Posts By: Angharad Watson

New Network Manager

We are excited to announce that the LSRNW has a new Manager, Dr Angharad Watson, who joined the Network on February 1st, 2021.

Dr Watson holds a Biochemistry degree from Oxford University, and a PhD in Biomedicine from the University of Manchester. She originally joined Cardiff University as a post-doctoral researcher in the School of Medicine, researching cell-based immunotherapy for solid tumours.

She spent some time as a Senior Scientist at PsiOxus Therapeutics, before returning to Cardiff as an Impact Officer working on the REF Impact submission for the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences.

Dr Watson’s appointment marks the start of a new and exciting phase for the Network.


5th Annual Drug Discovery Congress 2018

The annual Drug Discovery Congress successfully brought together drug discovery scientists from across Wales in a collaborative environment to foster new research collaborations.

The programme included presentations by PhD and postdoctoral award holders, revealing a wealth of talent in their research to develop new therapeutic treatments in the areas of Oncology, Neuroscience and Infectious Disease.

Presentations were also delivered by Dr Alan Parker of Cardiff University and Dr George Johnson of Swansea University, who detailed the progression of research projects supported by NRN funding; Professor Cathy Thornton of Swansea University spoke about drug discovery in pregnancy and paediatrics, whilst Professor Paul Dyson of Swansea University spoke about the development of his research in bacterial mediated RNA interference as a therapy for solid tumours, a project initially funded by the NRN. Dr Justin John spoke about the development of NRN Technologies Ltd, a contract research organisation developed from NRN Platform Technologies.

Vaughan Gething AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, opened the second day of the event, where he outlined current health priorities for Welsh Government.

Since the Network began in late 2013 with funding from the Welsh Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, £5.9 million has been committed direct to Network drug discovery projects across Wales, facilitating collaborative engagement with over 330 partners. Bringing together leading academics from Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea Universities in over 143 research projects, £34.6 million in additional research funding has been generated and researchers have presented their work in over 361 conference presentations and had over 118 papers published in peer-reviewed journals.

The Network has surpassed the key performance indicators set by funders at project outset and these levels of output highlight the quality and quantity of research being undertaken by Network projects across Wales.

The Network has worked closely with a number of industry partners, the NHS and other major funding bodies with a strong focus on links to other funders, such as the Life Sciences Bridging Fund.

The Network was delighted to award the following prizes to PhD and postdoctoral project award holders at Congress 2018:

Round 3 PhD Studentships:

First Prize: Ben Thomas, Aberystwyth University: Mining ‘Omic data for novel antimicrobials using the AMPLY pipeline (pictured below, left)

Runner-up: David Cutress, Aberystwyth University: Towards Validation of an immune suppressor protein from liver fluke as a drug target (pictured below, right)

Round 4 PhD Studentships:

First Prize: Olivia Ogle, Cardiff University: Targeting zinc signalling to prevent cell division in cancer (below, left)

Runner-up: Benjamin Skalkoyannis, Swansea University: Targeting of interleukin-13 receptor (IL-13R) a2 expressing pancreatic cancer by a novel hybrid lytic peptide drug (below, right)

Postdoctoral award winner

Dr Helena Robinson, Bangor University: Small molecule inhibitors of Brachyury

Speakers:

Dr Alan Parker (top left), Dr George Johnson (top middle), Professor Cathy Thornton (top right), Vaughan Gething AM (bottom left), Professor Paul Dyson (bottom middle) and Dr Justin John (bottom right).


Life Sciences Research Network Congress brings together Wales’ finest Drug Discovery researchers

The 5th Annual Scientific Drug Discovery Congress will take place at the St David’s Hotel & Spa in Cardiff Bay from 11th to 12th September 2018.

This flagship event brings together drug discovery scientists from across Wales, providing the opportunity to develop new collaborations across the scientific community and strengthen the focus to bring new research funding to Welsh institutions.

Funded as part of the Welsh Government’s £50 million Sêr Cymru 1 programme to build research capacity in Wales, this final event in the Network’s lifecycle will showcase the wealth and maturity of Network drug discovery projects across Wales. This year the focus will be on exciting and innovative work being undertaken by final year PhD students and a selection of Postdoctoral researchers, revealing a wealth of research talent as projects advance to the last stage of data analysis and the potential discovery of solutions to areas of unmet medical need. Congress is an opportunity for students and leading academics from across Wales to highlight their research and discuss the challenges faced in developing the next generation of therapeutics. The event will be attended by a number of leading researchers whose work has led to successful commercialisation, as well as industry representatives with substantial experience in drug development.

This year, the Network is delighted to welcome the following key-note speakers: Dr Alan Parker, Reader in Translational Virotherapies at Cardiff University presenting on tumour-selective virotherapies; Dr George Johnson, Associate Professor at Swansea University will present on developing high-throughput genetic toxicity assays; Professor Cathy Thornton, Professor of Immunology at Swansea University who will present on drug discovery in pregnancy and paediatrics and Professor Paul Dyson, Professor of molecular microbiology at Swansea University who will present on bacterial mediated RNA interference as a therapy for solid tumours.

The Network is especially delighted to welcome Vaughan Gething AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Sciences at Welsh Government to open Congress on day two:

“The Life Sciences Research Network has not only brought researchers into Wales from across the European Union but it has encouraged inward investment from leading research charities such as Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust. For the last 5 years it has given researchers and students opportunities to bring exciting new research projects into areas that may have previously been under-researched. The Sêr Cymru programme has led to a step change in research capacity and put Wales firmly on the map as a centre of scientific discovery.”

Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services.

Since the Network began in late 2013 with funding from the Welsh Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, £5.9 million has been committed direct to Network drug discovery projects across Wales, facilitating collaborative engagement with over 330 partners. Bringing together leading academics from Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea Universities in over 143 research projects, £34.6 million in additional research funding has been generated and researchers have presented their work in over 361 conference presentations and had over 118 papers published in peer-reviewed journals.

The Network has surpassed the key performance indicators set by funders at project outset and these levels of output highlight the quality and quantity of research being undertaken by Network projects across Wales.

The Network has worked closely with a number of industry partners, the NHS and other major funding bodies with a strong focus on links to other funders, such as the Life Sciences Bridging Fund.

Professor Brancale, Network Scientific Director said: “The level of engagement with the Network, from academics has been immense so far. We have seen over 457 new drug discovery project applications submitted for review – and we have supported over 143 projects. The Network has made a real difference by focusing funding on potentially high impact research and supporting the discovery of novel potential therapeutics.”


3rd Sêr Cymru Postgraduate Conference

The third Sêr Cymru Postgraduate Conference attracted 35 PhD students from the three Sêr Cymru National Research Networks to PONTIO Arts Centre in Bangor on 27 March. The day started with insightful and thought-provoking presentations by Adrian Hines, Head of Applied Science at the UK Met Office and Jenny Ames, Director of Jenny Ames Consulting Ltd. Both presenters shared their personal career journeys and the presentations provided practical tips on how to apply scientific skills to research careers within and outside academia, as well as other possible career pathways post-PhD.

Following these inspirational talks, the day continued with an interactive workshop to initiate ideas to help the students decide what follows the PhD. Professional coaches challenged the students to identify the key rules and constraints they experience when identifying their career goals; what opportunities and skills they can develop to overcome these; and what actions they can take to proceed towards their goals. Different techniques grounded in research were used to help them identify each of these steps. Feedback on the day was positive and it was clear that dedicated training to focus on their career pathways was of great benefit to the attendees.

Further information can be found at: http://www.nrn-lcee.ac.uk/news/3rd-sêr-cymru-postgraduate-conference-36349


4th LSRNW Annual Drug Discovery Congress

4th LSRNW Annual Drug Discovery Congress, Mercure Holland House Hotel, Cardiff; 29th-30th November 2017.

Our flagship event brought together researchers from across our projects for a 2-day conference to examine and showcase the diverse drug discovery research being undertaken across Wales. NRN PhD students expertly chaired the presentation sessions throughout the 2 days and judged the PhD poster displays. Members of the NRN Management Board and key stakeholders judged excellent presentations delivered by our PhD and postdoctoral project holders, culminating in awards presented at the Gala Dinner.

The scientific programme was further enhanced by presentations delivered by key-note speakers, including Professor Simon Ward from the Medicine Discovery Institute, Cardiff University; Dr Edgar Hartsuiker, Chair of the North-West Cancer Research Institute, Bangor University; Hugh Young Rienhoff, Chief Executive Officer of Imago BioSciences, USA and Professor Paul Morgan, Director of Systems Immunity Research Institute, Cardiff University.

Congress provides a valuable opportunity for stakeholders to examine the progress of their research, share views, exchange ideas and compare experiences whilst discussing theoretical approaches and best practice solutions for further research progression. Awards this year were as follows:

PhD presentations:

Winner: Juan Gonzalez, Cardiff University

Runner up: Kyle Fears, Cardiff University

Highly commended: Alessandra Cavaliere

PhD posters:

Winner: Emma Davies, Aberystwyth University

Runner up: Benjamin Skalkoyannis, Swansea University

Highly commended: Olivia Ogle, Cardiff University

Postdoctoral presentations:

Winner: Dr Polina Yarova, Cardiff University

Runner up: Dr Kathryn Peall, Cardiff University

Highly commended: Dr Samuel Meier-Menches, Cardiff University

Postdoctoral Impact presentations:

Joint winners: Dr Girish Patel, Cardiff University

Dr Nick Jones, Swansea University


4th Annual Drug Discovery Congress 2017

Life Sciences Research Network Congress brings together Wales’ finest Drug Discovery Researchers

The Life Sciences Research Network Wales is part of the Welsh Government’s £50 million Sêr Cymru programme aimed at building research capacity within Wales.

As part of this initiative, the Welsh Government established three research Networks addressing the Grand Challenges of:

  • Life sciences and health
  • Advanced engineering and materials
  • Low carbon, energy and environment

The Life Science Research Network Wales is based in Cardiff University and led by Professor Andrea Brancale. This initiative was supported by a grant of £7.3m from the Sêr Cymru programme and HEFCW and aims to discover and develop new drugs in areas of unmet medical need.

The Network brings together leading academics from Aberystwyth, Bangor Cardiff, and Swansea Universities and has supported over 131 new research projects.  The Network works closely with a number of industry partners, the NHS and other major funding bodies and has a strong focus on its links to other funders, such as the Life Sciences Bridging Fund who support a pathway to potential commercialisation of the outputs of academic research for ultimate patient benefit. In its fourth year, the Network has supported a range of activities including PhD students, individual research projects and platform technologies at universities across Wales.  These researchers are developing the next generation of drugs to tackle major societal health issues such as:

  • Cancer
  • Antimicrobial Resistance
  • Neurodegenerative diseases

The Scientific Drug Discovery Congress takes place on 29th to 30th November 2017 at the Mercure Holland House Hotel in Cardiff. Congress is an opportunity for students and leading academics from across Wales to highlight their research and discuss the challenges faced in developing the next generation of therapeutics. The event will be attended by a number of leading researchers whose work has successfully led to commercialisation, as well industry representatives with substantial experience in the journey through the drug development pathway.

This year, the Network is delighted to welcome the following key-note speakers to Congress: Professor Simon Ward, Co-Director of the newly established Medicines Discovery Institute at Cardiff University – the goal of the Institute is to translate the University’s world-leading scientific understanding of disease mechanisms into novel therapeutic approaches to address disease where there remains a significant unmet medical need; Dr Edgar Hartsuiker, Senior Lecturer in Cancer Biology and Chair of the North-West Cancer Research Institute at Bangor University, who will be addressing the exploitation of DNA repair defects for personalised cancer treatment; Hugh Young Rienhoff, Chief Executive Officer of Imago BioSciences, Clinical Scientist and entrepreneur, who will be providing an insight into an entrepreneur’s journey; Professor B. Paul Morgan, Director of the Systems Immunity Research at Cardiff University, who will address therapeutic targeting of the complement system.

Professor Brancale, the Scientific Director of the Network said: “the level of engagement with the Network, from academics has been immense so far. We have seen over 419 new drug discovery projects submitted for review – and we have supported over 131 projects. The Network is making a real difference by focusing funding on potentially high impact research and supporting the discovery of novel potential therapeutics.

Group photo and winners of the PhD poster competition from the 3rd Annual Drug Discovery Congress 2016 (C) Huw John, Cardiff


Huge potential of nanotechnology closer to being unlocked through multi-million pound international project led by the Medical School

Scientists at Swansea University Medical School have just received approval from the European Commission for an international collaborative grant expected to be in excess of €12 million to develop novel cutting-edge tests to prevent the use of animals when assessing safety concerns surrounding nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology is a field which could greatly enhance crucial aspects of our lives pending proper investigation into associated risks.

The grant has been awarded as part of the Horizon2020 scheme, the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever, with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years (2014 to 2020).

Swansea University will lead an international team of scientists including academic, industrial, government and risk assessment partners to work on this major project entitled Physiologically Anchored Tools for Realistic nanOmateriaL hazard aSsessment (PATROLS).  The project involves a total of 26 partners spread across 14 countries through Europe and across the globe including Canada, Japan, Korea and the US.

The project faced competition from scientific groups all over Europe to become the only one selected for funding through a dedicated Horizon2020 challenge under the Industrial Leadership pillar.

Shareen Doak (pictured here) is a Professor of Genotoxicology & Cancer at Swansea University Medical School and is leading the project.  She explained: “Nanotechnology promises significant scientific, economic and societal benefits, but commercialisation and growth are threatened by safety uncertainties.

“Several problems currently exist in the field of nanosafety testing: standard non-animal tests are unreliable for nanomaterials, so there is a greater emphasis on evaluating their safety in animals. However animal tests are also unsuitable as they are expensive, time-consuming, and are associated with substantial moral concerns. Additionally, these tests do not predict the consequences of long term exposure on both human health and the environment.

“PATROLS will address these limitations by providing state-of-the-art 3D culture models of the human lung, gastrointestinal tract and liver.  The project will also deliver advanced testing methods for environmental safety testing and robust computational models that will allow us to more accurately predict human health and environmental safety based on data generated in cell culture, removing the need to test on animals.”

“Exposure under realistic conditions (low concentrations over extended periods of time) will be applied to human cell culture to understand the true risk associated with nanomaterials in consumer products.

PATROLS comprises many of Europe’s leading experts in nanosafety, ecotoxicology, cell biology, systems biology, computational modelling, tissue engineering and material science. This range of expertise will allow PATROLS to develop the next-generation of non-animal nanosafety testing solutions, to protect consumers, workers, patients and our environment, allowing us to enjoying the benefits that nanotechnological developments promise to have on our daily lives.

Commenting on the award, Chief Scientific Officer for Wales, Julie Williams said: “I am delighted that Swansea-based scientists will lead this worldwide initiative to translate nanotechnology into safe applications affecting human health, economic development and public policy. It is vital we exploit cutting-edge science for the good of mankind.”

Dr Kalyan Sarma, from Innovate UK said: “This award is a fantastic win for the PATROLS consortium. It is testament to the quality of the team and the value that they will bring to the nanotechnology industry. Nanosafety is of paramount importance in assuring sustainable development opportunities within the nanotechnology industry so the developments promised through PATROLS are both exciting and will support industrial growth across a broad range of sectors.”

The PATROLS project is scheduled to commence in autumn 2017 and will run for 3.5 years.

The future of Nanotechnology

Investigating the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials is vital as nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and wide-ranging consumer products, for example:

  • Medicine: Researchers are developing customised nanoparticles the size of molecules that can deliver drugs directly to diseased cells in the body.  When it’s perfected, this method should greatly reduce the damage treatment such as chemotherapy does to a patient’s healthy cells.  The Centre for NanoHealthat Swansea University is currently conducting research in areas including Microbiology and Infection, Neuroscience and Molecular Psychiatry, Immunity and Allergy, Diabetes, and Cell Biology of Cancer and Reproduction.
  • Food: Nanotechnology is having an impact on several aspects of food science, from how food is grown to how it is packaged. Companies are developing nanomaterials that will make a difference not only to how food tastes, but also in food safety, and the health benefits that food delivers.
  • Fuel Cells: Nanotechnology is being used to reduce the cost of catalysts used in fuel cells to produce hydrogen ions from fuel such as methanol and to improve the efficiency of membranes used in fuel cells to separate hydrogen ions from other gases such as oxygen.
  • Solar Cells: Companies have developed nanotech solar cells that can be manufactured at significantly lower cost than conventional solar cells.
  • Fuels: Nanotechnology can address the shortage of fossil fuels such as diesel and gasoline by making the production of fuels from low grade raw materials economical, increasing the mileage of engines, and making the production of fuels from normal raw materials more efficient.

A review of the Sêr Cymru Postgraduate Conference 2017: Conference draws together Sêr Cymru PhD Students to present their research.

The Life Sciences Research Network, on behalf of the 3 National Research Networks, EngineeringLife Sciences and Low Carbon and Environment, hosted the second Sêr Cymru Postgraduate Conference at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff on 11th September 2017.

The conference provided PhD students from the 3 Networks an opportunity to showcase their research across the breadth of EngineeringLife Sciences and Low Carbon and Environment. This was achieved via PhD poster and oral presentations and the inclusion of a peer-judged competition leading to shotgun presentations for the winners at the end of the day.

The conference included key presentations by external speakers from industry and academia, who spoke about their careers and development opportunities within different sectors.

Vaughan Gething AM delivered an inspirational closing speech, highlighting the value of the Sêr Cymru Programme and the contribution made by the NRN PhD students to the scientific research community in Wales.

The conference provided participants the opportunity to explore cross-theme opportunities as part of the wider NRN community and to build new collaborations for the future. The social aspect of the day was consolidated with a cheese and wine reception marking the end of the event.

The third PhD Conference will be hosted by the Low Carbon Energy & Environment NRN in North Wales in 2018.

Due to funding provided by Sêr Cymru programme through the Welsh Government and HEFCW, there was no fee for attending the conference.

Testimonials from PhD students:

“It was very good to have the chance to introduce my work to others. And also I can get some good information from other students”.

“Being able to communicate with students from other universities on similar projects”.

“Just nice to be with other scientists outside of my field”.

“Research updates from other students, chance to network”.

“Meeting again members of NRN was a pleasure and gave us the chance to update each other on a more personal level”

Vaughan Gething AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport, commented:

“It is the collaborative and inspirational approach that Sêr Cymru provides that will help drive forward the next generation of talented researchers”.


2nd Annual Sêr Cymru Postgraduate Conference 2017

Monday 11th September 2017, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff

The second Sêr Cymru Postgraduate Conference brings together and presents the research of the PhD students within the 3 Sêr Cymru National Research Networks (NRNs). The NRN PhD students are vital to the future of Science and Engineering in Wales –  among them will be future leaders who drive Welsh research forward with major impacts for society and business.

Supported by Welsh Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and currently in the penultimate year of funding, the Networks are generating significant outputs across the breadth of their programmes, building on pockets of World class expertise in Wales and providing a sound base for future, successful endeavours.

The organisers are delighted to welcome 4 external speakers to the conference this year -Vaughan Gething AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, Welsh Government; David Veryard, Microsoft’s lead in Wales; Dr Helen Swygart, Capability Employment Manager at Qioptiq Ltd and Professor Tiina Roose, Professor of Biological and Environmental Modelling at the University of Southampton.

Vaughan Gething AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport, commented:

“It is the collaborative and inspirational approach that Sêr Cymru provides that will help drive forward the next generation of talented researchers”.

The Life Sciences Research Network Wales