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Due to the government imposed lockdown, Life Science Centre, Life Meetings and Events and Times Square Café are currently closed. The Life team will miss you! We look forward to welcoming you again soon. In the meantime, stay safe. For any queries, email us: info@life.org.uk

The Science Speakeasy event scheduled for Tuesday 1 December has been cancelled. We're sorry for any disappointment. We hope to reschedule this event at a later date, so if you'd like to hear about that and future events for adults at Life, sign up to our adult events mailing list: life.org.uk/subscribe

Life Science Centre will not be running its outdoor ice rink this year due to ongoing uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Read the full statement >

Due to the Government-imposed lockdown, Life Science Centre is currently closed.

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Local COVID-19 research


Scientists in the North East – some working onsite at Life – are part of a global effort to find treatments, new diagnostic tests and a vaccine for COVID-19. Here, we round-up the latest developments.

18 November 2020 – International research to investigate the impact of social distancing measures on mental health


Academics at Northumbria University are part of an international team investigating the effects of social distancing on mental health, quality of life and the use of social media amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While public health measures such as social distancing are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it is widely acknowledged that these types of restrictions can make people feel isolated, lonely and can increase stress and anxiety.

The team is now asking members of the public over the age of 18 years to take part in the study by completing an anonymous 10-minute survey online.

Read the full press release >​​​​​​​

18 November 2020 – Research to understand the spread of COVID-19 on public transport


Researchers at Newcastle University are involved in a study to understand the risks of COVID-19 transmission on public transport and to identify the best measures to control it.

The investigation will involve taking air and surface samples on parts of the transport network to measure background levels of the coronavirus. The researchers will develop detailed simulations of the way the virus could potentially spread through airflow, from touching contaminated surfaces and from being close to someone infected with the virus. 

Read the full press release >

18 November 2020 – Sewage research signals early warning of coronavirus outbreaks


A project involving experts at Newcastle University is successfully detecting non-infectious traces of coronavirus in sewage, providing an early warning for local outbreaks across the country.

The project has already worked successfully in an area in the South West of England, where sewage sampling data showed a spike in coronavirus material despite relatively low numbers of people seeking tests.

It has now been rolled out across more than 90 wastewater treatment sites in the UK, covering approximately 22% of the population in England.

Read the full press release >

18 November 2020 – Thousands of schoolchildren to benefit after University awarded over £300,000


Sunderland University has been awarded £313,000 from the Department for Education to be the North East provider of its National Tutoring Programme – a scheme designed to offer catch-up support to primary and secondary school pupils who may have missed out on lessons during the pandemic.


Read the full press release >

18 November 2020 – Should we be concerned about greater use of personal data during COVID-19?


​​​​​​​Academics at Northumbria University are investigating whether an increased use of digital information during the pandemic – such as monitoring of quarantine behaviour by drones, and access to Bluetooth data for contact tracing – could lead to a breakdown in public trust. The research is funded by AHRC as part of UKRI’s rapid response to COVID-19.


Read the full press release >

21 October 2020 – Plans for a multi-million-pound regional COVID hub


Plans for a multi-million-pound regional COVID hub – the first of its kind in the country – have been unveiled by the Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust and Newcastle City Council.

Serving the North East, north Cumbria, Yorkshire and Humber, the laboratory will deliver high-volume, rapid turnaround of COVID-19 tests, with the capacity to process up to 80,000 tests a day if needed. The integrated COVID hub will link testing and results into clinical data systems used by hospitals and will support NHS Test and Trace, as well as increasing local resilience for rapid outbreak response.

It will also include a specialist innovation lab at Newcastle Helix, tailored to develop new approaches for the next stage of COVID science.

The hub is due to open in December 2020, and has created about 1,000 jobs, from lab support workers to scientific and professional roles.

Read the full press release >

9 September 2020 – Newcastle University joins UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium


Experts at Newcastle University are part of a national consortium to answer questions on how COVID-19 affects the body’s immune system to help develop better diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.

Identifying how the immune system responds to COVID-19 is critical to understanding many of the unknowns around the virus, such as why do some people become sick and not others, what constitutes effective immunity and how long might that immunity last? 

A new UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium has been set up to address these important questions. It will receive £6.5m over a year - the largest immunology grant awarded to tackle the pandemic.

Read the full press release >

9 September 2020 – Research+Me looking for volunteers

The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Trust has launched a new online registry for people in the North East and Cumbria to take part in late-phase clinical research, called Research+Me. They are currently looking for volunteers for late-stage research into vaccine trials, including for COVID-19.

More information >

26 August 2020 – Challenges of COVID-19 for people living with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)

A new research paper, led by scientists at Newcastle University, analyses the challenges of COVID‐19 for people living with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) – a condition associated with complex physical, neuropsychiatric and cognitive challenges.

Dementia has been identified as being disproportionately common in adults aged over 65 who develop severe COVID‐19.

The scientists argue there is a pressing need for research to study the impact of COVID‐19 on this population, including ensuring that people with DLB are not excluded from studies because of their age, shielding protocols or their dementia diagnosis.

Read the research paper >

26 August 2020 – Feel like time has stood still under lockdown?

In a news article, anthropologist Dr Felix Ringel from Durham University discusses his work investigating how people relate to time, particularly during crises. The current crisis, he says, could be seen to deprive us of our 'temporal agency' – the ability to structure, manage and manipulate our experience of time. For example, many of us will have already lost track of time, wondering which day of the week it is. It feels a bit as if time has come to a standstill.

He goes on to discuss 'enforced presentism': a feeling of being stuck in the present, combined with the inability to plan ahead.

Read the news article >


12 August 2020 – Call for 13-17 year olds to take part in research

Newcastle University is inviting young people aged 13-17 years to take part in research on their experiences of social distancing during the pandemic. Participants will be asked to regularly share what they're experiencing and feeling via Facebook and Instagram direct messaging until the start of the next school year in September. To take part, you can send a message to the group's Facebook or Instagram accounts or email steph.scott@ncl.ac.uk. In addition to contributing to important research, participants will each receive a £20.00 Amazon voucher.

12 August 2020 – Can specially trained dogs sniff out COVID-19?

Researchers at Durham University are investigating whether specially trained dogs can sniff out COVID-19 in humans in a collaborative project with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Medical Detection Dogs.

The researchers are now trying to recruit thousands of volunteers who have mild COVID-19 symptoms and are due to have a swab test, or who have had a swab test conducted in the previous 24 hours. They're targeting the North West of England, as the region has experienced a recent rise in coronavirus cases.

Should the trial be successful, these dogs could be deployed to airports in the UK within six months, with the potential of screening of up to 250 people per hour.

More information >

29 July 2020 – Why the term “super-spreader” can be stigmatising and unhelpful

In an article published in Asian Bioethics Review, Professor Emma Cave from Durham Law School at Durham University discusses why the term 'super-spreader' can be stigmatising and unhelpful.

General use of the term means it is now associated with moral failure and blame and is used as a term of abuse. Fear of condemnation could stop some people from giving up their private information and hamper efforts to test and trace. She suggests instead to talk about 'super-spreading events' rather than an individual 'super-spreader'. Or, better still, to make it clear that it is a scientific term.

Read the press release > 

29 July 2020 – Covid and Me: Take part to help the NHS find the solution

The UK is pioneering development and testing of vaccines and needs to recruit volunteers, especially those from communities who typically are under-served in clinical research, to see if they offer protection.

To assist in this, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) commissioned work with the support of experts across different fields – including Professor Lynn Rochester at Newcastle University – and the Theatre of Debate to produce a series of powerful monologues to explain to the public what taking part in research involves and why we need them to get involved.

Read the press release >


29 July 2020 – NHS staff vaccinations in the North East

As part of the Oxford trial, the COVID-19 research team at the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust vaccinated 500 NHS staff in the North East.

The team of scientists at the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group has already reported findings from an early trial showing the experimental vaccine induces strong immune responses in both parts of the immune system and causes few and mild side effects.
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29 July 2020 – COVID-19 virus testing service

MDNA Life Sciences, based in The Biosphere at Newcastle Helix – a facility for the commercialisation of life sciences in the North East – is making a COVID-19 virus testing service available to commercial businesses and other organisations with immediate effect.

More information >


17 July 2020 – Impact of lockdown measures differs across the country

New analysis indicates that, while mortality rates peaked in all areas of the UK in April, the lockdown decreased mortality much more effectively in London and the South East than in the North of England. This could have implications when looking at local lockdowns to manage further waves of the virus.

The analysis was conducted by the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA), involving Newcastle University, in collaboration with the NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) in the North East, North Cumbria and Greater Manchester.

Read the press release>

17 July 2020 – One in three British people might refuse a vaccine

An article for The Conversation co-written by Dr Daniel Jolley, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Northumbria University, discusses why some people might reject vaccines. The article follows a recent YouGov survey that found up to a third of UK respondents would turn down a COVID-19 vaccine if one becomes available. According to epidemiologists, upwards of 70% of the population may need to develop immunity to COVID-19 through vaccinations to stop the virus spreading through the population.

Read the press release >

17 July 2020 – Work begins on UK system for detecting COVID-19 in wastewater

Scientists at Newcastle University are part of a new national programme to perform underpinning research and develop a standardised UK-wide system for detecting COVID-19 in wastewater, reducing the reliance on costly testing of large populations. The scientists are working with partners Northumbrian Water, as well as Defra, environment agencies, public health bodies and other water companies across the country.

Read the press release >

1 July 2020 – Research into impact of social isolation on older people

Alzheimer’s Research UK has announced funding of new research at Newcastle University and the University of Cambridge to explore the impact of coronavirus-induced social isolation measures on older people at increased risk of COVID-19.

Dementia is caused by physical diseases in the brain and recent evidence shows that the condition is linked to a higher risk of severe COVID-19. Loneliness has also been linked with dementia and now the UK’s leading dementia research charity will fund research to explore how isolation policies are perceived and how they have impacted mental health, wellbeing, general health, and the use of social care.

Read the press release >

1 July 2020 – Newcastle company awarded £50k for COVID-19 research

Atelerix – a Newcastle University spin-out company that was founded at Life, and is now based at Newcastle Helix – has been awarded £50,000 by the Government to develop its existing hydrogel technology to extend the shelf life of COVID-19 test kits.

Extending the shelf life of viral swab samples will allow more patient samples to be collected en masse, and permit them to be transported further afield to centralised testing facilities.

Atelerix, founded by Newcastle University's Professor Che Connon and Dr Stephen Swioklo, who are still based at Life, was among only 800 companies chosen out of 8,600 applications to receive a share of the £40 million earmarked by the Government to help boost the UK’s resilience to the long-term impact of coronavirus.

Read the press release >

17 June 2020 – Testing kit given green light

On 8 June, QuantuMDx Group – a Newcastle University spin-out company that was founded at Life – announced its testing kit for the virus that causes COVID-19 has been given the green light for use within the European Union.

QuantuMDx has now registered the test with the UK’s Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The company has also applied to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorisation.

Working with British manufacturing partner Biofortuna Limited, QuantuMDx has scaled-up production capability to initially two million tests per week, with the potential to increase this to three million per week.

Read the press release >

17 June 2020 – Eyes found to be an additional entry route for COVID-19

New research led by Newcastle University's Professor Linda Lako, based at Life, suggests the surface of the eye is an additional entry route for the virus that causes COVID-19, using the mucus-rich ocular surface to make its way into the respiratory tract.

The research paper, which is currently in press but available online, has profound implications on the provision of protective eye equipment for healthcare workers looking after COVID-19 patients, and on the development of eye drops that could be used by everyone to help prevent infection.

Read the research paper >

3 June 2020 – New symptoms officially recognised

Loss of smell and taste has officially been recognised in the UK as a symptom of COVID-19, putting the country in line with the rest of Europe, America and the World Health Organisation.

The UK branch of the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research (GCCR), involving experts at Newcastle and Northumbria Universities, has welcomed the change as they have been calling for the complete loss of smell (anosmia) to be recognised as a marker for otherwise asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

This important development means people calling NHS 111 with sudden loss of smell and taste will now be told to self-isolate and are eligible for a COVID-19 test.

Read the press release >​​​​​​​

20 May 2020 – Our health heroes need your help!

Scientists worldwide, including experts at Newcastle and Northumbria Universities, have united as the Global Consortium of Chemosensory Researchers (GCCR) to investigate the connection between a loss of smell and the COVID-19 virus, even in the absence of other symptoms.
 
Anyone who has recently experienced symptoms of respiratory illnesses or smell loss is urged to complete a 10-minute survey.

Read the press release >

6 May 2020 – Sewage monitoring could provide early warning

Life's partner Northumbrian Water is working with Newcastle University researchers, as well as Spanish counterparts, to estimate the prevalence of COVID-19 from the non-infectious genetic residues of the virus that remain in wastewater systems when infected people go to the toilet.

Read the press release >
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22 April 2020 – The sweet smell of success!

Published on 23 April in the prestigious academic journal Nature Medicine, Newcastle University researchers working onsite at Life have identified two cell types in the nose as likely initial infection points for COVID-19.
 
The identification of these cells could help to explain the high transmission rate of the virus. The research also reveals potential targets for the development of treatments to reduce transmission.
 
This was an international effort, including Newcastle University's Professor Linda Lako and her team at Life and bioinformatics officer Dr Rachel Queen.

Read the press release >

22 April 2020  Breath analyser could revolutionise COVID-19 testing

Northumbria University announced earlier this month that it is developing in-house research on a diagnostic breath analyser into a functioning prototype, thanks to funding from its Northern Accelerator programme.
 
To date, systems that diagnose diseases from breath have been unreliable. However, the new device resolves these issues and its results closely resembles results from lung samples taken surgically - opening up the potential for more accurate screening of COVID-19 in, for example, airports.

Read the press release >

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