Cambridge

Study identifies key challenges when communicating potential policies

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 14:00

Researchers have trawled through what little evidence currently exists on effectively communicating policy options, and point out four communication challenges that are problematic and often overlooked – yet should be required information for those making decisions that affect the lives of millions.

These include the need to highlight both the “winners and losers” of any policy decision, and to find ways of representing trade-offs between, say, financial and ecological and or health outcomes. The findings are published today in the Springer Nature journal Palgrave Communications.

Recent decades have seen significant progress in producing information summaries that allow people to better understand how personal health choices affect their lives, say researchers.

However, they argue that similarly clear and concise materials are rarely available for legislators – and all of us citizens – on the potential outcomes of policies with stakes far beyond the individual.

Aiming to create a new science for communicating policy options, a team based at Cambridge’s Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication point out the difficulty of finding the optimal balance between “comprehensibility and coverage” of policy options when informing decision-makers.

“Too much complexity risks a lack of understanding or simply being ignored. However, a brief and easy-to-digest communication may well lack the depth and detail necessary for making an informed decision,” said the Winton Centre’s Dr Cameron Brick, lead author of the new study.

He describes this as the “core tension” at the heart of communicating any policy option. “We certainly see this with Brexit, for example: oversimplifications that don’t provide the full story competing with dense explanations that people struggle to understand.”

“The ideal communication would provide appropriate detail in a quickly and easily understood format to help citizens and policymakers apply their own values to decisions. We want to find out if there is a template that can help achieve this balance.” 

In this first analysis from the recently established Winton Centre, Brick and colleagues reviewed policy communications across a wide variety of areas – from taxes to health, climate change and international trade – as well as guidance and evidence for communication effectiveness.

The spectrum of material ranged from a fairly impenetrable seventy-page report on the possibilities for the Heathrow third runway to colourful postcards emblazoned with a single statistic. All were trying to be balanced sources of information to support decision-making, yet none appear to have checked what effect their presentation had on their readers.

Policy decisions have enormous impacts, and citizens and voters need trusted and balanced sources of evidence. However, the team found surprisingly little evidence on effectively communicating policy options. 

By comparing materials designed to inform personal choices with those covering policy choices, they identified four main characteristics that make communicating potential policies particularly difficult and are often neglected.

  • Policies almost inevitably create winners and losers, because some groups – whether demographic or regional – become better off than others. It is difficult to summarise the effects on different groups so that audiences can weigh those outcomes.
  • Policies are full of trade-offs – e.g. as financial costs go up pollution goes down – yet each is measured differently. Presenting multiple outcomes with different metrics that allow for easy comparison is a tricky communications problem.
  • Individual choices rarely go beyond our own lifespans. Yet some policy choices can affect generations, and even have different effects as time goes on – another challenge for a quick summary to capture.
  • Expected policy outcomes come with particularly large uncertainties from complex shifts of future social and political events and therefore generally cannot be predicted confidently.

Brick and colleagues point out that including more detail in policy options exacerbates the tension between in-depth coverage of the issues on the one hand, and the ability of audiences to get the gist of the communications on the other – and yet nobody appears to have worked on finding the sweet spot between amount of detail and ease of understanding.

“There is no standard model yet for how to tackle these four challenges, but we hope communicators devise effective strategies as the research progresses,” said Brick.

“We want to try and define that Goldilocks zone between too much information and not enough so that policymakers can see when key information is missing, and people can make choices that fit their values.”   

As part of the current study, they used three pieces of policy communication from major organisations such as the UK’s Education Endowment Foundation and the International Panel on Climate Change to illustrate attempts to provide nonpartisan and detailed policy option summaries.

Brick and colleagues will be building on this initial work by conducting rigorous research on policy communications material, including one-on-one surveying with various demographics, and large-scale data collection through online surveys.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, Chairman of the Winton Centre, added: “At the Winton Centre, we are interested in helping people judge the benefits and harms of alternative policies or regulations that are being suggested.”

“The idea of our Centre is to help communicate evidence in a way that is balanced, transparent and doesn’t try to coerce people into thinking or acting in a particular way.” 

Reference:
Cameron Brick et al. 'Winners and losers: communicating the potential impacts of policies.' Palgrave Communications (2018). DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0121-9

A team of Cambridge researchers sets out to define a new science for policy communications, with ambitions of finding the “Goldilocks zone” between too much and not enough information when informing both legislators and the public on complex issues.

Too much complexity risks a lack of understanding or simply being ignored. However, a brief and easy-to-digest communication may well lack the depth and detail necessary for making an informed decision.Cameron BrickMichael D BeckwithPalace of Westminster


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

‘Photographing Tutankhamun’ exhibition reveals historical context behind pioneering images

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 09:30

The exhibition Photographing Tutankhamun has been curated by University of East Anglia (UEA) Egyptologist Dr Christina Riggs and gives a different view on the ‘golden age’ of archaeology and photography in the Middle East.

The exhibition highlights the work of famous Egyptologist and archaeological photographer Harry Burton and the iconic images he captured during the lengthy excavation of the Pharoah’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Dr Riggs is the first person to study the entire archive of excavation photographs, as well as the first to consider them from the viewpoint of photographic history in the Middle East.

She said: “The exhibition gives a fresh take on one of the most famous archaeology discoveries from the last 100 years. It questions the influence photography has on our perception and provides insight on the historical context of the discovery – a time when archaeology liked to present itself as a science that only Europeans and Americans could do.

“Through the eyes of the camera lens, the exhibition demonstrates the huge input from the Egyptian government and the hundreds of Egyptians working alongside the likes of Harry Burton and Howard Carter. This refreshing approach helps us understand what Tutankhamun meant to Egyptians in the 1920s – and poses the important question of what science looks like and who does it.”

As part of her project, Dr Riggs studied some 1,400 photographs by Burton in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Burton worked for the museum for most of his life, and his personal correspondence in their archives has offered important new insights into his work on the tomb of Tutankhamun – including some of the technical problems, personal tensions, and political issues behind the scenes.

Dr Chris Wingfield, Senior Curator (Archaeology) at MAA, said: "With strong collections of historic photographs documenting the history of archaeology and anthropology, we at MAA are excited about hosting an exhibition that explores the important ways in which photography contributed to – you could even say created – the field. We continue to train Egyptologists and archaeologists here in Cambridge, so this exhibition is an opportunity to think about how these disciplines were practised in the past, and to help shape their futures."

More than two dozen images have been created especially for the exhibition using digital scans from Burton’s original glass-plate negatives, including some never seen before. Also on display are newspaper and publicity materials from the 1920s and beyond, which show how the photographs were used in print. The scans have been made by The Griffith Institute at the University of Oxford, which is home to excavator Howard Carter’s own records of the excavation, including around 1,800 negatives and a set of photo albums.

The exhibition comes to Cambridge from The Collection in Lincoln, where it debuted in November 2017. It runs from June 14-September 23, 2018. Entry is free.
 

Iconic photography taken during the decade-long excavation of King Tutankhamun’s tomb has gone on display at Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA).

The exhibition gives a fresh take on one of the most famous archaeology discoveries from the last 100 years.Christina Riggs


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Cambridge launches UK’s first quantum network

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 11:46

The ‘metro’ network provides secure quantum communications between the Electrical Engineering Division at West Cambridge, the Department of Engineering in the city centre and Toshiba Research Europe Ltd (TREL) on the Cambridge Science Park.

Quantum links are so secure because they rely on particles of light, or photons, to transmit encryption keys through the optical fibre. Should an attacker attempt to intercept the communication, the key itself changes through the laws of quantum mechanics, rendering the stolen data useless.

Researchers have been testing the ultra-secure network for the last year, providing stable generation of quantum keys at rates between two and three megabits per second. These keys are used to securely encrypt data, both in transit and in storage. Performance has exceeded expectations, with the highest recorded sustained generation of keys in field trials that include encryption of data in multiple 100-gigabit channels.

The Cambridge network is a project of the Quantum Communications Hub, a consortium of eight UK universities, as well as private sector companies and public sector stakeholders. The network was built by Hub partners including the University’s Electrical Engineering Division and TREL, who also supplied the Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) systems. Further input came from ADVA, who supplied the optical transmission equipment, and the University’s Granta Backbone Network, which provided the optical fibre.

The UK Quantum Network is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the UK’s National Quantum Technologies Programme. It brings together concentrations of research excellence and innovation, facilitating greater collaboration between the two in development of applications that exploit the unique formal guarantee of security provided by quantum physics.

“Through this network, we can further improve quantum communications technologies and interoperability, explore and develop applications and services, and also demonstrate these to potential end users and future customers,” said Professor Timothy Spiller of the University of York, and Director of the Quantum Communications Hub.

“The development of the UK Quantum Network has already led to a much greater understanding of the potential of this technology in secure applications in a range of fields, in addition to bringing new insights into the operation of the systems in practice,” said Professor Ian White from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering. “I have no doubt that the network will bring many benefits in the future to researchers, developers and users.”

“Working with the Quantum Communications Hub, Cambridge and ADVA has allowed us to develop an interface for delivering quantum keys to applications,” said Dr Andrew Shields, Assistant Director of Toshiba Research Europe Ltd. “In the coming years, the network will be an important resource for developing new applications and use cases.”

“Development of the network has brought together in the Quantum Communications Hub partnership many world-class researchers and facilities from both UK universities and industry,” said Dr Liam Blackwell, Head of Quantum Technologies at EPSRC. “This is a reflection of EPSRC’s commitment to investing in UK leadership in advanced research and innovation in quantum technologies.”

The UK’s first quantum network was launched today in Cambridge, enabling ‘unhackable’ communications, made secure by the laws of physics, between three sites around the city. 

The development of the UK Quantum Network has already led to a much greater understanding of the potential of this technology in secure applications in a range of fields.Ian WhiteChristopher BurnsFiber Optic


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Council supporting activities for Refugee Week 2018

Cambridge Council Feed - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 11:36

CAMBRIDGE City Council is supporting events taking place in the city to mark this year’s national Refugee Week.

Among the events being held in Cambridge is a one-mile walk for people wishing to show solidarity with child refugees.

The ‘Walk A Mile March’ from Parker’s Piece to Trumpington Street is being organised by the locally-based charity SOS Children’s Villages UK in partnership with CAFOD to raise awareness of, and show solidarity with, child refugees.

Everyone is welcome to join the walk, which starts on Parker’s Piece from 10.30am on Saturday 23 June.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Test can identify patients in intensive care at greatest risk of life-threatening infections

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 10:37

Infections in intensive care units (ICU) tend to be caused by organisms, such as multi-resistant gram-negative bacteria found in the gut, that are resistant to frontline antibiotics. Treating such infections means relying on broad spectrum antibiotics, which run the risk of breeding further drug-resistance, or antibiotics that have toxic side-effects.

Estimates of the proportion of patients in ICU who will develop a secondary infection range from one in three to one in two; around a half of these will be pneumonia. However, some people are more susceptible than others to such infections – evidence suggests that the key may lie in malfunction of the immune system.

In a study published in the journal Intensive Care Medicine, a team of researchers working across four sites in Edinburgh, Sunderland and London, has identified markers on three immune cells that correlate with an increased risk of secondary infection. The team was led by researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh and biotech company BD Bioscience.

“These markers help us create a ‘risk profile’ for an individual,” explains Dr Andrew Conway Morris from the Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge. “This tells us who is at greatest risk of developing a secondary infection.

“In the long term, this will help us target therapies at those most at risk, but it will be immediately useful in helping identify individuals to take part in clinical trials of new treatments.”

Clinical trials for interventions to prevent secondary infections have met with mixed success, in part because it has been difficult to identify and recruit those patients who are most susceptible, say the researchers. Using this new test should help fine tune the selection of clinical trial participants and improve the trials’ chances of success. 

The markers identified are found on the surface of key immune cells: neutrophils (frontline immune cells that attack invading pathogens), T-cells (part of our adaptive immune system that seek and destroy previously-encountered pathogens), and monocytes (a type of white blood cell).

The researchers tested the correlation of the presence of these markers with susceptibility to a number of bacterial and fungal infections. An individual who tests positive for all three markers would be at two to three times greater risk of secondary infection compared with someone who tests negative for the markers.

The markers do not indicate which secondary infection an individual might get, but rather that they are more susceptible in general.

“As intensive care specialists, our priority is to prevent patients developing secondary infections and, if they do, to ensure they get the best treatment,” says Professor Tim Walsh from the University of Edinburgh, senior author on the study.

The Immune Failure in Critical Therapy (INFECT) Study examined data from 138 individuals in ICUs and replicated findings from a pilot study in 2013.

A key part of enabling this study was to standardise how the research could be carried out across multiple sites, say the researchers. They used an imaging technique known as flow cytometry, which involves labelling components of the cells with fluorescent markers and then shining a laser on them such that they give off light at different wavelengths. This has previously been difficult to standardise, but the researchers successfully developed a protocol for use, ensuring they could recruit patients from the four study sites.

The study was funded by Innovate UK, BD Bioscience and the National Institute of Academic Anaesthesia.

Reference
Conway Morris, A et al. Cell surface signatures of immune dysfunction risk stratify critically ill patients: INFECT Study. Intensive Care Medicine; June 2018; DOI: 10.1007/s00134-018-5247-0

Patients in intensive care units are at significant risk of potentially life-threatening secondary infections, including from antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as MRSA and C. difficile. Now, a new test could identify those at greatest risk – and speed up the development of new therapies to help at-risk patients.

In the long term, this will help us target therapies at those most at risk, but it will be immediately useful in helping identify individuals to take part in clinical trials of new treatmentsAndrew Conway MorrisMilitaryHealthIntensive Care UnitResearcher Profile: Dr Andrew Conway Morris

 Dr Andrew Conway Morris is an intensive care specialist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, part of Cambridge University Hospitals. It was the hospital’s location on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus that attracted him back to the city where he had been born and raised.

“I moved to Cambridge in order to take advantage of the fantastic opportunities to work with some of the world’s leading scientists, as well as develop collaborations with the growing biotech and pharmaceutical cluster centred around Addenbrooke’s Hospital,” he says.  

Conway Morris undertook his undergraduate medical education in Glasgow before moving to Edinburgh to train in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine. His PhD in Edinburgh was on dysfunction of immune cells known as neutrophils in critically ill patients and looking at the development of new diagnostic tests for secondary pneumonia.  

He is now a Wellcome-funded Senior Research Associate in the John Farman Intensive Care Unit at Addenbrooke’s, where he is trying to find new ways to prevent and treat infections in hospitalised and critically-ill patients.

“I carry out my work using a combination of human cell models and animal models of pneumonia and aim to develop new therapies for infection that do not rely on antibiotics,” he says. “I also have a clinical project evaluating a new molecular diagnostic test for pneumonia, which aims to deliver more rapid and accurate tests for infection.”

Outside of work, it is his children that keep him occupied. “I have two boys who occupy most of my free time - both are football-mad - and I help run a local youth football team,” he adds.


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: Attribution-ShareAlike
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Mayor to lead one minute silence for Grenfell Tower fire victims

Cambridge Council Feed - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 08:45

Cllr Nigel Gawthrope, Mayor of Cambridge, will lead a one minute silence from the front of the Guildhall in Cambridge at 12noon on Thursday 14 June, in remembrance of the people who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire, one year ago.

Cllr Gawthrope, said: “The fire at Grenfell Tower shocked people across the country and, one year on, the victims’ family and friends continue to suffer greatly.

“On Thursday, in common with other towns and cities across the UK, we will join together to pay our respects to those who have lost their lives at the Grenfell Tower fire.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

All in a day’s work

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 09:54

Find articles in our Spotlight on work 

It’s an undeniable truth that getting ‘work’ right is as good for people as it is for the nation. Good work results in a healthy, fulfilled, safe and fairly paid workforce. It contributes to increasing productivity, better living standards and economic growth.

It’s also true that discussions of ‘work’ in politics and the media have often been highly charged. This is certainly the case today. Technological change, gender relations, Brexit and new models of working such as the gig economy are all factors that are changing the world of work.

Inevitably, in a University as large and diverse as Cambridge, there are multiple views on these issues and many approaches to researching them. While academics have been coming under increasing pressure for several decades now to disseminate their findings to policy makers and even to consider ways of monetising them for the benefit of companies, the first task of any researcher is how to frame a project in a way that will create new knowledge or understanding. Methodological innovation is the key to making an impact, initially in academia, and then more widely.

If there is a common theme uniting the different stands of Cambridge-based research on ‘work’, this is it.

For instance, a study of a unique historical archive is helping to tell us whether literacy rates or rules governing entry to trades were more important in determining economic growth in early modern Europe, an issue with relevance today to many developing countries.

In the context of the contemporary UK labour market, a randomised controlled trial of measures to facilitate job search will throw light on the complex interaction between unemployment and mental health.

The application of ‘big data’ analytics to a huge dataset of educational outcomes collected by a British government department is providing new insights on the relationship between educational attainment and inequality.

And clinicians and psychologists are plugging the gaps in workplace level data to get a better understanding of the link between precarious work and mental health outcomes.

Much of the research carried out in Cambridge is novel in the sense of being interdisciplinary. Geographers and economists are combining their efforts to get a better understanding of the ‘productivity gap’ between different regions of the UK, which is just as puzzling and persistent as the better known divergence between Britain and other industrialised countries. Economists and legal researchers have pooled their insights and resources to create a new method for coding different countries’ labour regulations, which should help resolve some long-standing questions concerning the effects of protective legislation on the economic performance of firms and nations.

Researchers do not initiate projects simply to overturn conventional wisdom, but this is often what they end up doing, simply because few of the ideas or practices which are ‘taken for granted’ in everyday discourse can safely withstand this type of scrutiny. One such idea is that governments can help promote economic growth by encouraging self-employment. Analysis based on face to face interviewing across several developed and developing countries suggests that the success of self-employment often depends on family ties, a factor neglected by policy makers.

Another piece of contemporary conventional wisdom is the claim that companies should invest in the emotional wellbeing of their employees to improve morale and performance. Analysis of one of the largest datasets of its kind suggests that chill-out zones and free yoga classes are less helpful in this regard than decentralising managerial decision making and organising work in such a way that employees build enduring relationships with colleagues and customers.

Among the issues at the forefront of public and media discussion today is that of gender equality. Research being carried out in Cambridge suggests that critical variables affecting women’s involvement in senior management positions across different countries include expected years of schooling for women, maternity laws, and the provisions of corporate governance codes setting requirements for gender diversity.

Other work shows that quotas for female directors are only part of the answer; organisations which encourage diversity at all levels rather than focusing solely on senior positions will have greater success in narrowing the gender pay gap and eliminating occupational segregation.

Another issue of pressing policy concern is Brexit. Research council funding has supported a major scheme of work, the UK in a Changing Europe programme, aimed at understanding the myriad different aspects of Brexit and its implications for British society and the economy. Cambridge-based researchers have played a central role in this programme and in disseminating its findings. On this topic, which has so sharply divided the nation, the contribution that social science can make to an informed debate is needed more than ever, but is more than ever in question.

Research has shown that beliefs about migrant workers exploiting the benefits system have little basis in reality, whereas there is evidence for migration causing undercutting of wages and pressure on public services in some regions of the country; these are findings that demand a wider public hearing.

When the issue of Brexit is finally resolved, we will still be left with the dilemmas posed by technological change, which are at least as old as the industrial revolution that transformed Britain at the start of the modern age.

Cambridge is a world leader in the science and engineering-based disciplines; perhaps less well known are the major investments recently made by the University in areas of the humanities and social sciences that address the risks and potential of technological advances. Philosophers and lawyers are helping us determine whether it makes any sense to assign legal personality to robots, business researchers are examining the impact of the algorithm on everything from the development of experts to the controlling of working practices, while economists are reminding us of the need to avoid crude characterisations of the threat to jobs from digitalisation.

Predicting the impact of technological change is inherently hazardous. Future readers of Research Horizons will know, as we cannot, who has been making the right calls.

Inset image: read more about our research on the topic of work in the University's research magazine; download a pdf; view on Issuu.

Professor Simon Deakin (Centre for Business Research, Cambridge Judge Business School, and Faculty of Law), Professor Catherine Barnard (Faculty of Law) and Dr Brendan Burchell (Department of Sociology).

Researchers at the University of Cambridge are helping to understand the world of work – the good, the bad, the fair and the future. Here, Simon Deakin, Catherine Barnard and Brendan Burchell launch our month-long focus on some of these projects.

Researchers do not initiate projects simply to overturn conventional wisdom, but this is often what they end up doing, simply because few of the ideas or practices which are ‘taken for granted’ in everyday discourse can safely withstand this type of scrutiny.Simon Deakin, Catherine Barnard, Brendan BurchellChristopher Burns on Unsplash


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Mother’s attitude towards baby during pregnancy may have implications for child’s development

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 09:38

Researchers at the Centre for Family Research carried out a meta-analysis, reviewing all published studies in the field, in an attempt to demonstrate conclusively whether there was a link with the way parents think about their child during pregnancy and their behaviour towards them postnatally.

The results of their work, which draws data from 14 studies involving 1,862 mothers and fathers, are published in the journal Developmental Review.

Studies included in the meta-analysis examined parents’ thoughts and feelings about their child during pregnancy through interviews and questionnaires. For example, in interviews expectant parents were considered to have a ‘balanced’ representation of their child if they showed positive anticipation of their relationship with the child or showed ‘mind-mindedness’ – a propensity to see their child as an individual, with its own thoughts and feelings. This was contrasted by parents who had a ‘distorted’ representation of their child, with a narrow, idealised description of their child, and incomplete or inconsistent descriptions of them.

Once the child had been born, researchers in these studies would observe the interactions between parent and child. One measure they were looking for was ‘sensitivity’ – the ability to notice, interpret and respond in a  timely and appropriate manner to children’s signals, for example if the baby was upset.  

Combining the results from all 14 studies, the Cambridge team showed a modest association between positive thoughts and feelings about the infant during pregnancy and later interaction with the infant, but only in mothers.

“Studies have shown that parent-child interaction is crucial for a child’s development and learning, so we wanted to understand if there were prenatal signs that might predict a parent’s behaviour,” says Dr Sarah Foley, the study’s first author, who carried out the research as part of her PhD.

“Although we found a relationship between a mother’s attitude towards her baby during pregnancy and her later interactions, this link was only modest. This suggests it is likely to be a part of the jigsaw, rather than the whole story.”

Research has also shown that increased awareness of the baby during pregnancy is associated with healthy behaviours during pregnancy, such as giving up smoking or attending antenatal appointments.

While more work is needed to determine what form such interventions might take, options might include the midwife encouraging the mother to think about what her baby may be like, or asking the mother to imagine activities they think she and her baby might like to do together.

“This is a relatively new area of research, but could have important implications for children’s development,” adds Dr Foley. “We need more research in this area, but hope it will inform new interventions that could help new mothers engage more with their children.”

Dr Foley says there may be a number of factors that contribute to low levels of attachment with the baby during pregnancy. These include: previous experience of miscarriage, depression or anxiety, a mother’s relationship with her own parents, or cultures in which focusing on the baby is considered inappropriate. However, she says, the paucity of evidence means it is difficult to determine which of these factors would impact on prenatal thoughts about the infant, which might in turn influence the quality of later interaction with the infant.

The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Reference
Foley, S and Hughes, C. Great expectations? Do mothers’ and fathers’ prenatal thoughts and feelings about the infant predict parent-infant interaction quality? A meta-analytic review. Developmental Review; June 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.dr.2018.03.007

Mothers who ‘connect’ with their baby during pregnancy are more likely to interact in a more positive way with their infant after it is born, according to a study carried out at the University of Cambridge. Interaction is important for helping infants learn and develop.

Although we found a relationship between a mother’s attitude towards her baby during pregnancy and her later interactions, this link was only modest. This suggests it is likely to be a part of the jigsaw, rather than the whole storySarah FoleyMeaganBaby shoes (cropped)Researcher Profile: Dr Sarah Foley

Sarah and her cousin's baby, Sophia Murphy

“Working with children throws up lots of unexpected and fun moments,” says Dr Sarah Foley. “One day you’re being splashed while standing on a toilet-seat filming bath-times, the next you’re catching YouTube-worthy vomiting action shots and being used as a climbing frame by one child to ensure you can film another!”

Sarah has just completed an ESRC-funded PhD at the Centre for Family Research, working with Professor Claire Hughes. She has spent several years at Cambridge now, having completed her undergraduate degree in Social and Political Sciences at St Catharine’s College. The Centre, she says, “is an incredibly stimulating academic environment with immense support and lively discussions over cake on a Friday morning!”

Her doctoral research looked at expectant mothers’ and fathers’ thoughts and feelings in the last trimester of pregnancy as predictors of their adjustment to parenthood and subsequent parenting over the first two years of life. “Despite an increase in fathers’ involvement in childcare, the majority of research remains focused on mothers,” she says.

Her current research involves, in part, looking at parents’ expectations of their roles and division of childcare, and the consequences when these expectations are not met. This is timely in light of recent changes to parental leave in the UK and societal shifts in notions of the involved father, she says.

Sarah’s research is part of the ERSC-funded New Fathers and Mothers Study, a longitudinal study of 200 first time parents from Cambridge, and 200 from the Netherlands and New York.

“The children in the study are turning three this year and we’re busy seeing how they are getting on at nursery,” she explains. “This typically involves me getting down on the floor and testing the children’s social understanding and thinking skills through a variety of fun tasks.”

She hopes that her research will lead to changes in antenatal education and early parent support that promote discussion of parents’ thoughts and feelings about parenthood and their future infant. In November 2017, as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, she ran a free ante-natal class for new parents that discussed the realities of parenthood, the importance of self-care and simple parenting tips rather than simply focusing on birth plans. 

“The journey through parenthood is filled with joy, but also elements of confusion, and sometimes pain. Crucially, parents should not feel alone and I hope that through greater dissemination of my research findings, through classes or perhaps a book or an app, we can support new parents and encourage more ‘honest conversations’ about parenthood.” 


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: Attribution-ShareAlike
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Genome-editing tool could increase cancer risk in cells, say researchers

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 16:00

The team, led by Professor Jussi Taipale, now at the Department of Biochemistry, Cambridge, found that CRISPR-Cas9 triggers a mechanism designed to protect cells from DNA damage, making gene editing more difficult. Cells which lack this mechanism are easier to edit than normal cells. This can lead to a situation where genome-edited cell populations have increased numbers of cells in which an important mechanism protecting cells against DNA damage is missing.

Discovered in bacteria, the CRISPR-Cas9 system is part of the armoury that bacteria use to protect themselves from the harmful effects of viruses. Today it is being co-opted by scientists worldwide as a way of removing and replacing gene defects.

One part of the CRISPR-Cas9 system acts like a GPS locator that can be programmed to go to an exact place in the genome. The other part – the ‘molecular scissors’ – cuts both strands of the faulty DNA so that it can be replaced with DNA that does not have the defect.

However, in a study published today in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers found unexpected consequences from using CRISPR-Cas9.

“We managed to edit cancer cells easily, but when we tried to edit normal, healthy cells, very little happened,” explains Dr Emma Haapaniemi from the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, the study’s first author.

“When we looked at this further, we found that cutting the genome with CRISPR-Cas9 induced the activation of a protein known as p53, which acts like a cell’s alarm system, signalling that DNA is damaged, and opens the cellular ‘first aid kit’ that repairs damage to the DNA. The triggering of this system makes editing much more difficult.”

In fact, this process went further, leading to the strong selection of cells that lacked the p53 pathway. Absence of p53 in cells makes them more likely to become tumorous as damage can no longer be corrected. Around a half of all tumour cells are missing this pathway.

“CRISPR-Cas9 is a very promising biological tool, both for research purposes and for potential life-saving medical treatments, and so has understandably led to great excitement within the scientific community,” says Professor Taipale, who led the work while at the Karolinska Institutet.

“We don’t want to sound alarmist, and are not saying that CRISPR-Cas9 is bad or dangerous. This is clearly going to be a major tool for use in medicine, so it’s important to pay attention to potential safety concerns. Like with any medical treatment, there are always side effects or potential harm and this should be balanced against the benefits of the treatment.”

The team found that by decreasing activity of p53 in a cell, they could more efficiently edit healthy cells. While this might also decrease the risk of selecting for p53-deficient cells, it could leave cells temporarily vulnerable to mutations that cause cancer.

Professor Taipale says that once they better understand how the DNA response is triggered by the cut, it may be possible to prevent this mechanism kicking in, reducing the selective advantage of cells deficient in p53. 

“Although we don’t yet understand the mechanisms behind the activation of p53, we believe that researchers need to be aware of the potential risks when developing new treatments,” he adds. “This is why we decided to publish our findings as soon as we discovered that cells edited with CRISPR-Cas9 can go on to become cancerous.”

The research was supported by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, Cancerfonden, Barncancerfonden and the Academy of Finland.

A second team in Novartis Research Institute in Boston, MA, has independently obtained similar results. They are also published today in the same journal.

Reference
Haapaniemi, E et al. CRISPR/Cas9-genome editing induces a p53-mediated DNA damage response. Nature Medicine; 11 June 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41591-018-0049-z

More research needs to be done to understand whether CRISPR-Cas9 – molecular ‘scissors’ that make gene editing a possibility – may inadvertently increase cancer risk in cells, according to researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Karolinska Institutet.

We don’t want to sound alarmist, and are not saying that CRISPR-Cas9 is bad or dangerous. This is clearly going to be a major tool for use in medicine, so it’s important to pay attention to potential safety concernsJussi TaipaleulleoScissors cut metal


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: Public Domain
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Cambridge LIFE LAB project wins place in Europe’s largest public science event

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 11:17

LIFE LAB will be led by Wellcome Genome Campus Public Engagement, and delivered by a consortium including the Wellcome Sanger Institute,  the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), Babraham Institute, the University of Cambridge and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. A main aim of LIFE LAB is to reach and engage communities who may not otherwise have access to science or research, through a range of hands on activities designed to be inspirational while highlighting the career opportunities across our region.

This is the first time that Cambridge has hosted European Researchers Night, which will simultaneously involve 55 other projects in 27 countries across the European Union, from Aberdeen to Athens and Helsinki to Heidelberg.

Project lead Dr Ken Skeldon, Head of Wellcome Genome Campus Public Engagement, said: “European Researchers’ Night is a fantastic opportunity to excite people about science and research. We’ll be hosting events in Cambridge, Peterborough and Ely and look forward to welcoming people who perhaps might not have been to a science festival before.  We also want to engage people in a way that is relevant to their everyday lives, and place a spotlight on the huge range of career opportunities here in Cambridge and our surrounding region.”

Klaus Haupt, Head of Unit, Research Executive Agency, said: “This is a shared celebration of researchers, demonstrating their contribution to our society and enabling open discussion between them and  the public on the last Friday of September across Europe. Part of a continental initiative promoting the values of breaking down barriers and boundaries in science, the European Researchers' Night aims to inspire and to increase awareness of research and innovation activities. We are delighted that Cambridge is now part of this.”

2018 is also the European Year of Cultural Heritage, and the LIFE LAB initiative will celebrate this by showcasing science in culture across our region - past, present and future. Other events around the UK will be organised by the Natural History Museum in London, the University of Aberdeen, and the University of Bristol.

More information about European Researchers Night can be found here.

Five Cambridge science institutions have won a bid to engage the local region with science as part of European Researchers Night, the largest public science event in Europe. LIFE LAB is one of four UK initiatives awarded funding from the European Commission. It will establish a programme of pop-up science events in shopping centres, cafes and music venues across Cambridgeshire on 28th September 2018 and again on 27th September 2019.


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Unilever Young Entrepreneurs Awards 2018 now open for entries

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 10:40

Delivered by The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and Unilever, the Awards have already reached over 3,500 inspiring young sustainability entrepreneurs and their organisations over five years, providing tailored support and funding to 29 winners to help them achieve scale for impact. Previous entries have ranged from a digital platform reintegrating women doctors into the Pakistani workforce, to a waste management solution converting human waste into fuel.

The world’s problems will only be solved with the ideas and talents of a new generation of leaders who are challenging business as usual. The Awards are an opportunity to support, inspire, reward and collaborate with these leaders; innovators who are the future of sustainability.

The process and prizes

This year’s Award categories align to eight of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • Zero Hunger

  • Good Health and Well-being

  • Quality Education

  • Gender Equality

  • Clean Water and Sanitation

  • Decent Work and Economic Growth

  • Responsible Consumption and Production

  • Climate Action

Read more about the Award categories.

Through an intensive selection process overseen by CISL, eight winners are selected from thousands of entries. These eight winners are flown to Cambridge for an all-inclusive accelerator programme with CISL, delivered by experts in sustainability, entrepreneurship and scaling for impact. The winners share in €100,000, along with tailored one-to-one mentoring for 12 months.

 They also gain the opportunity to pitch to a final judging panel to win the overall prize, ‘HRH The Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize,’ which includes €50,000 cash.

 Previous winners have gone on to:

  • Win Forbes’ 30 Under 30 recognition and Acumen fellowships

  • Receive visits from Unilever CEO Paul Polman and be mentioned in speeches by Barack Obama

  • Feature on Sky News, CNN, Fast Company, and more

  • Establish partnerships with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, Unilever, USAID, and more

  • Rapidly scale their business and impact

Read more about previous winners.

The Awards are now open until 29 June. If you know a brilliant young sustainability entrepreneur who deserves to be recognised, you can nominate them today.

Or, if this sounds like you, submit your application before 29 June to be in the running.

Originally published on the CISL website

Entries are now open for the Unilever Young Entrepreneurs Awards, supporting and celebrating inspirational young people from all over the world who have initiatives, products or services that tackle the planet’s biggest sustainability challenges. 


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Cambridge academics recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours 2018

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 22:30

Professor Mary Beard was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) while Master of St John's College, Professor Christopher Dobson, was awarded a Knights Bachelor and Emeritus Fellow of Darwin College Dr Richard Henderson was recognised with a Companion of Honour.

Three other Newnham College alumnae joined Professor Beard in becoming Dames in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2018, announced today - actor Emma Thompson, civil servant and diversity champion Sue Owen, and local government CEO Stella Manzie.

They join a range of women honoured for women at the forefront of their professions or who have championed women’s rights to coincide with the 100th anniversary year of women’s suffrage.

Dame Mary has been recognised for her services to the study of Classical Civilisation.

She said: “I am absolutely 100% delighted – especially to realise that Classical Civilisation is still taken seriously enough to be recognised in this way.

"That said, I expect a good few jokes about pantomime dames!” 

Beard’s work on classical civilisation has been matched by her engaging TV work and an inspiration teaching that together have brought the classics to hundreds of thousands of people world-wide – and to hundreds of students at Cambridge University.

Her latest work, Women and Power, investigates the roots of the silencing of women in the Classical period, taking it forward into the present day.

But she will be remembered by generations of undergraduates, not as the famous figure on the television screens, or even the fearless debater of Twitter, but as their supervisor.

Newnham classics student Charlie Pemberton said: “It was Mary who encouraged me to apply to Cambridge and indeed Newnham in the first place: we had emailed a bit when I was in sixth form, before she met me at a Newnham Classics Open Day,” says .

“As a supervisor, she is incredibly fair: she gives praise when it is due, but isn’t afraid to tell you when you’ve been a numpty (to put it lightly...!). Her warning never to take a source at face value - to do some digging to discover what it’s really getting at - proved invaluable in my exams.

"She didn’t just teach us the material, but how to handle or think with the material - and she makes the material so accessible and memorable. There is something so special about Newnham Classics, and I think Mary has come to symbolise that.”

Beard is herself an alumna of Newnham College, Cambridge, where she first studied Classics in 1973. She returned as a Fellow in 1984, at the time the only female lecturer in the Classics Faculty. She became Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge in 2004. 

Dame Carol Black, Principal of Newnham College, says: “This is well-deserved recognition of the outstanding contribution that Mary has made to the study of Classics and the promotion of public understanding of classical civilisation, a further accolade in Newnham’s highly-distinguished tradition in Classics.”  

The Master of St John’s was honoured with a knighthood in recognition of his ground-breaking research into Alzheimer’s disease

Professor Christopher Dobson has been was awarded a Knights Bachelor in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2018 to commemorate his illustrious scientific career.

Sir Christopher was recognised for his contributions to Science and Higher Education.

Sir Christopher is one of the world’s leading scientists working at the interface of the physical and biological sciences. Among other high-profile scientific achievements, in 2013 he co-founded the £50 million Cambridge Centre for Misfolding Diseases (CMD).

Scientists at the Centre focus on analysing the origins of neurodegenerative conditions - such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases - which occur because of ‘misfolded’ protein molecules. The experimental work by Sir Christopher and his inter-disciplinary research team has led to remarkable breakthroughs in the field.

Sir Christopher said he was astonished to have been made a knight and dedicated the honour to his students and scientific colleagues.

He said: “I am truly humbled to receive this remarkable honour. It would not have been possible without the brilliance and dedication of my students and scientific colleagues over many years, whose commitment to improving the lives of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions is deeply impressive.”

“It also recognises the commitment of the University of Cambridge, and the UK Higher Education sector in general, to educating to the highest possible standards the most able and deserving students on whose shoulders the future of the world depends.”

Sir Christopher was educated at the University of Oxford and became an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University before he returned to Oxford as Professor of Chemistry.

In 2001 he moved from Oxford to the University of Cambridge when he was appointed as the John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology and elected a Fellow of St John’s College. He became Master of St John’s College in 2007.

Sir Christopher said: “I cannot express strongly enough how much I have valued the inspiration, encouragement, support and friendship that I have received at St John’s from students, staff, Fellows and alumni, and how important the intellectual and cultural environment that exists in this truly remarkable College has been for my scientific activities.”

Professor Tuomas Knowles, a co-founder of CMD and a Fellow of St John’s, said: “Sir Christopher's landmark discoveries over the past 30 years have truly transformed our understanding of misfolding diseases.

“His work has had enormous influence throughout the physical, biological and medical sciences, establishing new connections, and generating wide-reaching implications for molecular medicine. It is wonderful that such an eminent scientist and influential and inspiring leader has been recognised with this honour.”

Sir Christopher also paid tribute to his friends and family for their “unstinting support”.

He added: “On a personal note, I want to thank my friends, family and colleagues, and especially my wife, Mary, and children, Richard and William, for their fantastic encouragement throughout my life and career.”

Nobel prize winner and pioneer of electron microscopy Dr Richard Henderson was awarded the Companion of Honour. 

Dr Henderson, an Emeritus Fellow of Darwin College, shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2017 for his work developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution.

He achieved a quantum leap in imaging techniques when his work allowing atomic structure determinations of many proteins that were previously impossible to obtain, provided important insights into biological functions and mechanisms that will enhance the study of diseases such as neurodegenerative and infections diseases and cancer.

Dr Henderson said: “It is a great honour to join such a distinguished group of people from all walks of life. My scientific mentors Max Perutz and César Milstein were earlier Companions of Honour, so it is a great delight to me to be able to continue in this tradition.”

Professor Mary Fowler, Master of Darwin College, said: "I am delighted that Darwin College Fellow Richard Henderson has been appointed a Companion of Honour - this and his Nobel Prize are richly deserved indeed. Richard's skill and his immense dedication benefit us all, bringing hope for much needed treatments for a wide range of diseases."

Many more alumni were honoured, with a CBE for television presenter and author Bamber Gascoigne (Magdalene) and knighthoods for historian and broadcaster Professor Simon Schama (Christ's) and Government barrister James Eadie (Magdalene). 

Honorary Magdalene Fellow Sir Christopher Greenwood was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE) while Professor Jane Marshall (Murray Edwards) was given an Order of the British Empire for services to Education in Health Sciences.

Thomas Adès (King's), received a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to music. Professor Nicholas Marston, Vice-Provost and Director of Studies in Music at King's College, said: "It is excellent to see artistic creativity in the UK being recognised in this fashion.

"King’s College can boast a remarkable line of composers across many generations; among contemporary figures, Tom Adès stands together with Judith Weir and George Benjamin as one of our many distinguished alumni whose musical and creative talents not only bring lustre to the College but – more importantly –  enrich the lives of many people in this country and around the world.

"We congratulate him very warmly."

Leaders in fields from classics to Alzheimer’s research are recognised today in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

I am absolutely 100% delighted – especially to realise that Classical Civilisation is still taken seriously enough to be recognised in this way. That said, I expect a good few jokes about pantomime dames!Professor Mary BeardUniversity of Cambridge


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Arbury Carnival offers fun and entertainment for the whole community

Cambridge Council Feed - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 13:50

THIS YEAR’S Arbury Carnival promises to be a day of fun and entertainment for people of all ages.

The community event, which Cambridge City Council helps fund, is being opened this year by The Mayor of Cambridge Cllr Nigel Gawthrope, and takes place tomorrow, Saturday 9 June, at Arbury Town Park off Campkin Road.

Among the attractions at the carnival will be fairground rides, stalls, music, dance, and a range of other live performers including gymnasts and cheerleaders.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Tidings of joy

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 11:42

The beaches of Singapore are awash with a wealth of marine life, and Cambridge student Pei Rong Cheo is on a mission to promote and conserve it. Read more about her citizen science programme here.

Terence Chia Pei Rong Cheo


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Cost and scale of field trials for bovine TB vaccine may make them unfeasible

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 11:50

Instead, the researchers suggest that the scale and cost of estimating the effect of a vaccine on transmission could be dramatically reduced by using smaller, less expensive experiments in controlled settings – using as few as 200 animals.

Bovine TB is an infectious disease that affects livestock and wildlife in many parts of the world. In the UK, it is largely spread between infected cattle; badgers are also involved, transmitting to and receiving infection from cattle. Culls to keep badger populations small and reduce the likelihood of infecting cattle have proven controversial both with the public and among scientists.

The UK has a policy of ‘test and slaughter’ using the tuberculin test and slaughter of infected animals. A vaccine (BCG) exists, but can cause some vaccinated cattle to test positive falsely. As such, the vaccine is currently illegal in Europe. Researchers are trying to develop a so-called ‘DIVA test’ (‘Differentiates Infected from Vaccinated Animals’) that minimises the number of false positives, but none are yet licensed for use in the UK.

The European Union has said it would consider relaxing its laws against bovine TB vaccination if the UK government were able to prove that a vaccine is effective on farms. Any field trials would need to follow requirements set by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

In research published today, a team of researchers led by the University of Cambridge has shown using mathematical modelling that satisfying two key EFSA requirements would have profound implications for the likely benefits and necessary scale of any field trials.

The first of these requirements is that vaccination must be used only as a supplement, rather than replacement, to the existing test-and-slaughter policy. But use of vaccination as a supplement means that a successful vaccine which reduces the overall burden and transmission of disease may nonetheless provide only limited benefit for farmers – false positives could still result in animals being slaughtered and restrictions being placed on a farm.

The second of the EFSA requirements is that field trials must demonstrate the impact of vaccination on transmission rather than just protecting individual animals.

The team’s models suggest that a three year trial with 100 herds should provide sufficient to demonstrate that vaccination protects individual cattle. Such a trial would be viable within the UK. However, demonstrating the impact on vaccination on transmission would be almost impossible because the spread of bovine TB in the UK is slow and unpredictable.

If BCG were to be licensed for use in cattle in the UK, vaccination would be at the discretion of individual farmers. Farmers would have to bear the costs of vaccination and testing, as well as the period of time under restrictions if animals test positive. This means that they would be less interested in the benefit to individual cattle and more interested in the benefits at the herd level. Herd immunity is such that, even if the vaccine is not 100% effective in every individual animal, the vaccine has an overall protective effect on the herd.

Trying to demonstrate an economic benefit for farmers would prove challenging. Using their models, the researchers show that herd-level effectiveness would be exceptionally difficult to estimate from partially-vaccinated herds, requiring a sample size in excess of 2,000 herds. The number of herds required could be reduced by a ‘three arm design’ that includes fully-vaccinated, partially-vaccinated and unvaccinated control herds; however, such a design would still require around 500 fully-vaccinated herds and controls – presenting potential logistical and financial barriers – yet would still have a high risk of failure.

Instead, the researchers propose a natural transmission experiment involving housing a mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated cattle with a number of infected cattle. Such an experiment, they argue, could provide robust evaluation of both the efficacy and mode of action of vaccination using as few as 200 animals. This would help screen any prospective vaccines before larger, more expensive and otherwise riskier trials in the field.

“We already know that the BCG vaccine has the potential to protect cattle from bovine TB infection,” says Dr Andrew Conlan from the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge, the study’s first author. “Our results highlight the enormous scale of trials that would be necessary to evaluate BCG alongside continuing testing in the field.

“Such trials would be hugely expensive, and it isn’t even clear whether enough farms could be recruited. This scale could be dramatically reduced by using smaller scale natural transmission studies.”

Based on current knowledge of the likely efficacy of BCG, the researchers say their models do not predict a substantial benefit of vaccination at the herd level when used as a supplement to ongoing test-and-slaughter. Ruling out the use of vaccination as a replacement, rather than a supplement, to test-and-slaughter will inevitably limit the effectiveness and perceived benefits for farmers.

“If we could consider replacing test-and-slaughter with vaccination, then the economics becomes much more attractive, particularly those in lower income countries,” says Professor James Wood, Head of Cambridge’s Department of Veterinary Medicine. “Then, we would no longer need to carry out expensive testing, but could instead rely on passive surveillance through the slaughterhouses.”

The study was funded by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Alborada Trust

Reference
Conlan, AJK, et al. The intractable challenge of evaluating cattle vaccination as a control for bovine Tuberculosis. eLife; 5 June 2018; DOI: 10.7554/eLife.27694.001

Field trials for a vaccine to protect cattle against bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) would need to involve 500 herds – potentially as many as 75,000-100,000 cattle – to demonstrate cost effectiveness for farmers, concludes a study published today in the journal eLife.

Our results highlight the enormous scale of trials that would be necessary to evaluate BCG alongside continuing testing in the field. Such trials would be hugely expensive, and it isn’t even clear whether enough farms could be recruitedAndrew ConlanKnarrhultpiaCurious cowsResearcher Profile: Dr Andrew Conlan

It may seem surprising to find a physicist in the Department of Veterinary Medicine, but this was how Dr Andrew Conlan began his career at the University of Edinburgh. He is now an applied mathematician and statistician at in Cambridge’s Disease Dynamics Unit, engaged in work which he describes as “intensively multi-disciplinary”, requiring him to work within multiple environments with medics, veterinarians, farmers, policymakers – and even school children.

Andrew’s research sets out to use mathematics to predict the spread of infectious disease within populations and provide evidence to inform policy on the control of infectious diseases in humans and animals. His work centres around controlling the spread of diseases such as bovine TB and human diseases including, measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever, norovirus and meningitis.

“Policy decisions on the control of infectious diseases often have to be made quickly based on limited information and data,” he says. “I believe that government policy on infectious disease control should be based on evidence and good science.”

Although much of his research is office-based, involving analysing data, writing computational models and occasionally pen-and-paper work, he also does a lot of work with schools, working with pupils on research projects and delivering lessons on disease transmission.

“I’ve been involved in running citizen science projects for many years now, which have led to several peer reviewed papers on how social contact networks in schools could be useful to predict the spread of infectious disease,” he explains (while, ironically, nursing a cold picked up from his son, who had in turn picked it up at nursery). “I dreamed it up over a tea break with my colleague Ken Eames. At the time very little work had been down on contact patterns in school age children as they are a potentially vulnerable population that is difficult to access. We thought that getting them to do the research themselves and take ownership would be a way to address it – and it worked!”


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: Public Domain
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Scientists create ‘genetic atlas’ of proteins in human blood

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 18:00

The study, published today in the journal Nature, characterised the genetic underpinnings of the human plasma ‘proteome’, identifying nearly 2,000 genetic associations with almost 1,500 proteins. Previously, there was only a small fraction of this knowledge, mainly because researchers could measure only a few blood proteins simultaneously in a robust manner.

The researchers used a new technology (“SOMAscan”) developed by a company, SomaLogic, to measure 3,600 proteins in the blood of 3,300 people. They then analysed the DNA of these individuals to see which regions of their genomes were associated with protein levels, yielding a four-fold increase on previous knowledge.

“Compared to genes, proteins have been relatively understudied in human blood, even though they are the ‘effectors’ of human biology, are disrupted in many diseases, and are the targets of most medicines,” says Dr Adam Butterworth from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge, a senior author of the study. “Novel technologies are now allowing us to start addressing this gap in our knowledge.”

One of the uses for this genetic map is to identify particular biological pathways that cause disease, exemplified in the paper by pinpointing specific pathways that lead to Crohn’s disease and eczema.

“Thanks to the genomics revolution over the past decade, we’ve been good at finding statistical associations between the genome and disease, but the difficulty has been then identifying the disease-causing genes and pathways,” says Dr James Peters, one of the study’s principal authors. “Now, by combining our database with what we know about associations between genetic variants and disease, we are able to say a lot more about the biology of disease.”

In some cases, the researchers identified multiple genetic variants influencing levels of a protein. By combining these variants into a ‘score’ for that protein, they were able to identify new associations between proteins and disease. For example, MMP12, a protein previously associated with lung disease was found to be also related to heart disease – however, whereas higher levels of MMP12 are associated with lower risk of lung disease, the opposite is true in heart disease and stroke; this could be important as drugs developed to target this protein for treating lung disease patients could inadvertently increase the risk of heart disease. 

MSD scientists were instrumental in highlighting how the proteomic genetic data could be used for drug discovery. For example, in addition to highlighting potential side-effects, findings of the study can further aid drug development through novel insights on protein targets of new and existing drugs. By linking drugs, proteins, genetic variation and diseases, the team has suggested existing drugs that could potentially also be used to treat a different disease, and increased confidence that certain drugs currently in development might be successful in clinical trials.

The researchers are making all of their results openly available for the global community to use.

“Our database is really just a starting point,” says first author Benjamin Sun, also from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care. “We’ve given some examples in this study of how it might be used, but now it’s over to the research community to begin using it and finding new applications.”

Caroline Fox MD, Vice President and Head of Genetics and Pharmacogenomics at MSD, adds: “We are so pleased to participate in this collaboration, as it is a great example of how a public private partnership can be leveraged for research use in the broader scientific community.”

The research was funded by MSD*, National Institute for Health Research, NHS Blood and Transplant, British Heart Foundation, Medical Research Council, UK Research and Innovation, and SomaLogic.

Professor Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Although our DNA provides our individual blueprint, it is the variations in the structure, function and amount of the proteins encoded by our genes which determine our susceptibility to disease and our response to medicines. This study provides exciting new insight into how proteins in the blood are controlled by our genetic make-up and opens up opportunities for developing new treatments for heart and circulatory disease.”

* MSD (trademark of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ USA)

Reference
Sun, BB et al. Genomic atlas of the human plasma proteome. Nature; 7 June 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0175-2

An international team of researchers led by scientists at the University of Cambridge and MSD has created the first detailed genetic map of human proteins, the key building blocks of biology. These discoveries promise to enhance our understanding of a wide range of diseases and aid development of new drugs.

Compared to genes, proteins have been relatively understudied in human blood, even though they are the ‘effectors’ of human biology, are disrupted in many diseases, and are the targets of most medicinesAdam ButterworthqimonoRed blood cellsResearcher Profile: Benjamin Sun

“My work involves analysing big 'omic' data,” says Benjamin Sun, a clinical medical student on the MB-PhD programme at Cambridge. By this, he means data from genomic and proteomic studies, for example – terabytes of ‘big data’ that require the use of supercomputer clusters to analyse.

“My aim is to understand how variation in the human genome affects protein levels in blood, which I hope will allow us to better understand processes behind diseases and help inform drug targeting.”

Benjamin did pre-clinical training at Cambridge before intercalating – taking time out of his medical training to study a PhD, funded by an MRC-Sackler Scholarship, at the Department of Public Health and Primary Care.

“Having completed my PhD, I am currently spending the final two years of my programme at the Clinical School to complete my medical degree. My aim is to become an academic clinician like many of the inspiring figures here at the Cambridge. Balancing clinical work with research can sometimes be tough but definitely highly rewarding.”


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: Public Domain
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Open letter on diversity in admissions

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 16:26

The collegiate University of Cambridge recognises the importance of the debate around diversity in admissions. However, we believe that it is critical that this debate should be fair and transparent and supported by evidence.

In recent days, several assertions have been made in relation to diversity in Cambridge – all of which demand clarity – and we want to address them in turn.

Diversity

In the most recent complete admissions cycle, 22% of the overall number of UK students admitted to Cambridge described themselves as from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, the highest proportion on record. This is in addition to 64% of our students being admitted from state schools, the highest proportion in 30 years, when comparable records began. Our intake from low participation neighbourhoods is higher than the most recent benchmark for the University published by the government.

To suggest that no progress is being made in relation to diversity is therefore not only wrong, but potentially damaging and could deter future high-achieving applicants from applying in the first place. Moreover, our students, whoever they are, have worked hard to secure their place in Cambridge and we should celebrate their achievements. We strongly believe our students want to feel they have secured their place on merit rather than being singled out for special treatment.

We also believe that diversity should be understood in the widest possible sense, including ethnicity, gender, socio-economic background, geography, age and disability.  

Entry requirements and retention

It has been suggested that the University should lower its entry requirements to accommodate a more diverse intake. We are proud to be amongst the very best and highest achieving institutions in the world. We want our students to succeed and we will not waver in our commitment to academic excellence. The fact that our student retention rate of over 99% is among the best in the world is testament to the quality of our unique collegiate education and of the pastoral care provided to all students.  Whilst our entry standards are very high and will continue to be so, with most Cambridge students scoring two or more A*s at A level, the nature of our educational provision and support helps ensure that almost all students who come to Cambridge graduate from Cambridge, regardless of background.

Our responsibility

Despite significant progress, we are far from complacent. We know that more needs to be done to reach out to those who are not applying to us. As an institution, we have over 100,000 interactions with students and teachers across more than 2,000 events annually through outreach programmes. We also partner with other organisations through initiatives such as NEACO, a consortium of five universities and eight Further Education colleges across East Anglia, working to increase progression to Higher Education and degree level apprenticeships.

We are committed to a series of initiatives aimed at increasing diversity among our students, including, among many others, Target Oxbridge, a programme funded by Oxford and Cambridge, and which will engage 160 prospective black students in 2018-2019. Further, the University of Cambridge is intending to launch an academic support programme starting in August 2019 to provide additional assistance for students who may have suffered educational disruption or disadvantage. We are also preparing for the subsequent launch of a transition year programme to create additional opportunities for those who could benefit from and contribute to life in Cambridge but who would not otherwise be able to meet our high entry standards.

These programmes indicate the seriousness with which we approach and consider this issue.

Framing the discussion and working together

Rather than framing the conversation around diversity in a manner that undermines the progress made in access and the value of a Cambridge education, we believe a more honest and comprehensive understanding of the issues is needed.

To illustrate this, in 2017, the University of Cambridge admitted 58 black students. We recognise that this is very low as a proportion of our overall undergraduate entry. But the truly shocking statistic is that this represents a third (33%) of all black students admitted to higher education in the UK that year who attained A*A*A at A-level. The University of Cambridge cannot single-handedly fix this endemic problem of academic attainment which afflicts all levels of education and society as a whole, reflecting deeper-seated inequalities across the country.

As an institution whose mission it is to serve society through the pursuit of academic excellence, we are committed to playing our part in facilitating social mobility. To do so, however, we need a constructive and collaborative effort involving Government, schools, local authorities, communities and families as well as universities and others to develop a holistic solution to these long-standing problems. We would gladly facilitate such an endeavour and call on policy makers to take up this invitation and work with us to reach these aspirations.  

Prof. Graham Virgo, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education

Jon Beard, Director, Cambridge Admissions Office

Dr. Sam Lucy, Director of Admissions for the Cambridge Colleges

 

Professor Graham Virgo, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, together with senior colleagues from the Cambridge Admissions Office, have today published an open letter on diversity in admissions.

We are committed to a series of initiatives aimed at increasing diversity among our studentsSenate House


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Rosalind Franklin Institute to harness disruptive technology to transform drug discovery

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 15:43

The projects are the first wave of major initiatives for the £103m Rosalind Franklin Institute, that launched today at the Harwell Campus, Oxfordshire.

New drugs are discovered through a slow and painstaking process of trial and error, often taking ten years and billions of pounds to develop. The Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI) is investing £6m to create:

  • The World’s most advanced real-time video camera, the key to a new technique that uses light and sound to eradicate some of the most lethal forms of cancer.
  • A new project pioneering fully-automated hands-free molecular discovery to produce new drugs up to ten times faster and transform the UK’s pharmaceutical industry.
  • A ground-breaking new UK facility that will revolutionise the way samples are produced and harness Artificial Intelligence (AI) to generate new drugs for clinical testing within a few weeks.

The RFI will harness disruptive new technologies such as AI and robotics to dramatically improve our understanding of biology, leading to new diagnostics, new drugs, and new treatments for millions of patients Worldwide. It will pioneer new ways of working with industry, as part of the UK’s AI and Data Grand Challenge, bridging the gap between university research and pharmaceutical companies or small businesses. This will build on the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy and put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future.

​Professor Ian Walmsey, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research & Innovation at the University of Oxford and Chair of the RFI’s Interim Board said: “The RFI will pioneer disruptive technologies and new ways of working to revolutionise our understanding of biology, leading to new diagnostics, new drugs, and new treatments for millions of patients Worldwide. It will bring university researchers together with industry experts in one facility and embrace high-risk, adventurous research, that will transform the way we develop new medicines.”

The institute is an independent organisation funded by the UK government through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and operated by ten UK universities, including the University of Cambridge. Professor Kathryn Lilley from Cambridge's Department of Biochemistry is the RFI's programme lead in Biological Mass Spectrometry.

"The Rosalind Franklin Institute will offer a globally unique suite of technologies which will enable new understanding of biology, leading to new diagnostics, new drugs and new treatments," says Professor Lilley. "For Cambridge, our partnership in the institute gives us access to, and a leading role in, developing the step changing technologies that will revolutionise the way we do biology."

The namesake of the institute, the pioneering X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin, was one of the key figures in the discovery of the structure of DNA, and used a technique with roots in physics and technology to transform life science. The Institute will follow in this spirit, developing unique new techniques and tools and applying them for the first time to biological problems.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Executive Chair, said: “As EPSRC is the main delivery partner for the Rosalind Franklin Institute, I am extremely pleased to see the Institute officially launched today. Research here at the Harwell hub, and at the universities that form the spokes of the Institute, will help the UK maintain a leading position in the application of engineering and physical sciences to problems in the life sciences.”

It operates on a ‘hub and spokes’ model, with a central hub at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, delivered by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The hub, opening in 2020, will house a unique portfolio of scientific tools and researchers from both industry and academia. Equipment and researchers will also be located in spokes distributed throughout the partner network of universities.

The hub at Harwell is a four storey, £40m build, which is being project managed and delivered by STFC. With the façade of the building reflecting the iconic work of Rosalind Franklin, the hub will house the majority of the technologies produced for the Institute, and will have world leading capabilities in imaging and drug discovery, creating a globally unique centre of excellence in life science. It will be home to 150 researchers from industry and academia, working closely with neighbouring facilities at Harwell including the Diamond Light Source and STFC’s Central Laser Facility.

EPSRC and STFC are part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

Adapted from a press release from the Rosalind Franklin Institute.

Business Secretary Greg Clark today announced funding for a series of ambitious technology projects that will transform the way medicines are discovered, enabling the pharmaceutical industry to develop groundbreaking drugs faster, cheaper and better than ever before.

Our partnership in the institute gives us access to, and a leading role in, developing the step changing technologies that will revolutionise the way we do biologyKathryn Lilley


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

Yes
Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Public open day this Sunday at East Cambridge Lakes

Cambridge Council Feed - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 15:11

CAMBRIDGE City Council is hosting another open day for the public on Sunday 10 June at East Cambridge Lakes, the flooded chalk pits at the end of Mill Road.

It is proposed in the Local Plan for Cambridge that the lakes be developed into a new country park for residents and visitors.

Residents are being invited to visit this urban oasis, which is not usually accessible to the public, between 10am and 3pm and enjoy a stroll around the lakes.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Cambridge Street Aid raises over £32,000 to help rough sleepers move on with their lives

Cambridge Council Feed - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 14:28

MORE than £32,000 has so far been donated to Cambridge Street Aid to help vulnerable people get off, or stay off the streets.

The charitable fund, which is supported by Cambridge City Council, has now paid out nearly 90 grants totalling more than £29,000 to help people with the support, accommodation and employment they may need in order to make a positive difference to their lives.

The money donated by residents, businesses and visitors to the city goes towards grants of up to £750 to help people on the streets.

Examples of how grants have so far been used include:

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Pages