New funding for livestock research centre

A new government and industry-backed £70million livestock innovation centre has been launched, supported by University of Leeds investment. Bringing together the food industry and researchers, the government has awarded £27.7 million to set up Centre of Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIELivestock). It aims to transform the productivity of the UK livestock industry by providing a “one-stop-shop” to drive innovation. The University of Leeds investment has been match-funded by government, giving a total of £7m to help develop its specialist pig research facility. Funding from other industry and research institutions makes up the £70 million.

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Urgent need to transform key food producing regions in Africa

Agriculture in parts of sub-Saharan Africa must undergo significant transformation if it is to continue to produce key food crops. A new study, published in Nature Climate Change, shows that maize, beans and bananas are most at risk from climate change. The research is the first to allocate timeframes for changes in policy and practice in order to maintain production levels and avoid placing food security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers at risk. Study lead author Dr Julian Ramirez-Villegas from the University of Leeds, who is working with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), said: “This study tells where and, crucially, when interventions need to be made to stop climate change destroying vital food supplies in Africa.

“We know what needs to be done and, for the first time, we now have deadlines for taking action.”

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Using old drugs to treat new viruses

A group of drugs already in everyday use to treat psychosis or depression may also be used to defeat deadly and emerging viruses. Researchers from the University of Leeds found that common drugs in everyday use were successful in preventing a particular virus from infecting cells, by blocking the ion channels that regulate potassium levels in those cells.

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Air quality success, but what about the impact of Brexit?

New research celebrates the success of EU air quality policy, at a time when such policies face an uncertain future because of Britain's European referendum.

The study, led by the University of Leeds, has found that about 80,000 deaths are prevented each year due to the introduction of European Union (EU) policies and new technologies to reduce air pollution. Published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, it is the first study to look into the effectiveness of specific EU policies to reduce air pollution across Europe. It reveals that the policies have led to a 35% reduction of fine particles in the atmosphere over the period 1970 to 2010, which has improved public health across Europe. The good news, however, comes at a time when such policies face an uncertain future in light of a potential Brexit.

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Will driverless cars increase reliance on roads?

Researchers warn that driverless vehicles could intensify car use, reducing or even eliminating promised energy savings and environmental benefits. Development of autonomous driving systems has accelerated rapidly since the unveiling of Google’s driverless car in 2012, and energy efficiency due to improved traffic flow has been touted as one of the technology’s key advantages. However, new research by scientists from the University of Leeds, University of Washington and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, says its actual impact may be complicated by how the technology changes our relationship with our cars. The research, published in the journal Transportation Research Part A, was led by Dr Zia Wadud, Associate Professor in the University of Leeds’ Faculty of Engineering and a research group leader in the University’s Institute for Transport Studies.

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Improving rainfall and flooding predictions

The University of Leeds is a partner in a new research project to improve our understanding of rainfall and flood predictions in Scotland. Scientists from the University will work alongside the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), Scottish Water and the Met Office. The Radar Applications in Northern Scotland (RAINS) project will involve the deployment of NCAS’ Mobile X-band Radar to Kinloss, Scotland, from January to July 2016, to observe clouds and measure rainfall. The observations from the NCAS radar will be used alongside the existing Met Office radar network to study precipitation and flooding. This will be the first in-depth study of clouds, precipitation and how they link to flooding in Scotland. The NCAS radar is capable of measuring clouds and precipitation in remote locations and is the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom.

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Researchers to use supercomputer to 'hack' Ebola

Scientists at the University of Leeds will run the equivalent of password cracking software to find the chemical keys to defeating the Ebola virus. A team from the University’s schools of Chemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology have secured a £200,000 grant from the Wellcome Trust to find drugs to cure the disease. Although several Ebola vaccines are being developed, there are currently no effective anti-viral drugs to treat people once they get infected. This is a particularly serious issues because of barriers to implementing vaccine programmes in the most at-risk communities and the difficulty of predicting where the disease will strike next. The University of Leeds researchers will focus on finding anti-viral drugs. 

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Breast cancer survivors could be vulnerable to common illnesses

Breast cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy could be vulnerable to common illnesses because of the long-term impact on the body’s immune response, according to new research findings. Chemotherapy is used to treat 30% of breast cancer patients and whilst previous studies have investigated its effects on immune systems during the therapy itself - and up to a short period after the last treatment - little is known about the long-term impact on immunity. Researchers from University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust measured the levels of lymphocytes, a group of white blood cells involved in the body’s immune response, together with antibodies. They found that chemotherapy reduced levels of some immune system components for at least nine months after treatment.

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Digital design to boost pharmaceutical industry

University of Leeds researchers are part of a project to transform the UK’s pharmaceutical industry by introducing new digital design processes. The £20.4 million ADDoPT (Advanced Digital Design of Pharmaceutical Therapeutics) project is a major four-year collaboration between the Government, industry and universities. It is expected to reduce the development time and cost of innovative medicines and improve the competitiveness of the UK’s pharmaceuticals sector.

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‘Big Data’ generates need for ‘Data Diplomacy’

“Data Diplomacy” seeks to better understand the role that data sharing plays as an agent in social and political relationships around the world. Examples of data diplomacy can include: negotiations between two competing health systems to enable access to electronic medical records of shared patients; cross-national sharing of outbreak data, such as ownership of and access to information about people impacted by Ebola virus; or the impact on diplomatic relationships among nations due to systematic “leakages” of data, evidenced by the Edward Snowden case.

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Leeds researchers conduct new training programme in Africa

A team of researchers led by the University of Leeds is conducting a new and innovative training programme in Africa. The Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) project, led by Professor Melvin Hoare, seeks to provide people in the targeted countries with training to use radio telescopes. It also has an outreach programme to encourage young people to study the technological aspects of radio astronomy and pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. The project is funded by the Newton Fund – a novel initiative that aims to promote the economic development and social welfare of developing countries through scientific collaboration.

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