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94.5% of our undergraduate students go on to work and/or further study within six months of graduating

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Scientists discover the properties behind cancer curing molecule


Scientists discover the properties behind cancer curing molecule

Pictured above are tumour cells before and after the treatment with the protein named Cluster of Differentiation 40 (CD40). After the treatment the tumour cells are significantly reduced and will soon disappear altogether.

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 11:10:00 GMT

The discovery has been patented and opens the door for a highly-effective cancer treatment 

Scientists discover the properties behind cancer curing molecule SCIENTISTS at the University of Huddersfield are the first to arrive at a deep understanding of a molecule that destroys cancerous tumours without harming healthy cell tissue.  The discovery opens up the potential for highly effective new cancer treatments that are free of serious side effects. 

A new journal article describes the science behind the breakthrough.  Now the research team headed by Dr Nikolaos Georgopoulos has developed and patented a cancer treatment regime that exploits the unique properties of the molecule – a protein named Cluster of Differentiation 40 (CD40) (pictured right). The next phase is to secure funding for clinical trials.

Dr Georgopoulos is a specialist in cancer research and he has been investigating CD40 for almost 16 years. 

“In 2002, we first reported that this particular member of the TNF receptor family is unique,” he said.  “A lot of members of this family are very good at triggering cell death.  But the molecule CD40 is special.  It seems to specifically kill tumour cells, but when you activate it on normal cells, they don’t die.” 

It was vital to understand these remarkable properties of CD40, with their immense potential for cancer therapy.  Years of investigation began to unlock the mystery. 

“Cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, are ‘hit with a hammer’ approaches.  Hit as hard as you can and kill the tumours as well as you can.  But there is usually some collateral damage.  There are side effects,” said Dr Georgopoulos. 

“We knew this CD40 molecule seemed to be very good at killing tumour cells.  So we decided to observe what it does at the molecular level.  If we understand what it does and what’s so special about it, we can design our own way to kill tumours.  We have now identified exactly why this molecule can kill tumour cells and why it leaves normal cells unaffected.” 

Tumour cells proliferate by continuously dividing.  This places them under considerable stress, but they have developed protective properties that enable them to cope.  CD40 removes this protection so that the tumour cells die, but because normal cells are not placed under “oxidative stress” they are unharmed by the protein. 

Dr Chris Dunnill and Dr Nik Georgopoulos A big proportion of research leading to the breakthrough was conducted by Dr Chris Dunnill who is pictured left with Dr Nikolaos Georgopoulos (right).

Dr Georgopoulos and his co-researchers at the University of Huddersfield made this discovery because instead of working purely with tumour cells, they were able to make comparisons with the effects of CD40 on normal cells as well as engineered – para-malignant – cells that allowed them to mimic the process of carcinogenesis – cancer development. 

The team has also worked on a method of using CD40 in targeted, intravenous bio-therapy by discovering the best way to deploy the molecule – using its ligand to activate it.  The discovery has been patented, and the University is exploring commercialisation through a spin-out company – provisionally called ThanatoCure™ – Thanatos is the Greek word for ‘death’, referring here to cell death. 

Advanced discussions are being held with a company that specialises in early-stage development of innovative cancer therapies.  It is hoped that the company will secure funding in the region of £900,000 for clinical trials that would see colorectal cancer patients receiving the new treatment. The trials could start as early as the end of 2017. 

A big proportion of research leading to the breakthrough was conducted by Dr Chris Dunnill, during and beyond his PhD, supervised by Dr Georgopoulos.  Also part of the research team – and co-contributors to the new article in a leading journal – were PhD students Khalidah Ibraheem and Albashir Mohamed, supervised by Dr Georgopoulos, and Professor Jenny Southgate from the Department of Biology, University of York. 

  • The article A redox state-dictated signalling pathway deciphers the malignant cell specificity of CD40-mediated apoptosis is in the journal, Oncogene.  
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Hudds LitFest – Writer’s new book revives the short story


Hudds LitFest – Writer’s new book revives the short story

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 14:23:00 GMT

Dr Michael Stewart’s new book, Mr Jolly, revives the art of writing short stories – Hudds Lit Fest, Saturday 18 March, 11am to 12 noon

Dr Michael Stewart WITH his first book of short stories now in print, the University of Huddersfield’s Head of Creative Writing, Dr Michael Stewart (pictured right), is better poised than ever to continue his campaign for a revival of interest in a form of literature once massively popular but which has mostly fallen from favour with UK publishers.

Mr Jollyis the title of his collection of darkly comic, but strange and unsettling tales.  Now, Dr Stewart – already an award-winning novelist and playwright – will discuss his approach to short story writing alongside other leading exponents when he takes part in a panel discussion at 2017’s Huddersfield Literature Festival.

Mr Jolly “I’ve actually been writing short stories for a long time,” said Dr Stewart.  “But it has taken a while to get this new book published because short stories are not as popular as they were – it took two novels to be published first.”

“I am always agitating for the form to be revived,” continued Dr Stewart, who also took part in a session on the topic at the 2016 festival.

“When the e-book came into being we were all led to believe that the short story would become popular again, because length wouldn’t be an issue.  But that’s not really happened, except in certain genres.”

Carys Bray and Tessa Hadley In other parts of the world the short story has retained its popularity, said Dr Stewart, who recently attended a conference on the topic held in Shanghai.  But in Britain, the days when a writer could earn a comfortable living contributing short fiction to magazines have gone.

‌Dr Stewart is certain that the form – which long pre-dates the novel – retains its literary value and at the University of Huddersfield he teaches a module on short stories.

“It’s great training, partly because its length makes it suitable to study over a two-hour seminar.  But also, if students learn to craft short stories, they learn about writing in a way that becomes more manageable than trying to orient characters over a 200-page narrative.  It is a very good way to learn some of the crafts and technique of story writing.”

The new collection from Michael Stewart, Mr Jolly, is collection of stories that have been written over a fairly lengthy period and published by various outlets.

“The theme is that there is no theme!  It is me trying to push the form really.  Each story is an attempt to do something different with the short story,” said Dr Stewart.  “There is a lot of black comedy and the stories are Twilight Zone-esque, meant to unsettle you a little bit.

“A lot of them take an imaginative leap into a kind of magical idea.  For example, the title story is about a character who makes a scarecrow to keep the birds from his allotment and forms a relationship with it.  Another story is about a world where bald-headed men hunt down long haired men, and a recurring theme in the collection is the image of a naked man – I like the idea of looking at us stripped down to what we really are.”

Appearing alongside Michael at the Huddersfield Literature Festival are short story writers, Carys Bray (photo courtesy of Colin NcPherson) and Tessa Hadley (photo courtesy of Mark Vessey)

  • On Saturday 18 March (11am-12noon) at the University of Huddersfield’s, Brontë Lecture Theatre, Dr Stewart appears alongside leading writers Carys Bray and Tessa Hadley to discuss short stories and their future.  Tickets (£3 and £1.50) can be reserved online.
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Professor invited to join Caribbean education policy group


Professor Paul Miller

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 14:00:00 GMT

Professor Paul Miller is the sole UK-based expert on the newly-convened Technical Working Group assembled by the organisation Caribbean Community

Caribbean Community Flag A MAJOR project to improve standards in education across 15 Caribbean countries has called on the expertise of the University of Huddersfield’s Professor Paul Miller.

He is the sole UK-based expert invited to join a newly-convened Technical Working Group (TWG) assembled by the organisation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that will investigate the subjects of educational leadership and technical innovations, leading to policy recommendations.

The process will involve Professor Miller in a series of five two-hour meetings with the group’s other members, recruited from institutions in Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and the British Virgin Islands.  But they are virtual meetings, conducted online, so that he can remain in his office at the University of Huddersfield, where he is Professor of Educational Leadership and Management.

The first meeting has now successfully taken place and members of the TWG settled on its remit to advise CARICOM on the development of policies and standards to guide educational leadership and management at all levels of education; also to suggest samples of curriculums that make education relevant to society’s current and future development.

Countries in the caribbean Special attention will be paid to the qualifications framework and teacher mobility; education and its relevance to industry; plus issues that include teacher development.

‌Professor Miller said that the invitation to join the CARICOM working group as its International Expert Member came “out of the blue”.  However, he is Jamaican-born, has carried out research into Caribbean educational issues and his publications include a chapter providing Caribbean perspectives for the 2016 book Successful School Leadership.  He is author-editor of the 2013 book, School Leadership in the Caribbean: perceptions, practices, paradigms.  In addition, he was editor for a 2014 special issue of the journal Research in Comparative & International Education dealing with education for all in the Caribbean.  

Professor Miller has previously worked with Dr Marcia Stewart, who chairs the eight-strong TWG that he has joined.  She is manager of the Joint Board for Teacher Education and Chair of the National College of Educational Leadership (NCEL) in Jamaica.

CARICOM – which is headquartered in Guyana – is a body established in 1973 that draws together the English speaking nations of the Caribbean.  As part of its new project to develop polices and standards for education – from school to college and university – it has convened six TWGs.  The group joined by Professor Miller has a brief to cover teacher education, curriculum design and leadership. 

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Research uncovers extent of sexism in Hollywood’s male-female pay


Hollywood

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 13:43:00 GMT

“…star female actors earn on average $2 million less than men…”

Dr Sofia Izquierdo-Sanchez HOLLYWOOD actresses such as Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep, campaigning to receive the same pay as their male co-stars, now have the facts and figures to support their stance, thanks to detailed research and sophisticated statistical analysis by a lecturer at the University of Huddersfield.

Dr Sofia Izquierdo-Sanchez (pictured left) is co-author of a new paper titled Hollywood’s Wage Structure and Discrimination.  It shows that star female actors earn on average $2 million less than men.

This can partly be explained by factors such as male predominance in the action blockbusters that are the biggest money-spinners.  But “sex segregation by movie genre” accounts for just 11 per cent of the male-female pay gap, according to the researchers.

They calculate that when all observable differences between male and female actors are accounted for, there is still a 55 per cent disparity, leading to a gender pay gap caused by Hollywood sexism, in the view of Dr Izquierdo-Sanchez and her fellow economist and co-author Dr Maria Navarro Paniagua, of Lancaster University.

“This unexplained gender compensation gap can be attributed to a taste for labour market discrimination against female actors,” they write.

Now – during the Oscar season – they plan to send their findings to the agents of top stars who have spoken out against the pay gap.  At the 2015 Oscars, Patricia Arquette (pictured below right) used an acceptance speech to call for wage equality in Hollywood and Meryl Streep is outspoken on the issue.  Despite her success, she still receives less than men, she has claimed.

Patricia Arquette It was hearing an interview with Ms Streep that triggered Dr Izquierdo-Sanchez’s research.  “We realised there was no complete academic paper that analysed the labour market in the film industry.  We were surprised that nobody had done it before,” she said.

The new article includes the case study of the movie American Hustle: “Christian Bale worked 45 days for $2.5 million upfront and 9% of total profits, Bradley Cooper worked 46 days for $2.5 million and 9% of total profits, while Amy Adams worked 45 days – the same number of days as Christian Bale and just one day less than Bradley Cooper – and was paid $1.25 million and 7% of total profits.”

Dr Maria Navarro Paniagua Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence and Natalie Portman among the other stars who have called for “equal pay for equal jobs” and they are among the names who will be supplied with the findings of Dr Izquierdo-Sanchez’s research.

‌In order carry out the analysis, covering 1980 to 2015, she and Dr Navarro Paniagua (pictured left) used sources including the International Movie Database (IMDb) and Box Office Mojo.  Their sample consisted of 267 different actors – of which 38 per cent were female – formed into 1,344 male-female movie pairs.

The goal was to research various aspects of the economy and wage structures of Hollywood, with the gender pay gap being a key theme that emerged.  The article has several tables and graphs and the authors deploy a range of advanced statistical methods.  This culminates in the use of the Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition technique – a well-established formula for understanding wage differentials – in order to investigate the levels of discrimination against female actors.

The authors believe that their findings have social and economic implications that go beyond the world of highly-paid Hollywood superstars:

“First, the film industry is the largest of the creative industries in the US.  Second, it is an industry with a substantial influence on consumer behaviour.  The impact of this paper not only highlights the current issues regarding superstar payments but also, given the exposure of people to the film industry, the existence of this discrimination could lead to similar practises to be spread across other sectors.”

  • Dr Izquierdo-Sanchez is Senior Lecturer in Economics in the Department of Accountancy, Finance and Economics at the University of Huddersfield’s Business School.  She is also Deputy Director of the Research Centre for Productivity Improvement.  Her fields of research have included the creative industries.
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