Copenhagen, Stockholm and Vienna), as well as world-leading researchers from across the UK. We are truly lucky to benefit from an environment that exposes us all – staff and students - to world-class science.

Watch this space for the Summer term programme!

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Record success for Biosciences sandwich placements

Students from the School of Biosciences have been successful in securing a record number of sandwich placements. With still a number of weeks to go until the end of the academic year, this year’s students have secured the highest number the School has ever had in its 30 year history of running as sandwich programme. Among the placement locations are key pharmaceutical companies in the UK (GlaxoSmithKline, Procter & Gamble), academic and industrial research institutes (MRC Technology, the Science and Technology Facilities Council) and prestigious research organisations overseas (National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Thailand, and the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research at the University of Ghana). These successes reflect the high quality of our students and the value placed on the School’s training by our placement partners, with whom we have been able to build very good relationships, together with the support provided by our placement officer, Dr. Pauline Phelan, and the Careers and Employability Service.

Our Sandwich Year programme provides the perfect opportunity to incorporate scientific work experience into a degree. The programme has recently been accredited by the Society of Biology – an indication of the quality of provision on offer.  A recent graduate, Chen Liang, said “My sandwich year was an amazing experience. It gave me insight into the pharmaceutical industry and I found a research topic I would like to continue as a career. I really enjoyed working with my team and the skills and techniques I gained will set me apart from other graduates. I cannot recommend it enough, so don’t let this opportunity pass you by.”

Many congratulations to our students, and best wishes from the School of Biosciences for your placement year.

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Kent Biosciences students gear up for study abroad

Our Year Abroad programmes continue to flourish. This year, our students have been admitted to Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, CIty University Hong Kong, University of Calgary, University of Ottawa and Trent University (Canada), California State University Long Beach, Virginia Tech, and Indiana University. A record six students have been accepted to the University of California (including the San Diego and Berkeley campuses).

Hannah Bridgewater, a second year Biochemistry student, will be going to UC Berkeley – widely regarded as one of the top 10 universities in the world. “I cannot wait to start UC Berkeley in August,” said Hannah. ”I am looking forward to the challenges and new experiences moving to California and studying there will present. This is a very exciting time for me, and the University of Kent Biosciences staff have supported me throughout this process. From deciding if I wanted to go abroad to this final opportunity where I will be studying at one of the top ten universities in the world, the staff at Kent have been amazing. I am incredibly lucky to be studying at Kent where they offer opportunities like
this.”

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Research Seminar: Molecular Control of RNA Metabolism.

Dr. Anastasia Callaghan
Biological Sciences, University of Portsmouth

Monday 7th April, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

RNases provide a means of regulation through the processing and degradation of the RNA population. In bacteria, RNase activity can be coordinated through the action of small non-coding RNAs coupled with RNA chaperone protein functioning. Metabolites have also been linked to the regulation of RNase activity, providing yet another means of coordinated RNA population control.

My talk will focus on our studies into the mechanism of an essential bacterial endoribonuclease RNase E, highlight our recent discovery of a link between a molecule of central metabolism and activity regulation of the exoribonuclease PNPase, and conclude with recent work conducted on the RNA chaperone protein Hfq.

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Final Year Projects: Under the Microscope

A little insight into the work done by final year biosciences undergraduates at the University of Kent

A guest post by Stella Bennett, a postgraduate student on the MSc Science, Communication and Society

I was given the chance to talk to final year biosciences students working in the project laboratories as they completed their last week of research. With the end nearly in sight for their final year projects, and for their undergraduate degrees, I asked what they had been working on, and to look back at what had first attracted them to the University of Kent. 

GaryThe overwhelming impression I got, as an outsider stepping into the project labs, was of a kind of cheerful concentration. The final year bioscientists are a diverse bunch, but universally they were busy, focused, and despite the looming deadline for practical work, they all seemed pretty relaxed. Even those students I spoke to whose projects had been hard work, weeks spent culturing colonies that hadn’t grown as expected, told me that their work was nearly done, and spoke about the applications of their research with enthusiasm, pleased to have someone new to lecture about something they’ve had on their mind for months. Several students seemed perfectly capable of carrying out precision micro-pipette work while simultaneously summarising their research for me and tapping along to the rhythm of Radio 1 with their feet.

I spoke to Elena, a Biomedical Science student who was using computer software to evaluate whether her yeast colonies had formed any bioadaptations to UVC irradiation. When I asked her what had drawn her to the University of Kent in the first place, she told me that she loved the campus, but that she hadn’t visited the university before the first day of Fresher’s Week.

culturesThat statement, coming from a final year student who was moving around the laboratories with absolute confidence, struck me as a perfect example of the energy all the project students seemed to share. They had all started their projects with a basic understanding, and over the course of their research, had learnt precision techniques, laboratory skills, and were able to tell me in incredible, energetic detail about their exact area of focus. A few students I spoke to had questions for me about postgraduate studies, but regardless of whether they decide to continue after this year, they’ve all come away with some extraordinary knowledge and abilities. I wish the best of luck to every single one of them.

We will be reporting on some specific projects on the Biosciences blog in the coming weeks!

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School of Biosciences Bake Off raises over £400 for Sport Relief

cakesStudents and staff from the School of Biosciences translated their scientific skills into the kitchen, raising £416 for Sport Relief on 21st March. The Bake Off, organised by PhD student Sarah Packwood, also featured a silent auction of donations from generous local businesses. The combination of baking, bidding – and of course eating – raised a total that was more than double the amount raised in last year’s Comic Relief Bake Off held in Biosciences.

Many congratulations to Sarah and her team of bakers!

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Research Seminar: Making ends meet: orchestration of DNA double-strand break repair by the NHEJ pathway.

Professor Aidan Doherty, MRC Genome Damage and Stability Centre, University of Sussex

Monday 31st March, 4.00 p.m., Marlowe Lecture Theatre 1

To counteract DNA damage and maintain genome stability, cells have evolved a myriad of strategies for repairing specific genetic lesions. This lecture will explore our current understand of how potentially lethal DNA breaks are repaired, how this pathway is regulated in yeast cells and discuss how these studies led to the discovery of a novel damage tolerance pathway in eukaryotic cells.

 

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