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2018

Scientists from Cardiff University have uncovered a protein which drives aggressive breast cancer and could be targeted for developing new and improved therapies.

Professor Matt Smalley, from Cardiff University’s European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, said: “There are 150 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the UK every day. To achieve better outcomes for people facing this disease, we need to better understand how it develops so we can improve therapies.

“We wanted to understand what drives an aggressive type of breast cancer called triple negative, which is resistant to hormone therapy and occurs in around fifteen percent of breast cancer cases.

“We looked at a protein called LYN, which is involved in keeping cells alive and allowing them to divide, and found that it was no longer properly controlled in aggressive breast cancer cells and could drive the cancer cell growth, spread and invasion.”

The team also found that in a subset of triple negative breast cancer cells associated with the BRCA1 gene mutation, LYN could be switched on and increase cancer cell survival directly as a result of the loss of BRCA1. Interfering with LYN function under experimental conditions killed these BRCA1-mutant cells.

Professor Matt Smalley added: "Thanks to Breast Cancer Now, who funded this research, we now understand the role LYN has in aggressive forms of cancer. We can now build on this and can start to think about developing targeted therapies.

“In the future, we could potentially identify patients that have increased levels of LYN or a BRCA1 gene mutation, and design their breast cancer therapy to suit their type of cancer. We could target LYN to improve therapy options for aggressive breast cancer.”

Cardiff University law students and academics have helped to quash the wrongful conviction of a man who served three-and-a-half years in prison.

The case, which was worked on over six years under the supervision of Dr Dennis Eady as part of the Cardiff University Innocence Project, was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice on 22 November, with the judgment being handed down today.

Gareth Jones was convicted of a serious sexual assault at the age of 22 in July 2008.

As well as dozens of students, the project has had the pro bono support of two Cardiff University alumni who are practising barristers (Philip Evans QC and Tim Naylor), a criminal appeals solicitor in Cardiff (Andrew Shanahan) and five medical/psychology experts.

Around 17 Cardiff law students, past and present, were present to see the result of their investigative work presented by barristers to a panel of appeal court judges, chaired by Lord Justice Simon.

Following the decision, Dr Dennis Eady, of the School of Law and Politics, said: “We first became aware of Gareth’s case in 2012 through his long-term supporter Paula Morgan. It has taken six years of tireless work by students, Paula, and our supporters to review this case. Based on their findings, the Court of Appeal has decided that this conviction is unsafe. We welcome their decision.”

This is the second conviction that the Cardiff Innocence Project has helped to overturn and they remain the only UK university innocence project to have done so.

In 2014, they were the first ever UK university innocence project to successfully bring a case to the Court of Appeal. Dwaine George had already served 12 years in prison for murder.

Cardiff University’s Innocence Project was launched in 2006.. The project allows students who are passionate about investigating alleged miscarriages of justice to work on cases of long-term prisoners who maintain their innocence of serious crimes for which they have been convicted.

Professor Julie Price, Head of Pro Bono at the School, said: “This case demonstrates that universities are about more than research. Our work is making a real impact from innovative teaching and learning. This decision will hopefully allow Gareth to start re-building his life.”

She continued: “We would not be in this position now without pro bono (free) assistance from a number of people. We are very grateful to those individuals, and to our students past and present for their efforts. The appeals system is problematic and needs to change.

“University projects are a sticking plaster only and cannot replace a properly-funded legal aid system.”

https://youtu.be/XMeznkmpThc

A joint project to strengthen adoption services has won a prestigious national award.

Adopting Together – a collaboration between St David’s Children’s Society, Cardiff University School of Psychology and Cardiff Business School – clinched the innovation honour at the Institute for Collaborative Working Awards in London.

Led by St. David’s Children Society, Adopting Together aims to meet a distinct need identified by the National Adoption Service in finding and therapeutically supporting permanent homes for children who wait the longest for a family.

This includes children over four years old, brothers and sisters, and those with complex needs or developmental uncertainty.

The collaboration is developing highly innovative and sector-leading adoption services, grounded in nationally identified needs.

The combined team – including therapeutic partners and colleagues from Barnardo’s and Adoption UK – offers a specialist programme of psychologist-led adoption support, pre- and post- adoption placement.

The project began as a Welsh Government funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership in September 2017. Through direct guidance from Dr Jane Lynch at Cardiff Business School, and with support from Coralie Merchant, KTP Associate, Adopting Together has created a structure behind its delivery that represents transformational change in the procurement of social care and aligns with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

Receiving the national award at a ceremony at the House of Lords, Dr. Katherine Shelton, School of Psychology said: “Dr Jane Lynch and I are absolutely delighted to see ‘Adopting Together’ receive the Innovation Award from the Institute for Collaborative Working.

The partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme.

KTP aims to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base.

Funded by UK Research and Innovation through Innovate UK, the KTP is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

The project was also highly commended in last month’s GO Wales Awards, which celebrate success in procurement.

A group of sixth form students have been learning what it takes to succeed in the world of business, thanks to a Cardiff University programme.

The eight-week course, run by Cardiff Business School, gave the pupils from Welsh medium schools in Cardiff a taste of the world of leadership and management.

The majority of the course was delivered in Welsh by lecturers, professors and entrepreneurs.

Eifion Griffiths, owner of Welsh wool business Melin Tregwynt, Bethan Darwin, of Thompson Darwin Solicitors and Angela Parry Lowther, former head of marketing at BBC Wales, were among the speakers.

Elsie Roberts, from Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf, said: “They’ve shown me that you really can achieve anything and that you don’t have to move to London to have an exciting career.

“Ann Beynon who used to lead BT in Wales gave a talk. That made me think about how women and men aren’t always equal, but she made me a lot more hopeful. If she can achieve that, then I can too.”

As well as hearing from successful leaders from organisations around Wales, the group had the opportunity to visit and shadow Santander Bank branch managers. They also got the chance to take part in a trading room session led by a postgraduate student from Cardiff Business School.

Rachel Davies, also from Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr, added: “It’s given me a taste of what it’s like to have a career in business rather than just studying it at school. I also enjoyed hearing from a student at Cardiff Business School about his experiences travelling.”

Gareth Hall Williams, Assistant Head of Ysgol Plasmawr, said: “I am incredibly grateful to Cardiff Business School for their willingness to arrange and participate in such an innovative, course.

“Bringing together pupils from three Welsh medium schools to attend sessions provided by seven different speakers has taken an incredible amount of work and effort and has allowed a cohort of 16 and 17-year-old aspirational pupils to have a brief insight into various aspects of leadership, management and life as an entrepreneur, all within a University setting.”

Speaker Bethan Darwin, who is a partner at Thompson Darwin Law firm, said: “As someone who had the benefit of a Welsh medium education that has served me very well, I was very happy to be asked to help with this course.   Welsh language in all aspects of life, including business, is an integral and important part of modern Wales.”

This is the first such course Cardiff Business School has run through the medium of Welsh.

Dr Eleri Rosier, of Cardiff Business School, who ran the course, said: “I’ve been extremely impressed by the students who took part. They all have great potential as leaders of the future and have shown much enthusiasm and commitment to their studies.

“Being able to use the Welsh language in the workplace opens doors to people. It’s important that we invest the time to mentor talented individuals and show them that it is possible to have a long and highly successful career if they remain in Wales, whether they choose to work in the private or public sectors.”

The eyes of psychopaths have an unusual reaction when they are shown images of nasty things, such as mutilated bodies and threatening dogs, reveals a new study by researchers at Cardiff and Swansea Universities.

The team examined the effect of nasty images on offenders who are psychopathic and offenders who aren’t and found a marked difference in their eye response: the eyes of psychopathic offenders did not show pupil enlargement while those of non-psychopathic offenders did.

Lead author, Dr Dan Burley, from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, said: “Our findings provide physical evidence of an emotional deficit common to psychopathic offenders.

“The pupil has long been known to be an indicator of a person’s arousal.  Card sharps have learnt to look carefully at the eyes of their opponents to gauge if they have a great hand, and many an astute salesperson knows to up their price if your eyes reveal your excitement at their product. Likewise, the pupil usually dilates when an image shocks or scares us. The fact that this normal physiological response to threat is reduced in psychopathic offenders provides us with an obvious physical marker for this condition.”

Professor Nicola Gray, a clinical and forensic psychologist from Swansea University, who provided clinical supervision for the project, added: “This is one of the first times we have objective, physiological, evidence of an emotional deficit underpinning the offending behaviour of psychopathic offenders that does not depend on invasive methods or expensive equipment. We hope to be able to develop this methodology to assist with clinical assessment and intervention in offender populations.”

Interestingly, the psychopathic offenders’ eyes showed a normal response to positive images, such as puppies or happy couples, showing that psychopathy is not associated with an overall difficulty in responding to emotion, but rather a specific insensitivity to threatening information.

Professor Robert Snowden from Cardiff University, who supervised the research, concluded: “Many psychopathic offenders appear to be bold, confident, and can act in cold-blooded manner.  It’s much easier to act bold if you have no feelings of fear, and to be cold-blooded if there is no emotion to get in the way of the act.”

Sir Mark Walport has visited Cardiff University to find out more about its work to boost the screen industries in South Wales.

The Chief Executive of the newly formed UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), was given a tour of the new home for the School of Journalism, Media and Culture at Two Central Square, before finding out more about Clwstwr Creadigol.

Earlier this year, the University led on a successful bid to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The Creative Industries Clusters Programme, which is part of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, brings together world-class research talent from leading UK universities with companies and organisations from across the creative sector.

Working in partnership with the University of South Wales and Cardiff Metropolitan University, as well as the Welsh Government, Cardiff Council, all major Welsh broadcasters and more than 60 screen industry businesses, Clwstwr Creadigol is one of nine projects in the UK to be chosen for the five-year funding stream.

As part of his visit, Sir Mark was given an introduction to Clwstwr Creadigol by director Professor Justin Lewis, as well as hearing from university partners and industry figures. He also visited the new headquarters of BBC Wales, situated next door to the School.

Sir Mark Walport, who was in Cardiff to launch the UKRI in Wales, said: “The breadth and depth of research and innovation in Wales plays a major role in fuelling the success of the UK on the world stage, and the Creative Cluster at Cardiff University is a great example.

“In bringing together world-class research talent from leading universities with companies and organisations from across the creative sector, it will ensure thriving screen industries in this region reach their full potential.”

Professor Justin Lewis said: “We're delighted to be able to showcase the work Clwstwr Creadigol is doing to place innovation at the core of the screen sector in South Wales to Sir Mark Walport, head of UKRI.

“Since being awarded a Creative Industries Cluster by AHRC in September, we’ve been laying the ground work for Clwstwr Creadigol with a view to opening the first R&D programme for industry applications in March 2019.

With a focus on screen industries – film and television production and their supply chains – academics from Cardiff’s three universities will collaborate to provide research that can help the already thriving scene in South Wales reach its full potential.

Journalism students moved in to the state-of-the-art new building at Central Square, which has improved technology and links with the Welsh media, in September.

One of the USA’s brightest students is forging a career in journalism through a masters at Cardiff University.

Klaudia Jaźwińska is one of 43 recipients of the 2018 Marshall Scholarship who have taken up courses at institutions around the UK. She has chosen to study an MSc in Computational and Data Journalism.

She said: “Ethical, quality journalism, which addresses the real issues that affect people, has never been more important. Nowhere else in the UK is offering a course that gives such practical and relevant skills to investigative journalists.

“I am gaining invaluable tools which will allow me to interpret and question the increasing amount of information that is being collected via digital means.”

Marshall Scholarships finance young Americans of high ability to study for a graduate degree in the United Kingdom. The scholarship allows them to undertake two years' graduate study at the institutions of their choice. It is one of the highest honours a US undergraduate can receive, and many of the students go on to become future leaders or hold positions of high office in the USA.

The scholarships are highly competitive and prestigious, with winners mainly selecting the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge and London institutions for their course of study.

Klaudia previously studied a BA in Global Studies and Journalism, at Lehigh University in the US, and served as editor-in-chief at her university newspaper.

“I feel immensely proud to have gained this scholarship,” said Klaudia, who will spend this year in Cardiff before applying for another year’s study elsewhere in the UK. “I want to use my knowledge and experience to shine a light on the many inequalities in the world. The best journalism gives a voice to those that aren’t being heard and I intend to do all I can to contribute to this cause.”

Thermal-sensing cameras mounted on drones may offer a safer and more cost-effective way to locate nests of the elusive European nightjar in forestry work and construction areas, finds new research by Cardiff University.

The team from the University’s School of Biosciences conducted a pilot study in Bryn, a Natural Resources Wales conifer plantation in South Wales, to test the suitability of drones to detect nest sites of the protected bird.

“The current methods of searching for nightjar nests on foot are expensive and can pose a health and safety risk for people, particularly when accessing clearfell worksites,” said Mike Shewring, a PhD student from Cardiff University.

“Nightjars are camouflaged to look just like a fallen log or dead wood. They nest on the ground and ‘sit tight’ when approached to avoid detection, which makes it nearly impossible to spot them during the day when they are inactive,” he added.

To test the new method, the team used the drones to take thermal photographs at nest sites, where observations and radio tracking previously showed European nightjars were breeding between May and August. Images were taken at various heights (10, 20 and 50 metres) at dawn, midday and dusk. The nests were observed from a distance to see if the drones caused any disturbance.

From the photographs, the researchers could detect nests due to the high temperature contrast between the nightjar’s body (40°C) and the colder background area. Images taken at 10 metres and during cooler times of the day (dawn and dusk) proved most useful. The known elevations at which the drones were flown allowed the team to estimate the body size of the nightjars to confirm the species.

“Our preliminary findings demonstrate the potential of drones for surveying nightjars during their breeding season, allowing forestry managers to locate nests more accurately and plan their works adequately. This methodology could also have wider applications, since it could technically be adapted to detect any warm-blooded species,” commented project supervisor Dr Robert Thomas.
All nightjars sat tight on their nests during the drone flights, as they usually do to avoid being detected by predators.

“We don’t know whether the nightjars perceived the drones as a predator. This would be interesting to explore in future studies to ensure that the sight and sound of drones don’t have any negative impacts on the birds’ stress levels or metabolism,” Shewring concluded.

Mike Shewring presented a poster on his work on Monday 17 December 2018 at the British Ecological Society annual meeting. The conference brings together 1,200 ecologists from more than 40 countries to discuss the latest research.

A Welsh Wound Innovation Centre (WWIC) collaboration with Neem Biotech and Sheffield Collaboratorium for Antimicrobial Resistance and Biofilms (SCARAB) has been awarded a £50,000 National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC) Proof of Concept grant.

The inaugural grant has been awarded to expand the development and testing of effective anti-biofilm interventions, based on the pioneering research conducted by Neem Biotech.

Biofilms are formed by many bacteria as a protective mechanism for colonies of bacteria in a range of metabolic states. In humans, biofilms protect bacteria from the human immune system and antibiotics and also exude virulence factors which allow the colonies of bacteria to invade local tissues and spread infection. Products that inhibit the spread of infection in biofilms are called quorum sensing inhibitors.

The collaboration will expand data on the biological activity of Neem’s candidate compounds for managing bacterial infections in wounds. The research is aimed at advancing rational drug design and accelerating translation of basic research into the clinic.

Working in partnership with Cardiff University, the Welsh Wound Innovation Centre (WWIC) builds on the work of the Welsh Healing Research Unit (WHRU) and is the flagship facility for clinical innovation in Wales.

Graham Dixon, CEO of Neem Biotech: “This grant will enable us to discover additional vital information on Neem’s clinical candidates that target painful local wound infection which inhibit wound healing.  It will also expand our knowledge on Neem’s unique class of Quorum Sensing Inhibitors which could have great potential in a new generation of Non-traditional antibiotics.

“This inaugural Proof of Concept initiative, made possible by the National Biofilms Innovation Centre, could accelerate access for patients to potentially ground-breaking bacterial infection management through pioneering science.”

Dr Esther Karunakaran from Sheffield Collaboratorium for Antimicrobial Resistance and Biofilms (SCARAB) added: “New compounds that can inhibit quorum sensing and thus prevent or reduce biofilm formation and spread of infection have a vital role to play in our efforts to design practical strategies to overcome antimicrobial resistance. Current use of antibiotics can generate antimicrobial resistance and quorum sensing inhibitors could be a practical strategy to combine with antibiotics for some infections.

“Together with our colleagues at Neem Biotech and the Welsh Wound Innovation Centre, we believe we have all the elements in place to deliver success on this important quest.”

The NHS in Wales supports more than 10% of the country’s total employment, new research has shown.

The study, carried out at Cardiff Business School’s Welsh Economy Research Unit, details what the organisation generates in terms of jobs and wages – both directly to its employees as well as to services and companies that supply and maintain NHS activity in Wales.

Co-author Dr Annette Roberts said: “Our findings show NHS Wales is a significant player in the local economy. Even small changes to funding streams could have significant economic effects.

“Spending patterns in NHS Wales are expected to evolve quickly in line with the Welsh Government’s plan A Healthier Wales so more research needs to be done to understand the wider impact of these changes.”

The report outlines how NHS activities and services impact on Welsh economic activity, both directly and indirectly.

Key findings show:

  • NHS Wales directly supported around 76,600 full-time equivalent jobs (excluding agency workers) across the whole of Wales in 2016/17. This employment was linked with £3.3bn of salaries and wages.
  • Nearly 33,000 jobs outside the health sector are also supported by NHS Wales activity – in areas such as manufacturing, business services, wholesale, retail and construction.
  • Almost 14,000 firms and organisations supply NHS Wales with goods and services. More than 6,500 of these are based in Wales.
  • In total, NHS Wales is estimated to support almost 145,400 jobs and £5.4bn of gross value added (GVA). This accounts for 11% of total Welsh employment and 9% of Welsh GVA.
  • Every £1bn of direct NHS revenue spending supports almost 19,000 total jobs in the Welsh economy.

Co-author Professor Max Munday added that NHS spending plays a stabilising role in the local economy and that this spend creates economic opportunities right across Wales, with effects not restricted to major population centres. He also stressed the role of NHS activity in supporting a healthy workforce. He noted some concerns in the health sector around the EU transition process.

He said: “NHS Wales employs staff from the EU and further afield and so changes to migration rules could bring about a more difficult recruitment climate. There is a concern that labour shortages in the NHS in England might lead to skills leaking out of Wales.

“Even so, NHS activity in Wales might arguably be less impacted by Brexit in comparison to large exporting industries and so the employment and incomes supported by it could provide something of a shield during this time of economic uncertainty.”