University of Leeds - Impact Magazine - Issue 7

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Impact Research and Innovation at the University of Leeds Issue 7

MAKING A SPLASH: The University celebrates the Games with some very special guests ON TIME AND ON TRACK: the success story that is Leeds’ spin-out Tracsis CANCER DETECTIVES: Leeds research boosts the fight against bowel cancer

Impact Research and Innovation at the University of Leeds Issue 7

MAKING A SPLASH testing the fabric of the fastest swimsuits around ON TIME AND ON TRACK: the success story that is Leeds’ spin-out Tracsis CANCER DETECTIVES: Leeds research boosts the fight against bowel cancer

A spotlight on Research and Innovation at the University of Leeds Š University of Leeds 2012 Steering Group: Professor David Hogg Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research & Innovation Martin Holmes Marketing Director Kathy Brownridge Director, Research & Innovation Services Paul Barrett Strategic Marketing Manager Sue Underwood Head of Communications Production Communications and Press Office Written by: campuspr Ltd, Paul Barrett and Communications and Press Office Designed by: Leigh Marklew, Communications and Press Office Selected Photography: Simon and Simon Photography Edited by: Paul Barrett Visit the Impact website at This publication is available in other formats. Please contact Paul Barrett email: Printed on recycled paper.


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University of Leeds



CANCER DETECTIVES How photographic records of bowel cancer tumours can help Leeds researchers to improve survival rates.


PROCESS PERFECT How the Institute of Process Research and Development (iPRD) helped one start up company bring their product to market.



ON TIME AND ON TRACK How software developed by Leeds’ spin-out company Tracsis is helping to keep the UK’s rail network moving.

SECURING OUR FUTURE As the world’s population approaches 7 billion, the issues surrounding the global availability of food are becoming increasingly urgent.


MAKING A SPLASH How a Leeds research team helped Speedo develop it’s latest and quickest swimsuit.



MATERIAL GAINS From blood filters to tea bags, Leeds’ spin-out NIRI Ltd provides world-leading expertise in nonwoven fabric innovations.

ON THE VOYAGE OF DRUG DISCOVERY The University of Leeds is pioneering innovative approaches to developing safe new medicines, faster.


CELEBRATING THE GAMES The University’s Olympic programme can help showcase the city to a global audience.





DESIGNING A BETTER FUTURE The University’s partnership with design consultancy Arup can deliver strategic collaborations in research, innovation and education.

FILLING WITHOUT DRILLING Technology developed by University of Leeds researchers could help many people visit their dentist without fear.

AND FOR THAT REASON... ...I’m in. Inspiring enterprising individuals, creating entrepreneurs, the Leeds way.

SEEING THE BIG PICTURE Imaging techniques developed at the University of Leeds offer unprecedented insights into how our bodies work.


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University of Leeds

r At Leeds an extensive photographic record of bowel cancer tumours help researchers carry out a vital form of detective work; assessing whether the way surgery is conducted makes a difference to survival rates.

CANCER DETECTIVES A photographic record of bowel cancer tumours, dating back over twenty years, is helping Leeds researchers to improve survival rates for the UK’s second most common cause of cancer death.

There are 40,000 new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in the UK each year and numbers are on the increase. The main treatment for this disease, the third most common cancer in the UK, is an operation to remove the tumour. But, as Leeds researchers have found, not all surgeons operate in the same manner. Following an operation, pathologists step in to do the detective work, dissecting and analysing the tissue removed to determine the cancer’s characteristics and stage of spread, key information to help decide on what further treatment needs to follow. But before this work can begin, a picture is taken of the whole specimen. Although it’s now common practice to retain these pictures, that hasn’t always been the case. At Leeds, however, images of tissue removed during bowel cancer surgery have been retained since the early 1980s, creating a large resource unrivalled anywhere in the world. Researchers from the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine (LIMM), part of the University’s School of Medicine, have been able to use this material for a new kind of detective work: assessing whether the way bowel cancer surgery is conducted can make a difference to a patient’s likelihood of survival. The work was first begun by Professor Phil Quirke, who looked at how surgeons removed tumours when bowel cancer was located in the rectum, which at the time had a worse prognosis than cancer in the colon.


Working with the archive and then with surgeons around the world who used different techniques, he identified ways to improve treatment using changes to surgical practice alongside pre-operative scanning and radiotherapy. His work led to a new UK-wide training programme for rectal cancer surgery in the 1990s. While survival rates for both types of bowel cancer are improving, colon cancer now has the worst prognosis. So the team from LIMM wanted to see if they could mirror Professor Quirke’s success with rectal cancer to identify which surgical techniques for colon cancer would impact on survival. “Two thirds of bowel cancer patients have tumours in their colon, which is around 25,000 new cases each year in the UK,” says Dr Nick West, who led the research. “So any improvement in survival rates will affect a lot of lives. However, we can’t simply transfer the lessons learned in rectal cancer to colon cancer because their treatment and surgery is different. We had to start again, by going back to the archive to look at the different surgical techniques being used.” Dr West first looked at specimens removed in Leeds between 1997 and 2002, comparing types of surgery in relation to five year survival rates amongst patients. He then compared more recent surgery at Leeds to a hospital in Germany, where patients had a survival rate 20 per cent higher than in the UK.

Cancer detectives


It was remarkable, the specimens changed overnight. We still need to wait another three years before we can do a full comparison using five year survival rates, but it’s clear that surgical practice for bowel cancer can be altered through training.” Doctor Nick West


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He found that the factors which appeared to make the greatest difference were the neatness of the surgery – ensuring that the cancer didn’t spread to other areas – and taking out all of the blood vessels which supported the tumour. He classified bowel cancer surgery into three types: intact surgery, where the sample was neatly removed; samples with some defects; and poor. His research showed that patients on whom the surgery was ‘intact’ had a 15 percent greater chance of survival than those for whom the specimens removed were ‘poor’. “Although the evidence from the pathology specimens is compelling, we knew it wasn’t enough on its own to justify the major undertaking that would be needed to retrain all bowel cancer surgeons in the UK,” says Dr West. “First, we needed to prove that surgeons could be effectively retrained to carry out operations which would produce the ‘intact’ specimens which we’d linked to improved survival. Then we needed to follow through these patients to see whether survival rates did improve.” Dr West’s initial findings hadn’t gone unnoticed in Denmark, which has the highest incidence rate of bowel cancer for women in the EU and the highest mortality rate for the disease in Western Europe. The Danish health authorities decided to implement a complete retraining of all surgeons, pathologists, radiologists and radio/chemotherapists involved in bowel cancer treatment, based substantially on Dr West and Professor Quirke’s findings.

Cancer detectives

Dr West worked with the Danish authorities, analysing pathology specimens from surgery before and after the training. “It was remarkable,” he says. “The specimens changed overnight. We still need to wait another three years before we can do a full comparison using five year survival rates, but it’s clear that surgical practice for bowel cancer can be altered through training.” A similar programme is now set to begin in Yorkshire, which – by coincidence – has a similar population to Denmark at around 5.5 million. The first stage in West Yorkshire is being funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research and will involve all surgeons, pathologists and other clinicians involved in bowel cancer care. “There’s still a long way to go, but we hope that in a few years’ time we’ll be able to take conclusive data from Denmark and Yorkshire to the UK government, showing the impact that surgical retraining can have on survival rates for this disease,” says Dr West. In the meantime, his work is gaining him accolades, including the British Oncological Association’s Young Investigator Award, The Royal College of Pathologists Histopathology Research Medal and the University’s own Postgraduate Researcher of the Year Award. Such progress has convinced him to continue an academic career alongside his clinical work as a pathologist.

r Dr Nick West was named Postgraduate Researcher of the Year at the Leeds PGR Conference. Find out about this year’s conference at


“Clinical work can help to inform the academic side, ensuring that you keep up to date with which questions need answering through research,” he says. “Unfortunately most pathologists now choose to focus purely on clinical work, but for me, studies like ours show the vital contribution research in pathology can make to improve the way we treat diseases like bowel cancer.”

40,000 3rd 2nd

new cases of bowel cancer in the UK each year

most common cancer in the UK each year

most common cause of cancer death in the UK each year. figures from Cancer Research UK

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Securing our future

As the world’s population continues to expand, we are going to have to find smarter ways to make sure we can provide nutritious and affordable food, using less land and causing less damage to the environment. To be successful, we need to broaden our approach and be more proactive in the way we bring researchers together with potential partners.


Adam Getliff – Innovation Manager, The Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture Hub


As the world’s population approaches the 7 billion mark, the issues surrounding the global availability of food are becoming ever more pressing. 7

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The University of Leeds has an established track record in this area so it’s unsurprising that food security is the focus of one of the University’s new Sector Hubs. TheSector Hub model enables a more focused and strategic approach to working with industry and other external partners by developing meaningful partnerships, maximising the impact of research and fostering research excellence. A wide range of disciplines have been brought together under the food security umbrella. Six University faculties and schools make up the Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture Hub, including Biological Sciences, Medicine and Health, Engineering, Mathematics, Earth and Environment and Education, Social Sciences and Law. Issues which will be addressed under the Hub vary equally widely, from how to grow crops that are resistant to drought, or can grow in hostile conditions, how to make crops work harder, with higher yields and higher nutritional content, to how to look after crops post-harvest, ensuring they are stored and transported with minimal damage.

Securing our future

Commercial partners include grass seed company Euro Grass and Norddeutsche Pflanzenzucht Hans-Georg Lembke KG, a plant breeding company based in Germany. Adam Getliff, Innovation Manager for the Hub explains: “As the world’s population continues to expand, we are going to have to find smarter ways to make sure we can provide nutritious and affordable food, using less land and causing less damage to the environment. To be successful, we need to broaden our approach and be more proactive in the way we bring researchers together with potential partners.” Mr Getliff’s role is to raise the profile of the Hub among academics and persuade them to consider end uses and possible routes to market for the technologies they are developing. “Lots of the projects we are working on involve the developing world and people might expect that these technologies would be given away, or delivered by charities,” he explains. “The reality is, however, that we need to work with industry in order for many of these projects to have a meaningful and timely impact. The whole funding environment has changed in recent years, and we have got to respond to that; it will be private industries that have the capacity, expertise and networks to get our research out of the laboratory.”

“We hope that by starting these conversations in an informal way, we can provide a catalyst for some fruitful partnerships to grow,” says Mr Getliff. “By holding events like these on a regular basis, we aim to promote a healthy flow of ideas between our researchers and private companies.” The Hub’s activities will also extend to partnerships with public sector and charitable organisations, with grant applications already underway for projects that will address specific issues raised by the agricultural sector. Of course, food security is a global challenge, that requires global approaches to solutions. Although initially theSector Hub’s focus will be on working with UK industry, some of the companies involved will also operate internationally. The University’s own international links will also play a significant role: as the Hub establishes itself, it is expected that strong partnerships will be developed with other global projects with an interest in food security.

One obvious link would see theSector Hub engaging with the Worldwide University The Hub will not solely concern itself with Network (WUN), a global network of 19 issues in the developing world either: food research institutions, with a focus on security is increasingly a topic of concern to addressing some of the world’s most significant more developed countries. Reducing waste challenges. Leeds is one of WUN’s founding in supermarket supply chains, investigating partners, and is engaged in a number of more environmentally friendly ways of heating broad research areas, such as a collaboration greenhouses, and avoiding the use of toxic The approach is one that is being increasingly involving five universities looking at critical chemicals to tackle disease in crops are all adopted by development organisations global poverty. Equally significant will be the subjects for investigation. worldwide. Bill Gates, the philanthropist and Africa College project, an international research entrepreneur, for example, frequently advocates partnership set up by the University of Leeds Hub director, Professor Christine Foyer, in the increased partnership with the private sector in 2008, which works to improve lives in subFaculty of Biology’s Centre for Plant Sciences, to drive forward technological benefits in the Saharan Africa. for example, is currently working on a project as developing world. part of the EU-funded Crop Life Initial Training The Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Network. Professor Foyer is leading a research One activity planned for later this year is an Agriculture Hub, therefore, is set to play a key programme into plant productivity and lifespan, industry day: this will be an opportunity for part within an important network of national a topic of increasing importance for Europe’s researchers to meet potential industry partners and international organisations all working agricultural economics and environmental to exchange ideas and find common ground for to address the varied and complex issues of policies. solving problems. securing our planet’s food supply for many years into the future.


One project that is already underway within the hub is a study called IMPACT, or Improved Millets for Phosphate Acquisition and Transport, which is being undertaken by Professor Alison Baker in the University’s Faculty of Biological Sciences and Dr A. Ceasar Stanislaus, a European Union-funded International Incoming Fellow from Loyola College, in Chennai, India. Millets, which are cereal crops, are food staples in much of Asia and Africa. They grow well in dry conditions and are likely to become increasingly important in Southern Europe as the climate gets warmer and drier. This three year research project aims to identify genes and proteins involved in phosphate uptake in foxtail millet, with the ultimate goal of being able to identify and breed millets that can thrive on phosphate poor soils without need for additional fertiliser.

Plants need phosphorus for growth, but fertiliser is expensive and overuse causes environmental problems.


r The Hub is working across a range of issues, from drought resistant crops to making crops work harder, with higher yields and higher nutritional content.


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University of Leeds

On the voyage of drug discovery

Pharmaceutical companies face tremendous challenges in their quest to develop innovative new drugs. Despite unprecedented investment in research and development, the rate of drug discovery has remained at a similar level for the past 60 years1. The University of Leeds is pioneering innovative approaches to help the sector to discover safe new medicines faster.


the estimated cost of bringing a new drug to market, and the process is frustratingly slow.


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The process of bringing a new drug to market is slow, and costs over £1 billion2 (including the costs of failed campaigns). Because of this, there’s a pressing need to develop innovative new tools and approaches that allow resources to be focused on developing the most promising drug candidates. This challenge is at the core of activity at the University’s Pharmaceutical and Biopharmaceutical Sector Hub. Hub director, Professor Adam Nelson, explains: “Despite huge investment and changes in practices over the years, the rate of drug discovery has not increased. There is a growing recognition that increased partnership with academia is a key mechanism to increase innovation in drug discovery. The Pharmaceutical and Biopharmaceutical Sector Hub exists to address these issues, by supporting drug discovery within these industry sectors.” Leeds already has a strong track record in this sort of interdisciplinary activity. The Astbury Centre for Molecular Biology, for example, brings together more than 250 researchers at the interface between the physical and biological sciences, while the Biomedical and Health Research Centre brings together scientists and clinicians with other healthrelevant disciplines to help translate research from the laboratory to the clinic. The new sector hub will help focus and intensify these activities. The hub’s priorities have been set following consultation with research leaders from the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries and they are aligned closely with areas of research where the University has an internationally-leading track record. The aim is to find ways of directly marrying university expertise with industry needs to solve some of the real and pressing problems that slow the progress of getting new drugs to market.

On the voyage of drug discovery

The hub is focusing on a small number of themes to drive engagement with the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical sectors. A recent workshop brought together 30 potential partners to develop two of these themes: preventing protein aggregation; and targeting the delivery of therapeutic agents. A third theme focuses on the inhibition of protein-protein interactions – challenging targets for drug discovery that, nonetheless, are intimately involved in many disease mechanisms. This third theme is currently being developed through a research councilfunded network3, PPI-Net – led by Leeds and Imperial College – that involves academics and companies from across the UK. Clearly it is early days for these partnerships, but Professor Nelson believes the hub has the potential to make a big impact in the areas it is addressing. In five to ten years time it is expected that this approach will result in the realisation of new tools that streamline the drug discovery process. “What is vital in all these areas is being able to identify and exploit the research capabilities relevant to the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical sectors, irrespective of where they are found in the university,” says Professor Nelson. “Traditionally, much research is carried out within university faculties: what we need to do is organise that research in ways that are meaningful to our external partners, to find the best ways available of addressing the most pressing issues in drug discovery.”

Funded by a £533,000 grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the project, on which GSK is a named partner, will look at developing new methods for preparing diverse leadlike molecules. These molecules have the properties that would represent good starting points for drug discovery programmes. “Close engagement with GSK has allowed us to design a project that will address a specific problem facing large pharmaceutical companies,” says Professor Nelson.


Professor Adam Nelson

1. B Munos, Nature reviews. Drug discovery, 2009, 8, 959-68. 2. S M Paul, D S Mytelka, C T Dunwiddie, C C Persinger, B H Munos, S R Lindborg, and A L Schacht, Nature reviews. Drug discovery, 2010, 9, 203-14. 3. Funded by Engineering and Physcial Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and the Medical Research Council (MRC).


The kinds of relationships that the hub is designed to foster can be seen in a current collaboration set up between the University and the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).


Traditionally, much research is carried out within university faculties: what we need to do is organise that research in ways that are meaningful to our external partners, to find the best ways available of addressing the most pressing issues in drug discovery.

“It really allowed us to develop a strong case to obtain the resources necessary to undertake the project. For their part, GSK will be contributing specialist expertise, for example in computational chemistry, that will allow us to deliver.”

Ian Churcher, leader of the GSK screening collection enhancement chemistry group, stresses the importance of the work and the partnership with the University: “It is extremely difficult to identify and acquire large numbers of quality, lead-like molecules from current sources. Worryingly, GSK’s comprehensive analyses of recent synthetic chemistry papers shows that few contemporary synthetic methods can yield a wide range of these leadlike molecules so valued as starting points for drug research.

However, Professor Nelson has developed a range of novel approaches with real potential to address this problem and deliver benefits to the entire drug discovery process.”

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University of Leeds


The University of Leeds has signed a £3m collaborative research agreement with Sinochem Group.

The money will be used to fund six new research projects in colour science, semiconductor research, polymer development and plant science covering transgenic technology, new materials and anti-counterfeit technologies. The research will be carried out in the Faculty of Mathematics and Physical Sciences and the Faculty of Biological Sciences. Sinochem’s core businesses span over energy, agriculture, chemical, real estate and financial services. It is one of China’s four state oil companies, the country’s biggest agricultural input company (fertilizer, seed and pesticide) and the leading chemical service company. Professor Mike Wilson, Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, where five of the research projects will be based, said: “This is a significant commitment to collaborative research and personnel training in science and technology from a state-backed Chinese company to a British higher education institution. We are honoured that science at Leeds is held in such high regard.”


We are honoured that science at Leeds is held in such high regard.

Sinochem were represented at the signing by a team of delegates led by Vice President Professor Li Bin. Professor Li commented: “I believe that through the concerted efforts of both Sinochem and Leeds, we will be able to achieve our objectives of the development of advanced, commercialisable technologies. At the same time, through the Sinochem-Leeds collaboration platform, we will also be able to establish a team of leading scientists as well as a team of strong researchers.”

The University were represented by ViceChancellor Professor Michael Arthur, Professor Mike Wilson and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor John Fisher.

Professor Fisher said: “This deal demonstrates just how much Leeds is seen around the world as an institution with significant research capability and significant research relevance. At Leeds we are proud to work proactively with businesses and governments, these long-term collaborations are of tremendous benefit to our staff and students.” Long Lin, Professor of Colour and Polymer Science at Leeds, who has helped foster the relationship since its inception, said: “This deal will also help create closer relationships with highly-respected colleagues in Chinese research institutes such as the Sinochem Shenyang Research Institute of Chemical Industry and Sinochem Zhejiang Research Institute of Chemical Industry.”


The new £12.5m Energy Building has been officially opened. The launch was attended by industry and regional government representatives, alumni, sponsors and University staff. The Energy Building brings together under one roof the re-branded Energy Research Institute, the new Centre for Integrated Energy Research, the Energy Technology and Innovation Initiative and the Doctoral Training Centre in Low Carbon Technologies. It will serve as a physical hub for collaboration in energy research and innovation extending beyond the campus. The Building houses 150 staff and students from the Faculty of Engineering and provides a space for collaboration between the Schools of Engineering, Earth and Environment, the Institute for Transport Studies, and other schools.


Exclusive funding for regenerative medicine projects with academic and industry collaborators launched at a special conference in June 2012.

The scheme aims to encourage Expressions of Interest (EoI) in hard and soft tissue applications, particularly in the specialist fields of Cardiovascular and Musculoskeletal medicine. The funding is being provided by the Medical Technologies IKC, supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and the Technology Strategy Board to accelerate innovation between academic and industry collaborators in key projects that demonstrate significant commercial potential. Speaking at the launch, Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board commented: “This funding is a fine example of the way in which Regener8, the Medical Technologies IKC and the N8 Research Partnership work together to foster innovation and encourage vital collaboration between industry and leading research-intensive universities here in the North of England. Regenerative medicine is a key focus of our extensive programme of activity to support innovation in the UK’s healthcare sector and we are delighted to support this initiative.” John Fisher, Executive Director of Regener8 and Director of the Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering at the University of Leeds commented: “By providing this funding we hope to encourage collaboration between the world leading research strengths of the N8 universities and the outstanding regenerative medicine companies in the North of England and in the UK in general. We have a wealth of expertise in regenerative technologies at our fingertips, and this new scheme will further encourage these experts to work together in order to create commercially viable therapies.” The N8 PoC Funding call opened on 20 June 2012. There is no closing date but early application is advised as funds will be allocated up to a maximum of 5 PoC projects. For further information please visit

The event, organised by Regener8 and the Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) at the University of Leeds, launched a call for five Proof of Concept (PoC) awards of up to £100K each. 13

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More than 100 University of Leeds alumni work at Arup.


University of Leeds

t The Sydney Opera House, one of Arup’s most iconic projects.

DESIGNING A BETTER FUTURE A long-running partnership between the University of Leeds and design consultancy Arup has been formalised this year, paving the way for increased strategic collaborations in research, innovation and education.

The University’s relationship with Arup goes back several decades and has grown organically over the years. The company, which is responsible for some of the most iconic structures in the world, including the Sydney Opera House and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, has long standing relationships with academics across the University of Leeds campus. The recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding will enable a more strategic approach to the partnership between the two organisations. “Over the years, Arup has built relationships with academics in a number of our faculties,” explains the University’s Strategic Partnerships Manager, Richard Keegan. “The Memorandum of Understanding will enable us to map all these relationships and then start working together in a more strategic sense, aligning projects so they meet both organisations’ objectives.” The agreement means that as well as increasing research collaborations, the two organisations will increase information sharing and will proactively seek opportunities to work jointly with businesses and public sector organisations in the UK and internationally, both on research projects and in developing knowledge transfer opportunities, drawing on intellectual property (IP) created by Arup and the University.

For both parties, having a more formal relationship will deliver significant benefits. Professor Denise Bower is the academic lead for the partnership within the University. She says: “Through this new relationship, we’ll benefit from greater access to knowledge and innovation within Arup, which in turn helps to develop our staff, informs our teaching and enables us to be much more proactive at policy level.” It will also have a direct impact on individuals. The areas of the agreement dealing with collaborations with business and education provide a commitment to developing talent, leadership and vision, plus the development of curricula and courses at postgraduate and post-experience levels. People have formed the backbone of the growing relationship between Arup and the University. More than 100 University of Leeds alumni work at Arup, further strengthening that relationship. Rachel Sandham, who works in the Rivers & Coastal team at Arup, is herself an alumnus and, along with colleague Nigel Foster, is a key facilitator of the relationship between the company and the University. She has extensive experience of working with the University following her Masters degree and says: “The University is seen as a pool of talent, both for accessing expertise and for recruiting the right people.

As an organisation we allow people to grow and develop their own career, which is not dissimilar to how universities work.” The projects that the two organisations work on together span a whole range of disciplines, with Arup tapping into energy, water, engineering, design and business expertise across the campus. Increasingly, research and development projects are multidisciplinary in nature, and both parties are keen to see these addressing crucial issues facing the world today. Professor Bower explains: “We have shared interests in issues such as energy supply and resilient infrastructure, in innovative transport and asset management systems and have worked together on numerous projects in these areas.” In fact, Arup and the University – through the School of Civil Engineering and the SocioTechnical Centre based at Leeds University Business School – are currently working on a project which takes a holistic approach to asset management. The project is investigating and defining intelligent asset management, and devising a new approach which brings together the management of physical resources, with the management of people, organisational culture and business processes.


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Both parties also have an equally keen interest in the resilience of infrastructures and urban systems. Migration to our cities from rural areas is increasing on an ongoing basis, putting pressure on our transport systems, the supply of utilities and on the built environment. Through working together, specifically with the University’s Institute for Resilient Infrastructure which is based in Civil Engineering, opportunities to develop tangible solutions to these issues provides a significant opportunity to develop projects that have long term impact, both in the UK and internationally. “Another area of mutual interest is the recovery of resources, including energy, from waste water,” says Professor Bower. “For example, if we can develop methods of promoting growth, extracting and treating algae economically from waste water flows we can produce biodiesels, fertilizers and other high value chemicals.”

y Professor Denise Bower meets with Rachel Sandham, Associate, and Jody Harris, Senior Consultant at Arup

16 16

What really lies at the heart of the strategic alliance is the desire of both organisations to make a strong and lasting impact externally, and there’s recognition that the sum of the two organisations working together will be much greater than its individual parts working in isolation. Rachel Sandham says: “Strategic alliances such as this one are really important to Arup. As a company, we’re known as being at the cutting edge of design and construction and it’s important that we work with organisations that are at the forefront of discovery and innovation.”


Designing a better future

The University is seen as a pool of talent, both for accessing expertise and for recruiting the right people. As an organisation we allow people to grow and develop their own career, which is not dissimilar to how universities work. Rachel Sandham, Arup

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Process perfect


When start-up company JooMoŽ wanted to turn their new formulation for a natural face wash into a marketable product, Leeds’ Institute of Process Research and Development (iPRD) had the exact mix of expertise, industry nous and enthusiasm they were looking for. r

17 17

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Although many research institutes claim to bridge the gap between academia and industry, the iPRD really makes it happen. Its focus is clear: improving manufacturing processes in chemical-based industries, to increase quality and productivity and reduce cost, waste and energy usage.

University of Leeds

But 50 litres is still a considerable investment in raw materials and so there was plenty of preparatory work that had to be done with JooMo® before manufacture could begin.

The iPRD’s Professor Frans Muller and the iPRD team sat down with JooMo® and completed a scale-up risk evaluation, As soon as entrepreneur Nick Wallen called the identifying potential problems that could arise from scaling up the formulation process by iPRD and spoke to Professor John Blacker, he a factor of 100. They then agreed a process knew he’d come to the right place. He and his development plan, laying out the steps they business partner, Linda Russell, had worked would follow and points where they could call with universities before, so it was natural for a halt if required, to minimise the risk involved. them to turn to academia for help in getting their latest venture, the first 100 percent natural The team devised experiments to iron out production issues and to help determine the face wash, into the marketplace. exact process required for a robust, efficient “Commercial producers are so often set in their and consistent manufacture. ways, so we wanted to work with academic researchers who were willing to try something new” says Nick. “We got exactly the reaction we wanted from Professor Blacker. He was enthusiastic and understood straight away what we needed. The iPRD clearly had the necessary technical expertise, but what made the difference was their go-ahead attitude.” JooMo® needed help to create a sufficient quantity of their product for market testing. In the process, the iPRD helped them to generate a scalable manufacturing procedure, which would set them up for the product’s official launch. “The iPRD were really methodical, anticipating Some of the support was provided under potential problems in advance and working a £4.85 million project funded through the them through with us,” says Nick. “We couldn’t European Regional Development Fund and have asked for more.” Yorkshire Forward. This enables the iPRD to offer two days’ free consultancy to small The development phase lasted three months, companies in the region, carrying out small during which time the company were able projects at cost, to help solve problems or try to get other parts of the launch underway, out new ideas. Essentially, this means the iPRD such as design and production of the product can act as the company’s own R&D facility. packaging. Within six months of the first contact, the two pilot batches of new JooMo® The iPRD has also used the funding to create a face wash were ready. This allowed the company to test the product with their target lab with full scale up facilities. market – teenagers – and the media. “Most university labs have one litre, or at most, In addition, the iPRD gave JooMo® a new five litre reactors, but our facilities are at the ‘recipe’ for their product, detailing the same scale you’ll find in a typical industrial manufacturing specification and procedures, R&D lab facility,” says the iPRD’s Professor ready to take to a commercial company for Steve Marsden. “If a process can be scaled large scale production. The face wash was up to 20 litres, it can be made to work at due to be officially launched as Impact went to commercial manufacturing scale. This means our facilities are ideal for piloting test batches in print. preparation for full commercial production, but also for final manufacture where 20 litres may be all that’s required.”

Although the work with JooMo® is a great example of how the institute can practically help small businesses, it’s only part of the picture. iPRD members are equally at home working with major corporations, carrying out fundamental or applied research, doing individual consultancy or leading major European industrial and academic consortia. Funding is as likely to come from the public sector – including the EU, the Technology Strategy Board or UK research councils – as it is from the private. Set up in 2008, the institute was the brainchild of Professor Blacker, who, during his many years in the pharmaceutical industry, had been frustrated by the amount of commerciallyfunded research that never made it out of academia. His vision was for a research institute which would bridge the gap between academic proof of concept and a practical application in the commercial world. Although the iPRD assumed most of its work would be with the pharmaceutical industry, it has in fact been far broader. Projects have covered recycled building materials, photovoltaics, personal care products like the JooMo® facewash and mineral processing. In addition to batch processes, the iPRD is also developing expertise in continous processing, which is still fairly new in the chemical industries. As it involves small reaction volumes, continuous processing can reduce potential hazards and offer more control, dramatically reducing the impact of something going wrong.



The iPRD were really methodical, anticipating potential problems in advance and working them through with us. We couldn’t have asked for more. Nick Wallen, JooMo


The expertise we have at the iPRD can provide the precompetitive innovation which otherwise these industries would struggle to finance. We can provide the extra space to allow companies to ask that important question: ‘what if?’. Professor Steve Marsden, iPRD

Process perfect

“In continuous processing mixing and temperature are much better controlled, allowing one to safely run processes that cannot be run in batch equipment.” explains Professor Muller. “We’ve also been looking at how to integrate the ‘work up’ phase, where products are purified and turned into the required form, into the continuous process.” Innovations like these are becoming increasingly important, according to Professor Marsden. The pharmaceutical, agrochemical and fine chemical industries are one of the UK’s remaining manufacturing success stories, but if they are to continue to thrive, they need to adapt and change. “These industries are under continuing pressure to reduce their environmental footprint and adhere to new regulations and this means looking at new ways to process and manufacture their products,” he says. “But in the current financial climate, they are also retrenching R&D facilitites to focus only on getting new products through to market. The expertise we have at the iPRD can provide the precompetitive innovation which otherwise these industries would struggle to finance. We can provide the extra space to allow companies to ask that important question: ‘what if’?” For more information on iPRD visit For more information on JooMo® Ltd visit


• Chemical synthesis • Catalysis • Particle science and processing at different scales • Reaction and reactor engineering, micro fluidics and multi-phase systems, design and testing of reactors and separation • Formulation • Multi-scale modelling • On-line measurement and process control • Process integration & optimisation


Since 2008, the iPRD has worked with over 40 companies on more than 30 projects including:

• Agrochemicals • Construction • Dyes & pigments (inkjet applications) • Personal care • Mineral processing • Fine and speciality chemicals • Pharmaceuticals • Waste treatment • Solar energy • Renewable/sustainable materials • Scientific instrumentation

t iPRD facilities and expertise have been applied to a range of collaborative projects, from facewash to photovoltaics.


Impact 7

A team led by University of Leeds sedimentologist Professor Jeff Peakall were commissioned by Speedo’s global research and development facility, Aqualab, to develop a methodology using lasers and flume tanks contained in a giant black box to accurately measure the speed of fabric through water. Professor Peakall and colleagues Professor Dan Parsons (now at the University of Hull), Dr Gareth Keevil and Russ Dixon, spent 18 months testing levels of “fabric drag” - the measure of how efficiently fabric moves through water, in order to develop the suit, which is part of Speedo’s Fastskin® Racing System collection of products. The project saw Professor Peakall and Professor Parsons work in conjunction with Aqualab, with elite level athletes and coaches, sports scientists, global hydrodynamics experts and optical engineers around the world also contributing to engineer a world first for the sport of swimming which sees caps, goggles and suits work together to form one cohesive Racing System. Professor Peakall said: “We’re really excited because I think we’ve found out that some of the materials are appreciably faster than anything we’ve seen before, and I’m absolutely confident that this is going to be of great benefit to competitive swimmers.” The scientists used a powerful recirculating flume to move a large body of water through about 50 fabric samples to simulate the speed of an internationally competitive swimmer. At the same time, they operated a laser machine - similar to a police speed trap - to measure hundreds of velocity points around each piece of fabric, to detect how the water flow changed over the material.


The world’s leading swimwear brand, Speedo® is passionate about life in and around the water, creating revolutionary new technologies, designs and innovations and supporting swimming from grassroots through to elite level, including the phenomenal Michael Phelps. In the 1920s Speedo® made history with the Racerback: the world’s first non-wool suit. In 2008 Speedo® redefined swimwear again with Fastskin® LZR RACER® - the fastest and most technologically advanced swimsuit ever created. 2011 saw Speedo® unveil another world first with the Fastskin Racing System® - a cap, goggle and suit designed to work together as one.



Professor Peakall said: “The interaction of water with a material is surprisingly complex and ideally you want water to move over it as smoothly as possible, rather than in a chaotic manner where the water is mixing and generating lots of swirls in the flow.” Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), the same 3D scanning technology used in Hollywood films, was then used by Speedo to test how the fabrics behaved when worn by people. The scientists also examined how fabric changes over time in order to identify a material that has low fabric drag even after a long period in the water - key for longer distance swimmers. The team tested the fabric at the University of Leeds’ Sorby Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, the national centre for research into environmental fluid dynamics. Professor Jeff Peakall is a Reader in Process Sedimentology at the School of Earth and Environment. He specialises in research into fluids and particles in the deep sea with relevance to oil companies and nuclear waste management. He recently won an Institute of Chemical Engineering award for his work with Sellafield Ltd. The School of Earth and Environment (SEE) was ranked second nationally in terms of research power in earth and environmental sciences in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. The school is at the forefront in tackling global issues such as climate change, energy, water and sustainable development. Its research is organised across four institutes and two national research centres.

Speedo® is owned by Speedo Holdings B.V and distributed in over 170 countries around the world; to find out more visit SPEEDO, the ARROW device, FASTSKIN, AQUALAB and LZR RACER are registered trademarks of Speedo Holdings B.V. Racing System is a trademark of Speedo Holdings B.V. The LZR RACER suit has worldwide design rights and patents. The FASTSKIN3 cap, goggle and suit has worldwide design rights and patents pending.

Flumes and lasers test elite sportswear


Fabric used to make the pioneering Speedo速 Fastskin3 Super Elite Swimsuit was tested by Leeds researchers who simulated conditions close to those experienced by elite swimmers.

21 21

Impact 7

University of Leeds

r University of Leeds Alumni and Team GB Triathlon medal hopes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee.

CELEBRATING THE GAMES As excitement continues to build, final preparations are underway for the greatest sporting event in the world. Thirteen of the University’s alumni and current students will be competing across a variety of events including Athletics, Rowing, Water Polo, Weightlifting and Hockey. Medal hopes include Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, both taking part in the Triathlon and swimmer Claire Cashmore. At Leeds, our activities provide support to potential Olympians as well as opportunities for staff and students to get involved. The University’s Olympic Programme brings together partners in the city and region to maximise opportunities related to London hosting the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games. The University is also using the Games to help establish and strengthen sustainable international relationships with world class partners.

13 65

of the University’s alumni and current students will be competing across a variety of events.

University of Leeds students volunteers are being recruited by Leeds City Council to help Chinese athletes and officials during the training camp. The majority of those will be either native Mandarin speakers or Chinese Studies students with excellent Mandarin speaking skills.


Celebrating the Games

The University has put together a comprehensive programme of events celebrating the Games, as well as students and alumni who are competing and the Chinese and Canadian training camps based in Leeds: The BBC’s Chinese Service filmed a bilingual show China in Leeds at the University’s Refectory in February, celebrating Chinese New Year and China’s training camp. The show was co-hosted by third year Chinese Studies student Marie Tulloch and watched by a live audience of 500 people (including former Olympic diver Li Na – a graduate of the University and supporter of the training camp) and streamed to millions of online viewers. From January-March 2012 the University held a series of Olympic-themed lectures, hosted by such sporting stars as Kriss Akabusi and Leeds Alumnus and Paralympic swimmer, Claire Cashmore. University of Leeds students designed an Olympic Countdown Clock, which resides in The Edge Sports Centre. The design of the clock is based on the Olympic logo and the Union Jack flag. Once the Olympic countdown has finished, the clock will revert back to real time and will stand as a permanent memento of the University’s involvement in the Games. One hundred and fifty volunteers are being recruited by Leeds City Council to help Chinese athletes and officials during the training camp – of which, 65 will be University of Leeds students. The majority of those will be either native Mandarin speakers or Chinese Studies students with excellent Mandarin speaking skills. They will be involved in many aspects of the camp, including acting as team attachés and training camp hosts. The University’s Leeds for Life Foundation is part-funding several students chosen by UK Olympic and Paralympic officials to have official “Gamesmakers” volunteer roles in London, including assisting athletes and performing at the opening and closing ceremonies. The University set up a pop-up ‘Olympics’ athletics track outside Leeds University Union for the community. Vice Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur took part, racing on the temporary 75m track alongside local schoolchildren, as did two of the University’s designated Olympic torchbearers. Pupils were also given the chance to try out other events including volleyball and long jump. Staff and students at the University were invited to join in during the afternoon ‘Give-it-a-go’ session as part of Healthy Week. 23

Impact 7


Leading Chinese athletes from eight sports will be based in Leeds in July and August to train for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Working in partnership with Leeds City Council, the University is taking a leading role in hosting these very special guests. Approximately 220 athletes, coaches and support staff will stay in the University’s Storm Jameson Court accommodation from early July, as the China teams complete their final preparations before competing in London. Teams staying in Leeds are table tennis; taekwondo; fencing; swimming; track and field; boxing; and women’s field hockey. Three teams will train on campus at The Edge: table tennis, taekwondo and fencing, and the remaining teams will train in the wider Leeds city region. The University has created a training environment which replicates the Olympic experience as closely as possible; all equipment is the same brand or nearly identical to that used during the Olympics. In addition, the University has worked closely with the Chinese Olympic Committee to develop menus to suit all athletes, provide the correct nutritional mix and help them acclimatise to life in the UK. The most highprofile among the Chinese athletes coming to the University will be their table tennis stars, who enjoy near-total dominance over the rest of the world. Such is their stranglehold at the top of the sport that China currently boasts the leading five players in both the men’s and women’s world rankings, while they have also swept the board by winning every available title at the individual World Table Tennis Championships since 2003.


University of Leeds


Department of East Asian Studies: Chinese Studies Chinese Studies is home to world-class research. When it was established in 1963 it was the UK’s first, and for many years only, university department to focus on modern China. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, maintaining a dynamic scholarly community. Brotherton Library Special Collections: The University of Leeds’s Special Collections holds one of the UK’s most outstanding collections of rare books and manuscripts. The Chinese collection in the Brotherton Library includes books and periodicals dating from 1677 through to the present day. The collection covers many aspects of Chinese language and culture, and the works are principally in Chinese. Earlier books deal with such subjects as Chinese philosophy and ethics. Global Community at the University of Leeds The Global Community organises events celebrating the University’s cultural diversity. There are thousands of international students from all over the world on campus, including a large and active Chinese community of around 1,000 Chinese students and 100 Chinese staff.


Approximately 220 athletes, coaches and support staff will stay in the University’s Storm Jameson Court accommodation from early July, as the China teams complete their final preparations before competing in London.


There are thousands of international students from all over the world on campus, including a large and active Chinese community of around 1000 Chinese students and 100 Chinese staff.


Celebrating the Games


In August the University will again welcome the

Canadian Wheelchairis Rugby teamexample for their preThis partnership a great of Parlaympic Games training camp. with the what we wanted to achieve Pre-Games Training Camp process. The 17-strong team, including members of China will have use of some fantastic the side made famous in Academy Award facilities in turn Leeds has the nominated and film Murderball, is amongst honour of hosting one of the world’s the frontrunners to win gold at this year’s best sporting nations. Paralympic Games. The team were in Leeds for

a six day stay in April, involving high-intensity Sebastian Coe, Chair of the London training sessions, regulated recoveryOrganising periods Committee the Olympic Games (LOCOG) and strictly of controlled meals to prepare the team for tournament competition. The returning team will hold an identical training camp before the serious business of London 2012 begins. Having taken bronze at Beijing 2008, losing to Australia by just one point in a gripping semi-final, the squad are hungrier than ever to claim gold.


Andy Van Neutegem, Canadian High Performance Director, said: “This is an important time for our athletes to prime themselves for the intensity of competition in September, and the University of Leeds has provided us with the perfect atmosphere to make our team as successful as it can be. We look forward to returning for our final preparations for London 2012.”







To find out more about the University’s Olympic programme please visit:

1. World number 1 and current holder of the singles World Cup and World Championship titles Zhang Jike in training at The Edge, the University’s sports complex. This is his first Olympic Games and expectations are high. 2. The Chinese Olympic Committee met with Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur and representatives from Leeds City Council and Leeds Metropolitan University to cement the relationship between Leeds and the COC. 3. Triple Olympic medalist Kriss Akabusi MBE gave a lecture at the University about his life and career as part of the Celebrating the Games free lecture series. 4. Former world champion and Olympic medalist Steve Cram was another popular guest speaker at the University. 5. Canada’s wheelchair rugby team have held two training camps at the University and they will return in August ahead of the start of the Paralympic Games. 6. University of Leeds Gamesmakers pictured with double Olympic champion Lord Sebastian Coe. Lord Coe was also Chairman of the London 2012 bid company. 7. Student Gamesmakers from the University of Leeds and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Student Education Professor Viv Jones. Pictured on campus at The Edge, in front of the Olympics Countdown clock - designed by students from the School of Mechanical Engineering.


Impact 7

FILLING Many people put off the recommended twice-yearly dental inspection in case it reveals a problem requiring injections and fillings. But this attitude could be set to change, thanks to technology developed by researchers at the University of Leeds.


University of Leeds

Filling without drilling

Dubbed ‘filling without drilling’, this new regenerative therapy for treatment of early enamel decay has developed out of multidisciplinary research. It will enable dentists to heal the dental tissue at the first signs of caries (decay) by painting on a peptide solution, eliminating the need to drill and fill the tooth. Professor Jennifer Kirkham, Professor of Oral Biology, Leeds Dental Institute, and Dr Amalia Aggeli, Senior Lecturer, Department of Chemistry, are behind the new technology. Over several years, the pair collaborated using knowledge about the way in which mineralised tissues form, combined with an understanding of the drivers behind peptide self-assembly, to address clinical challenges in mineralised tissue repair and regeneration. Dental decay is one of the most common of all diseases, affecting one in ten of the population of the western world, yet the principles of treatment for dental decay have remained unchanged for almost a century. When the earliest sign of tooth decay – known as the ‘white spot’ lesion – is found on the tooth surface, the conventional treatment process is to first monitor the progress of the lesion then, if necessary, excavate by drilling the area to create a cavity to accommodate a restorative filling. “It’s the drilling process – the noise, sensation, pain and recovery time – that’s feared by some patients, deterring them from visiting the dentist and reducing the chance of early decay diagnosis and treatment,” says Professor Kirkham.

The technology provides a simple and costeffective alternative to current treatments. It also allows the dentist to ‘heal’ rather than ‘repair’ dental decay, meaning that the patient receives a pain-free treatment that regenerates the natural tooth tissue. The application of the self-assembling peptides is an aqueous solution that is painted onto the tooth surface. The solution infiltrates the lesion’s micropores, where the local environment within the lesion triggers the peptide self-assembly mechanism. This leads to the formation of a bioactive scaffold which encourages natural repair and recapitulates the normal enamel development process. In order to make this idea a reality, the ‘filling without drilling’ technology was licensed to Swiss spin-out company, credentis ag, in 2010. The company’s CEO, Dr Dominik Lysek, is a chemist by training and has a PhD in Biophysics. He was working in clinical research for a biomaterials company in Switzerland when he first came across Professor Kirkham’s research. “I immediately saw the potential for its application in dentistry,” he says. “The concept had so many possibilities that I got in touch with Jennifer to discuss how we could work together to bring this research to market.” credentis ag was formed in 2010 specifically to commercialise the Leeds technology and was recognised as being among the top Swiss spin-outs in the ‘Die Besten Schweizer Spinouts 2011 Top 100’ ranking. The company now employs four people and has recently opened an office in Leeds, reflecting the continuing close collaboration with the University. Securing a 2.5 CHF million investment (approximately £1.75m) in early 2011 enabled the continued development of the technology and meant that Dr Lysek could devote his time solely to credentis ag and advancing the product. A more recent boost to the company has come in the form of a further substantial investment which will push the technology on to the next stage. In May 2012, the EPSRCsupported Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) at the University of Leeds secured £1m to support the project. Medical Technologies IKC will assign a Technology Innovation Manager to ensure that development milestones are met for the market delivery of the commercial application for the technology.

“Half of the investment comes from credentis ag in terms of providing personnel to manage the project and clinical trial materials to make sure that the product, now called Curodont™, can be brought to market,” says Dr Lysek. “We plan to launch the product in Switzerland in 2013 and globally in 2014. Before that can happen, we will consult with opinion leaders in the dental health industry and carry out more clinical trials to prove the efficacy of Curodont™. The investment will permit us to broaden the product range for the company and expand the potential applications of the technology.” credentis ag is well aware of the importance of managing the public perception of Curodont™’s potential. “The technology does not mean that people will visit their dentist less often if Curodont™ is made readily available,” explains Dr Lysek. “In fact, they need to make sure that regular visits are maintained as the early detection of caries is essential to the effectiveness of the treatment. Teeth can be regenerated by its use, but that is dependent on timely screening. By removing the main obstacle to dentist visits – fear of the drill – more people will be encouraged to attend their routine inspections and that’s a win-win situation.” Professor Kirkham, who has a self-confessed fear of the dentist despite being an oral biologist, agrees. “This research is a step change in the treatment of early enamel caries,” she says. “The initial ‘first in man’ trials have been completed successfully and Curodont™ has received a CE-label for use by clinicians in Europe. The new funding enables us – the University of Leeds and credentis ag – to develop more products, with potential applications in the treatment of root caries, dental erosion and hypersensitivity.”


In May 2012, the EPSRC-supported Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) at the University of Leeds secured £1m to support the project.

t Leeds researchers Dr Amalia Aggeli (left) and Professor Jennifer Kirkham (right) are behind the new technology. 27 27

Impact 7

University of Leeds

r Exciting times: Professor Raymond Kwan of the School of Computing at the University of Leeds and Tracsis.

Leeds spin-out company Tracsis has been profitable since it was set up in 2004 and now, just eight years on, has a projected turnover of £7m. The key to its success? – having the solution to an otherwise intractable problem in its target sector and, of course, excellent timing. r



Impact 7

Timing is central to Tracsis. Spun out from research in the University’s School of Computing, the company went to market with a software package that could enable train operating companies to plan work schedules for their crews and drivers, ensuring (as far as possible) they and their trains would be at the right place at the right time. It sounds a straightforward problem – but it isn’t. Crew scheduling needs to take account of multiple issues, such as working hours, allotted breaks, health and safety issues, union agreements – to name but a few. The UK has one of the densest rail networks in the world and one of the busiest in Europe. If a crew isn’t on hand to start their shift or a driver has no time to get across platforms and start the train’s engine before departure time, the knock on delays across the network can be devastating. Train crew scheduling has traditionally been done manually – it still is called ‘diagramming’, based on its history as, literally, a diagram on a sheet of paper. The result has generally been inefficient schedules with staff costs up to 10 percent higher when companies got it wrong and were forced to bring in extra people to cover the gaps. Researchers at the University’s School of Computing had long been working on software to schedule crews efficiently – but mainly for bus operators where travel distances are shorter, working practices simpler and skill sets required on crews less stringent. Applying this to the train network was incredibly difficult, but seen as critical to ensuring an efficient and cost-effective UK rail service. With funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Dr Raymond Kwan and his colleagues in Computing had been working on a number of research projects since the 1990s, looking specifically at train crew scheduling. One of the major steps forward came when heuristics was combined with the traditional mathematical approach that worked for simpler schedules. “Maths can solve problems up to a certain size, but the crew scheduling for trains was just too large,” explains Dr Kwan. “Heuristics allows you to derive a set of compacted instances from the problem, which the maths can then handle so you can get a result.”

The addition of heuristics made the algorithms developed to date viable for use with the train network. Again, the timing was excellent. As Dr Kwan was developing the software into a marketable product with the support of the University’s technology transfer company, Techtran, the UK rail network was privatised and rail travel had begun the expansion which continues today, creating a stronger and more diverse market for the technology. Tracsis was spun out in 2004 after the software – now called TrainTRACS – gained its first customer, ScotRail. Because the system worked so well, the company was soon able to sign up other rail operators, as Chief Executive John McArthur, who joined Tracsis from Techtran in 2005, recalls: “The train operators were initially sceptical, partly because there had been earlier technology trialled in the industry that hadn’t worked,” he says. “ But we would take away their data, run it through the TrainTRACS software and then come back in a few weeks with a solution. People were soon convinced. The challenge then was to turn that into sales.” Tracsis have proved themselves successful at that side of the business as well: the software is now used by 14 of the 20 train operating companies. It has also been used overseas, for example to plan train timetables and scheduling around the Rugby Union World Cup in New Zealand. A growing market is with companies bidding for the UK operating franchises and the majority of these are due to come up for re-tender in the next few years.

Dr Raymond Kwan: “Companies use our software to demonstrate to the Department for Transport that they have carefully thought about the resources they need and that the promises they make are realistic. “To submit crew schedules at the bid stage is optional, but many do the calculations for their own purposes anyway and include it to demonstrate robustness. What we’ve found in the past is that if the winner has used TrainTRACS to put together the bid, they’ll most likely continue to use it if they win the contract.”


Tracsis now has 45 full-time staff and three offices, two in Derby and one still in Leeds.



On time and on track

Maths can solve problems up to a certain size, but the crew scheduling for trains was just too large, heuristics allows you to derive a set of compacted instances from the problem, which the maths can then handle so you can get a result. Dr Raymond Kwan, School of Computing Although the TrainTRACS software is still core to the business, the company has come a long way from its early start-up days. Its portfolio also includes crew rostering software, and in the last four years Tracsis has acquired four more companies to help broaden the services it offers. These now include consultancy, passenger counting and diagnostics, performance management tools and hardware for remote monitoring of the tracks. Dr Kwan continues as Tracsis’ Chief Technical Officer, while retaining an academic role at the University and is currently developing new methods for optimising the use of rolling stock. “When we first came to market eight years ago, we were really a one-trick pony,” says John McArthur. “Although we are now a fully fledged and well balanced PLC, we still stay true to our initial ethos. The work we do is very much focused on real needs, identified by the customer, and we only develop new products on that basis.” Tracsis now has 45 full-time staff and three offices, two in Derby and one still in Leeds. And for John McArthur, despite the distance Tracsis has travelled, those roots are very important. “We’ll always be a spin-out company, it’s our history, it’s where we came from and we’re very proud of that,” he says. “Lots of spin-outs, once they grow beyond a certain size, lose their links to their founding university, but for us the connection is still very real, with the University remaining a key shareholder. We’re proud to be a Leeds success story and hope that one day, if the University chooses to sell those shares, our success will give them a good reward.”


The software is now used by 14 of the 20 train operating companies. It has also been used overseas, for example to plan train timetables and scheduling around the Rugby Union World Cup in New Zealand.

Impact 7

Material gains

x Research at NIRI is helping to shape the agenda in nonwoven fabric engineering.

MATERIAL GAINS From blood filters to tea bags, University of Leeds spin-out company, NIRI Ltd provides world-leading expertise in nonwoven fabric innovations to companies and organisations across the globe. The company has grown year on year since its formation in 2005, and there are exciting times ahead.

The NIRI story begins with Professor Stephen Russell, who, after joining the University in the mid-1990s, looked to shape the research agenda in nonwoven fabric engineering around the needs of industry with a view to addressing the key issues, questions and requirements of the sector. It was at this time that greater attention was focused on nonwovens and engineered textile fabrics as an alternative to more traditional woven and knitted textiles. “The sector was growing, as increasingly different industry sectors were calling for more innovative, functional fabrics with which to work,” says Professor Russell. “We worked extremely hard to ensure our research was directly relevant to a range of industry sectors that require continual innovation – whether that’s for improving product performance or to

improve quality, environmental sustainability or cost-effectiveness.” The range of sectors to which Professor Russell refers is wide ranging. Nonwoven materials are widely used in healthcare, for dressings and incontinence products, as well as in medical applications such as blood filters and tissue scaffolds. On the other hand, they’re also important to consumer and industrial engineering markets including the automotive, construction, cosmetics and filtration sectors. It’s because of the breadth of these sectors, and the opportunities they provided, that Professor Russell believed there was a commercial opportunity. “We began forming collaborations with industry partners, we were building up a strong portfolio

of intellectual property and a number of companies were asking for our help to develop new products,” explains Professor Russell. “It was clear that companies really valued our input, and we realised there would be an opportunity for a spin-out company which could combine specialist technical expertise with commercial nous.” And so the idea for NIRI (Nonwovens Innovation & Research Institute) Ltd was born. Professor Russell was clear from the outset that the company needed strong commercial leadership. “I felt it was important to work with people who understood industrial product development across different market sectors and who had proven business and financial acumen,” he says.


Impact 7

Having presented to the Yorkshire Association of Business Angels, an organisation that represents private investors in Yorkshire, Professor Russell was put in touch with NIRI’s now-MD, Chris Fowler, who ticked all the boxes. With a background in working with large global organisations such as Smith & Nephew and Baxter Healthcare, Mr Fowler was looking for a new challenge closer to his home in York. “When I met Steve (Professor Russell), I could see the potential of the company he was proposing to set up,” says Mr Fowler. “In addition, and equally importantly we interacted very well personally and have great complimentary skills.” Mr Fowler and another business angel, Mike Rogers, who has subsequently become NIRI’s Financial Director, invested in the business during its start-up phase. The rest, as they say, is history. Since the company was formed in 2005, it has gone from strength to strength, and now employs 20 staff and its latest financial year has seen turnover of around £1m. Company profits are reinvested each year to fund its growth and impressively, more than 75 per cent of its business is repeat business or recommendations from satisfied customers. NIRI has three main models of working. The first is technical consultancy, where a commercial partner requires an effective solution to an issue or needs help in new product development. At any one time, NIRI is working on around 20 consultancy projects and even provides an ‘embedded scientist’ service, where a member of staff from NIRI will become part of an organisation’s product development team. Joint ventures are now providing the company with some exciting opportunities. “We identify new product concepts with commercial partners such as manufacturing companies and work together to finance and develop the idea subject to a joint development agreement,” says Professor Russell.


University of Leeds

These ventures, which are jointly funded, have the potential to eventually become separate companies, vehicles that will be used to exploit the jointly created intellectual property. “Longer term, we’re looking to license this IP to large global organisations that have the commercial sector experience and infrastructure to apply our novel technologies to different products and gain rapid market penetration,” says Chris Fowler. For example, one such joint venture with Edinburgh-based XeroShield has resulted in an insecticide-free mosquito net which is effective against chemical-resistant mosquitoes. Another has resulted in a compression activated liquid delivery composite material called SurfaceSkinsTM, developed with Zelo Creative to tackle the transmission of hospital acquired infections. Integrated into door-plates, door handles and to cover bedrails, SurfaceSkinsTM delivers an antibacterial or viricidal liquid, ensuring that the surface to which it is attached is self-cleaning. Having already received the thumbs up, in terms of demonstrating Proof of Concept tested within a NHS lab, NIRI is now consulting with commercialisation partners to take these technologies to market.

Whilst these joint ventures provide their own opportunities, so too does the IP generated solely by the company. Probably the strongest example of this is HydrospaceTM technology, an economical method of adding additional functionality to fabrics. HydrospaceTM fabrics contain internal cavities injected with powders, granules, waxes or gels that can be configured to either store or deliver the contents in a controlled manner. The patented technology is already being commercially developed in blood filters and protective body armour and NIRI are now seeking licensees in the cosmetics, femcare and baby product markets to name but a few. “Our HydrospaceTM technology could be used in a broad range of sectors: from the industrial sector through to healthcare and onto the consumer goods sector,” says Chris Fowler. “Hydrospace is ideal for many product applications where increased functionality would be beneficial. For example, delivering pharmaceuticals within a wound dressing, or increasing the thermal and acoustic properties of building materials.”


Further down the commercialisation pipeline is RollastopTM a thin and flexible slash-proof fabric being evaluated by retailers such as Co-op and Superdrug to protect goods and property without the need for metal shutters. “Our core remit is to develop novel or enhanced products and technologies which have a positive impact and are commercially viable.” says Chris Fowler. “ By working with a commercial partner through a joint venture or with our own IP we ensure that there is important knowledge exchange throughout the development process, which results in a more market-ready product”.

Our HydrospaceTM technology could be used in a broad range of sectors: from the industrial sector through to healthcare and onto the consumer goods sector,” says Chris Fowler. “Hydrospace is ideal for many product applications where increased functionality would be beneficial. For example, delivering pharmaceuticals within a wound dressing, or increasing the thermal and acoustic properties of building materials.

Chris Fowler, Managing Director, NIRI Ltd

Whilst clearly the technical development and commercial health of NIRI is strong, what is it that Chris Fowler and Professor Russell feel makes it so? “Fundamentally, the company blends strong scientific, marketing and financial expertise in a highly specialised industrial field. We’ve always been prepared to adapt our strategy to accommodate the needs of the industry.” says Professor Russell. Additionally, being based at a University with strong research in the fields of engineering, chemistry, regenerative medicine, materials science and biological science provides NIRI with a pool of expertise it can draw on where necessary. NIRI’s own team of technical and project managers are selected carefully. “Many of our staff have undertaken PhDs and then worked in industry for several years, so they have both the scientific knowledge, but also a commercial perspective. That’s incredibly valuable to us and to the companies we work with,” says Professor Russell.

It’s clear from the outset that Professor Russell and Chris Fowler are extremely enthusiastic about NIRI and the work they do. “It’s always been really important to me that my research work addresses real-world problems and NIRI provides the opportunity to make that happen in a variety of different ways,” says Professor Russell.

x Some of the real world technologies and applications to emerge from NIRI’s work include Rollastop and SurfaceSkins.


Material gains

Our core remit is to develop novel or enhanced products and technologies which have a positive impact and are commercially viable. By working with a commercial partner through a joint venture or with our own IP we ensure that there is important knowledge exchange throughout the development process, which results in a more market ready product. Chris Fowler, Managing Director, NIRI Ltd

More than this, there’s a valuable element of trust between NIRI and its clients. “Confidentiality is of paramount importance to us,” says Mr Fowler. “It’s important to us that our clients know that the work we do for them – which is often commercially sensitive – remains confidential and we ensure that it does. We believe that this has led to a high level of trust between us and our partners and that’s something we’re very careful to preserve.” The next stage for the company is launching its own products to market. In the pipeline are new materials for food preservation – a fabric that when incorporated within packaging prolongs the life of salads and other perishables, and a water-activated skin cleansing wipe based on NIRI’s HydrospaceTM technology.


Impact 7

x Working in partnership: L-R: Professor Nigel Lockett, Ayelet Melman, Matthew Stanford and Kairen Skelley. Image location (Admiral House, Rose Wharf, Leeds) by kind permission of Jim Dyson, Caddick Development Ltd. and Sanderson Weatherall LLP, Managing Agent.

34 34

University of Leeds

Inspiring enterprising individuals, creating entrepreneurs

AND FOR THAT REASON...I’M IN Inspiring enterprising individuals, creating entrepreneurs Ever since the first series of Dragon’s Den, interest in starting a business has been visibly on the increase across the UK. The student population is no different. Where once graduates expected to find work with a suitable employer, today a greater number than ever before are thinking about going it alone. 35 35

Impact 7

Inspiring enterprising individuals, creating entrepreneurs

This increase in interest in self-employment and business start-up was recognised by the University of Leeds a number of years ago, prompting the growth of a well developed and highly respected business start-up service, SPARK, which is the first port of call for aspiring entrepreneurs at the University.

“The advice we received after the 2011 Business Plan Competition was so encouraging,” says third year Medicine undergraduate Ayelet Melman, one of the four students behind the company. “It was clear the University believed we had an idea that could become a reality.”

These student entrepreneurs come from all over the University – no one faculty or department stands out. Business start-up expert and head of SPARK, Kairen Skelley, says: “We see students and graduates from all sorts of academic backgrounds – it’s not just business studies students as many people assume. Their business ideas are also incredibly varied.”

The next step for the group was to apply for one of the University’s pioneering Enterprise Scholarships, which were first introduced in 2008. Funded by University of Leeds alumni, these scholarships provide both financial and practical support to students who are looking to start their own businesses.

SPARK provides students and graduates with a place where they can bring their ideas, discuss them and gain valuable business knowledge and skills. The service provides one-to-one advice, a range of workshops and assistance in business planning. “I may one day be speaking to a student with the seed of an idea and the next discussing a full business plan,” says Kairen Skelley. “We can help at every stage. Many students don’t have the practical business knowledge – or enough of it – to really drive their idea forward. Through our workshops and one-to-one sessions we can work with a student or graduate to really develop the idea and the business plan, so they can start their business with confidence.” One such business is Wireless Medical Ltd, winners of this year’s SPARK Business Plan Competition, which provides £2000 to the winning company for business development. The Wireless Medical Ltd story starts back in 2010, when four medical students were put into a group to develop a business idea to solve an unmet need in the NHS, through a taught enterprise module called Social Entrepreneurs in Medicine; Making Changes, Being Enterprising. The quartet came up with an idea for a wireless heart monitor and in 2011, entered the Business Plan Competition. Although they came fourth, the experience proved the catalyst for them to try and realise the potential of their idea.

The Wireless Medical Ltd team, Scott Murgatroyd, Matthew Stanford and Helen Whitwood, along with Ayelet Melman, is now working on a prototype of their device. The team aims, once the prototype is fully developed in the Summer of 2012, to look for a licensee to carry out the necessary testing, clinical trials and manufacture of the device. “We hope that, within the next few years, our device will be improving patient experience in the NHS,” says Ayelet.


Over the past four years we’ve seen

Part of the Scholarships programme of support a year on year increase in students is a week-long business boot camp. The and graduates coming to SPARK for specialist support from individuals drawn from assistance,” she says. “This has been the professional services community, plus matched by an increase in calls to find inspiring talks from past students who’d ‘been out more about our business start-up there and done that’, provided the group with enough knowledge and confidence to enter facilities before prospective students – and win – the 2012 Spark Business Plan even apply to Leeds. competition. “Kairen Skelley has given us so much advice and we know that the professional Kairen Skelley, Business start-up expert and services contacts that she’s put us in touch head of SPARK with can be trusted. If there’s any problem or anything we need guidance on, the SPARK team there to help – they’re friendly and the The support provided by Leeds through its resources they have access to are great,” says Enterprise Scholarships, SPARK and the Leeds Ayelet. Enterprise Centre, which is a focal point for enterprise education on campus, are providing Dr Sarah Underwood, Director of Student an additional draw to the University. Kairen Education for the Leeds Enterprise Centre, who Skelley says the number of enquiries from facilitates the module says: “The module we individuals considering Leeds as their university do for the second and third year medics is a destination is on the increase at much the same really good illustration of how entrepreneurship rate as the number of students on campus can start in unexpected places. Ayelet and the considering starting a business. “Over the past Wireless Medical team are a great example of four years we’ve seen a year on year increase in students developing enterprise skills and using students and graduates coming to SPARK for these to address real issues.” assistance,” she says. “This has been matched by an increase in calls to find out more about Kairen Skelley and her team at SPARK have an our business start-up facilities before extensive network of professionals from outside prospective students even apply to Leeds.” the University. “We believe it’s important for students to learn from – and have exposure to – people who are already in business,” says Kairen. “And we also draw on our network to provide specialist sessions in areas such as finance, the law and marketing.”


The Leeds Enterprise Centre provides students from all disciplines with the opportunity to undertake taught modules aimed at raising awareness of enterprise and developing transferable skills. “We’ve added five additional modules this year,” says Professor Nigel Lockett, Chair of Enterprise and Director of Leeds Enterprise Centre. “Demand is rising for these modules year on year. Whilst in part this is due to an increased awareness of what the LEC offers, it can also be attributed to a growing recognition


within our student community as to their value, particularly in the current economic climate.”

enterprise, the role of enterprise in society and volunteering.

All modules offered at the Leeds Enterprise Centre provide credits towards an undergraduate degree and their subjects are wide ranging: from laying the foundations of knowledge around social enterprise, innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership through to more practical modules which address social networking, finance and corporate social responsibility. There’s also a well-defined provision of modules that address social

For some disciplines, the Leeds Enterprise Centre provide shorter, more intensive enterprise modules. A key example of this is the two-week elective enterprise module for second year medical students in which the founders of Wireless Medical Ltd participated.

Impact 7

University of Leeds



The aim of the ‘Tech Check’ scheme is to provide a boost to small and medium sized companies and the Yorkshire economy.

It is part of a major move to refocus and provide strategic leadership to Marketing Leeds as it moves forward with a broader role to attract inward investment and tourism.

Nanofactory, a consortium of Yorkshire’s leading universities, is offering local companies free access to their expertise to help develop new products or improve processes.

Nanofactory brings together scientists and engineers from the universities of Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam and York. Companies with technical challenges are being offered Tech Checks to give their products an edge through introducing new technologies, such as nanotechnology. New product development Nanofactory Director Professor Simon Biggs, who is based at the University of Leeds, commented: “In the current economic climate, many companies are looking to introduce new products to remain competitive, especially compared with foreign firms. We really want to work in partnership with our local companies to develop new R&D and to get new technologies out of the region’s universities and into production in our local companies.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor John Fisher has been appointed a Non-Executive Director of Marketing Leeds.

Professor Fisher is a world-leading researcher in Medical Engineering. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and received a CBE for services to Biomedical Engineering in 2011. He leads the Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (iMBE), which was recently awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize.


The University of Leeds Digital Technologies Innovation Hub has launched an innovative online software repository in a bid to maximise the impact of the stream of innovative software developed by the University’s researchers. One of 14 new industry facing Hubs at the University, the Digital Technologies Hub encompasses leading research groups working across several disciplines, all of whom are involved in developing hardware and software, either as products themselves, or as enabling digital and electronic technologies for other products or services. One of theHub’s primary aims is to get research code out of the laboratory and into companies or other end users, to maximise impact.

A total of nine Non-Executive Directors have been appointed, including Nigel Foster, Director of Arup and University Council member.

Hub researchers are constantly developing new software applications and demonstrators. Much of this software has now been made available at no charge for non-commercial use via the repository. In addition the repository hosts demos of potentially commercial They will join Chairman Andy Clarke, Deputy software, which should appeal to potential Chairman Roger Marsh and Chief Executive partners looking to develop some of these Lurene Joseph. ideas for a particular market. The initial The Board will oversee a series of programmes range of software online includes a novel visualisation package for interacting with large and initiatives as Marketing Leeds widens its “In the last three years more than 60,000 focus to drive economic growth in the city and datasets, tools for viewing and processing manufacturing jobs have been lost in 3D digital pathology slides and a simulation Yorkshire”, continues Professor Biggs.“We want ensure Leeds achieves its ambition to be the package for crystallisation processes. to help companies develop new opportunities to best city in the UK. help rebuild the local economy.” Lee Mason,Hub Manager said: “The software repository is a fully browseable, searchable About Nanofactory The Nanofactory project is part-funded by a store of both free and commercial software £2.5m investment from the European Regional which will help us achieve our aim of taking Development Fund as part of the Yorkshire research from laboratory to companies and Humber ERDF Programme that is and other end users in the most efficient making substantial investments over the next manner possible. We’ve already seen several 3 years to create jobs and increase business successful collaborations, with companies competitiveness in the region. such as Perkin Elmer and Prozone, as well as the NHS, and we’re confident that with critical Find out more mass of content the repository can encourage Companies interested in taking a Tech Check many more”. should contact Sean Kelly at Visit the software repository at 0113 343 2402


Impact 7

Fantastically detailed images of human tissue samples produced using techniques developed at the University of Leeds are giving researchers unprecedented insight into how our bodies work. The system, which has been called a “3D microscope”, combines high resolution virtual slide images and software designed at the University of Leeds to produce high resolution, 3D images of samples. The images are multicoloured, and can be rotated and viewed from any angle. This new technology marks a step change in the quality of imaging techniques available in the field of histopathology – the study of tissue in relation to disease. Although the field has become increasingly digitised in recent years, the images available until now have been low resolution, 2D images, which are extremely time consuming to prepare. Developed by a cross-disciplinary team involving experts in pathology and computer graphics, the new technique will enable researchers to understand more about the 3D microscopic structure of diseases, such as cancer, in the human body. It could have applications in many different areas of medicine, for example, it could show a biologist the structure of developing organs, or a liver specialist the damage caused by hepatitis C, or a cancer researcher the vascular structure of a tumour.

University of Leeds

To do a 3D analysis, users would have to photograph hundreds of different 2D sections – a time-consuming and expensive process.

Already researchers at the University of Leeds and elsewhere are starting to put the technology to the test in a range of different research projects. Dr Ruth Wilcox, a Reader in Bioengineering, and Dr. Nagitha Wijayathunga in Leeds’ School of Mechanical Engineering, have a particular interest in computational modelling of the spine and using computational methods to develop and analyse new clinical treatments. They are using the technique to study particular problems with spinal discs. Using the 3D microscope they are able to reconstruct sections of discs to better understand the causes and possible treatments of back pain.

“The software we have developed allows batches of these slides to be scanned via an automated system using our virtual slide scanners. The images are then aligned digitally to create virtual 3D blocks of tissue for researchers to examine.” Dr Derek Magee, from the University of Leeds’ School of Computing, developed the software. “Having a 3D view can often make a real difference,” he says. “For instance, if you want to understand how a system of blood vessels supplying a tumour connects up, you really need to see that in 3D, not as a series of separate 2D sections.”

A second collaborative project involves Professor Neil Shephard, Consultant Histopathologist at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, who is using the 3D pathology system to study pre-cancerous polyps of the colon.

A key advantage of the system is the speed at which samples can be scanned. Whereas, previously, it could take many weeks to image and reconstruct a series of several hundred slides from a tissue sample, using the 3D scanning technology this can be achieved in just a couple of days, most of which time is taken up by the computer aligning the huge images. This ability to scan samples in such high resolution also gives the technique an advantage over other types of scanning that produce images in 3D, such as MRI or PET scans. These techniques can show details such as the position and spread of disease, but can’t show the particular shape and structure of cells at high resolution.

“As people start to use the system, more and more research uses for it are emerging,” says Dr Treanor. “We hope to continue to build on this and we’re also investigating how the software we have developed can be adapted for use on a specialised high performance computer, which will allow us to view these images at much higher resolution. Additionally, we’re looking at looking at whether the system can be commercialised, to make it even more widely available to researchers.”


Developed by the team over more than four years, the staff and equipment on the project Having a 3D view can often make a Lead researcher Darren Treanor, a consultant have been funded by a number of bodies, real difference. For instance, if you pathologist based at Leeds Teaching Hospitals including the National Cancer Research want to understand how a system Trust and Leeds Institute of Molecular Institute Informatics Initiative, Leeds Teaching of blood vessels supplying a tumour Medicine, explains: “Understanding tissue in Hospital Trust Research and Development connects up, you really need to see 3D is valuable to many researchers, but the Department, National Institute for Health process of preparing pathological specimens Research, West Yorkshire Comprehensive Local that in 3D, not as a series of separate for 3D study is traditionally a laborious one: Research Network, UK Department of Health, 2D sections. tissue samples must be mounted onto slides for and was partially funded through WELMEC, a photography with a microscope one at a time. Centre of Excellence in Medical Engineering Dr Derek Magee, School of Computing funded by the Wellcome Trust and EPSRC.

t 3D Images include: L: Mouse embryo segmentation R: Colorectal carcinoma 38

r The new technique will enable researchers to understand more about the 3D microscopic structure of diseases.


University of Leeds Leeds, United Kingdom LS2 9JT Tel. 0113 243 1751

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