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QM's life sciences initiative launches with perfect timing

Friday 31 January 2014

For a new initiative to succeed, timing is everything, Sir William Castell told staff and students at the launch of QM’s virtual Life Sciences Institute on Monday, 27 January. Chairman of the Wellcome Trust, Sir William told approximately 250 people who had gathered in the Octagon Room at the Mile End campus that QM had seized the right moment to harness its skills and capabilities for the life sciences initiative, “to see how we can together transform medicine”.

QM’s life sciences initiative will bring together the three Faculties of Science and Engineering, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry to work together in partnerships to realise the social and economic promise of personalised healthcare and to address major public health issues, with the long-term aim of improving health outcomes for people not just in the immediate area but worldwide.

Introducing the evening, Principal Professor Simon Gaskell said that the initiative would build on QM’s current strengths in life sciences in the areas of research, education and outreach. Professors Mike Curtis, Morag Shiach and Jeremy Kilburn outlined how each of the Faculties will be engaged in the initiative. Concluding the formal part of the evening, Professor Matthew Evans said that the initiative will see the appointment of more than 100 extra academic staff, a growth of around 1,500 extra undergraduate places and at least 500 more postgraduate places.

He said the next steps would include the appointment of a director and an education lead, a programme of life science initiative events throughout 2014, decisions on the PhD studentship programme, and the recruitment of more PhD students in subsequent years.

The life sciences vision was brought alive to everyone in the second part of the evening by interactive stands, displays and videos around the Octagon, showing examples of the type of research that will be carried out under the life sciences initiative. These included:

  • The intersection of sociolinguistics and public health: 16 children’s books set in the world of frogs, with embedded health messages. The research evaluates the impact of different voices and accents on children’s ability to absorb messages such as brushing your teeth.
  • Research into Alzheimer’s Disease, looking at the possible causes of the condition, but also helping people to appreciate how lives can be devastated when our loved ones start to forget things we take for granted.
  • Research into the mechanisms for inhibiting HIV infection.
  • Research using motion capture technology to help understand and interpret space from the perspective of two very different groups: schizophrenics, who find it difficult to interact with people in social situations, and choreographers, who interpret dancers’ bodies in performance space.
  • Using bioengineering to design and make protein-based membranes for regenerating tooth enamel following mineral loss from tooth decay. The membrane would provide a template to grow hydroxyapatite­ - the main mineral of which enamel and dentin are composed  - mimicking the processes of enamel formation.

Further information can be found here: www.qmul.ac.uk/lifesciences

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