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National focus on Norwich science to deliver real-life solutions

PUBLISHED: 16:38 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 08:48 19 December 2019

The Earlham Institute has undertaken an analysis of 10,000 Salmonella strains as part of a worldwide project to understand how Salmonella develops and is transmitted   Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Earlham Institute has undertaken an analysis of 10,000 Salmonella strains as part of a worldwide project to understand how Salmonella develops and is transmitted Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Chansom Pantip

In November, the BBC descended on Norwich to find out what the city has to offer, and spent much time speaking to people at Norwich Research Park about the fantastic work that's helping to change lives. This national exposure put the Park on the map, and here are some projects that highlight exactly why it's at the forefront of scientific research.

UEA student George Bailey has developed a range of spectacles made from recycled fishing nets, which would otherwise remain in the marine ecosystem for hundreds of years    Picture: contributedUEA student George Bailey has developed a range of spectacles made from recycled fishing nets, which would otherwise remain in the marine ecosystem for hundreds of years Picture: contributed

Using genetic triggers and smart drugs to combat Salmonella infections

Salmonella is one of the world's biggest killers. Globally, 93m cases and 155,000 human deaths occur each year due to Salmonella infections, with the highest incidence in Africa.

To address the emergence and spread of Salmonella, and its resistance to antibiotics, it's necessary to understand what genes are associated with making Salmonella infectious and developing drug resistance.

The Earlham Institute's expertise in genomics, bioinformatics and molecular biology has enabled it to tackle the Salmonella problem.

Coral Eyewear will be launching six optical frames and a range of sunglasses in 2020    Picture: contributedCoral Eyewear will be launching six optical frames and a range of sunglasses in 2020 Picture: contributed

In collaboration with the University of Liverpool, it undertook an analysis of 10,000 Salmonella strains as part of a worldwide project to understand how Salmonella develops and is transmitted. Together with another organisation on the Park, the Quadram Institute, it also developed SalmoNet, an open access resource for Salmonella data, linking information on how genes and metabolic pathways are regulated in Salmonella leading to the development of novel drug discovery approaches that could help avoid the emergence of drug resistance.

Making glasses frames from recycled fishing nets

A University of East Anglia (UEA) student is set to launch a range of spectacles made from recycled fishing nets in a bid to remove plastics harming marine life, and human health, from our oceans.

George Bailey is launching Coral Eyewear, a range of frames made from ghost fishing nets, which have been abandoned at sea and would otherwise remain in the marine ecosystem for hundreds of years. The nets are responsible for the accidental capture and killing of dolphins, turtles and other marine animals. They break down over time into tiny fragments, otherwise known as micro plastics, causing further havoc to marine life and human health.

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George's inspiration came from people like David Attenborough raising the alarm about the dangers of plastic in our oceans. "It really helps to build awareness around plastic waste," he said. "Everyone can make a difference. By just making a few small changes like your choice of glasses, you can have a positive impact."

The 19 year-old has secured £50,000 of funding from the university's enterprise fund which supports students and graduates to realise their entrepreneurial dreams. There will be six optical frames and a range of sunglasses launched in 2020.

New 'at home' urine test developed to help prostate cancer detection

A new 'at home' test that could have a dramatic effect on the detection and treatment of prostate cancer in men has been developed by research at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in collaboration with Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

The urine test diagnoses aggressive prostate cancer and predicts whether patients will require treatment up to five years earlier than standard clinical methods. The test can be performed on urine samples collected at home, so men don't have to attend a clinic or undergo an uncomfortable rectal examination.

The NNUH receives more than 800 referrals a year to investigate and treat potential prostate cancers.

Lead researcher Dr Jeremy Clark, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "Prostate cancer is the UK's most common cancer in men. It usually develops slowly, and the majority of cancers will not require treatment but doctors struggle to predict which tumours will become aggressive, making it hard to decide on treatment for many men.

"Our test looks at gene expression in urine samples and provides vital information about whether a cancer is aggressive or 'low risk'. The first urination of the day provides biomarker levels from the prostate that are much higher and more consistent so being able to collect this is a giant leap forward for diagnoses."

Translating research into real life applications is essential to be able to change people's lives. That's why there's certain to be more stories like these to tell in the near future from Norwich Research Park.

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