Datesand News

Janet Wood Innovation Awards- Here come the Kids!

here-come-the-kidsMost of our readers and hopefully the majority of colleagues will by now be aware of the Janet Wood Innovation Awards which began over a year ago and for which this year’s deadline is fast approaching. The competition has proved to be extremely popular and a number of prize-winning products, developed by competition entrants are already selling well around the world.

You may not yet know however that, inspired by this initiative, a special version of the awards aimed at secondary age students has been developed and has recently reached its final stages. The aim is to harness the imagination and inventiveness of the young scientists, engineers and technicians of the future, inspire them to work together to come up with the best, most innovative and yet practical ideas and hopefully produce some wonderful enrichment devices for use in lab animal science as a result.

Mid-January saw the final stage of this first ever JWIA Kids Challenge Project hosted by the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology whose illustrious sponsors include Cambridge University Health Partners and the Sanger Institute. Students from the Academy were asked to come up with ideas for new enrichment products and then pitch them to fellow students and members of staff. It was decided there would be a winner and a ‘wild card’ from each group. Once the winners from each group had been selected the students then had to present to a group of experts in a Dragon’s Den scenario. The ‘Dragons’ where colleagues from within the industry, from Unit Managers to sales representatives. The Head Dragon was, appropriately enough, our very own and fairly youthful Ryan Hill.

The whole  process was really enjoyable for all concerned and proved, once and for all, just how imaginative and creative today’s youngsters can be if given a chance. We’ll tell you all about the three winners and their excellent ideas in next month’s issue but suffice to say that you will be suitably impressed by the ingenuity and the understanding shown by the competitors. We may well see some of these ideas translated into really useful enrichment devices in the not too distant future. Watch this space!


A (fabulous!) night at the Museum

helen-wedding-1Some of you may have noticed a subtle change that’s come about since the Christmas holiday? Our International Business Manager, Helen Child has, quite suddenly, become our International Business Manager Helen Porter! This is no accident or whim on Helen’s part but rather the result of a great decision by Helen and her partner Dave…… to get married.

To be honest, they didn’t rush into this decision. They carefully considered the pros and cons, looked at various scenarios, consulted experts and after a suitable consultation period (they’ve known each other for a mere twelve years), they’ve taken the plunge. All those who know this smashing couple are suitably delighted and those who were able to attend the ceremony at a very special venue in Manchester’s University district were even morehelen-wedding-2 delighted with their brilliant choice of setting and a fantastic night to remember.

Now at least one of the members of this formidable duo is fairly keen on dinosaurs it seems (funnily enough, Helen never mentioned this interest!). So on a magical evening in late December, our happy couple Helen and Dave, looking slightly nervous it must be said, but also utterly fabulous in their finery, plighted their troth underneath Stan, the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex, in the very heart of Manchester’s prestigious Museum.

We weren’t sure this was actually possible when Helen explained about their choice of venue (and star guest!) but it was, they were serious and it turned out to be the most perfect setting for such a splendid event in the lives of a really fun loving couple and their equally exuberant family and friends. A unique atmosphere, brilliant food and drink arrangements and some very unusual additional guests really made this a uniquely enjoyable evening (apart from the dinosaurs, some of the Museum’s collection of newts and salamanders joined in with the help of their keepers and guests were encouraged to hold them and ask as many questions as they liked).

helen-wedding-3There was a good turnout amongst Helen’s many friends and colleagues at Datesand and in a fairly predictable turn of events, some of the more unorthodox of the dancing came from Datesand stalwarts (Ryan and Jonathon of course).
We’re all extremely happy for Helen and Dave and want to wish them all the very best for a fantastic and fun-packed future together. . I don’t think any of us will ever forget one of the most enjoyable weddings in one of the most unusual venues and luckily but we have plenty of photos just in case.

A defence mechanism that can trap and kill TB bacteria

A natural mechanism by which our cells kill the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis (TB) has been discovered by scientists at the Francis Crick Institute, which could help in the battle against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The findings, published in Cell Host & Microbe, could enable scientists to develop treatments for TB – one of the world’s biggest health challenges – without the use of antibiotics, meaning that even antibiotic-resistant strains could be eliminated. The research was done in collaboration with scientists at the University of Oslo, the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Germany and the Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences in the Netherlands.

“We are trying to better understand how our cells kill the bacteria with the idea of boosting people’s natural defences in conjunction with conventional therapies to overcome TB,” says Maximiliano Gutierrez, Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute, who led the study.

Immune cells called macrophages recognise and engulf Mycobacterium tuberculosis – the bacterium responsible for TB – securing it within tight-fitting internal compartments known as phagosomes.

But before enzymes and toxic products can enter the phagosome to kill the bacterium, M. tuberculosis often escapes by puncturing holes in the phagosome membrane and leaking into the cell. In doing so, M. tuberculosis kills the cell and then feeds on its nutrients.

By imaging the infection of cells with TB bacteria in real time, the team uncovered an innate mechanism that prevents M. tuberculosis from damaging phagosomes: the phagosomes are enlarged so that the bacterium can’t easily reach and puncture holes in the membrane. This gives the cell enough time for bacteria-killing weapons to enter before the bacterium has a chance to escape.

“We have known for a while that tight and spacious phagosomes exist, but it is only now becoming clear why there are two types,” says Laura Schnettger, the first author of the paper and former PhD student in Maximiliano’s lab at the Crick.

By tagging different components in the macrophage with fluorescent markers, the team were able to see the enlarging of M. tuberculosis-containing phagosomes in real time under the microscope. They observed that M. tuberculosis failed to escape from these enlarged membrane sacs and that antibacterial components were delivered more efficiently.

The team discovered that when macrophages are set to work engulfing M. tuberculosis, a protein known as Rab20 delivers additional membrane material to M. tuberculosis-containing phagosomes to enlarge them.

“If you think of a cell as a city with lots of different types of transport then Rab proteins are the master regulators of public transport. They tell components in a cell where to go,” explains Maximiliano. “Rab20 directs more membrane to the phagosome, enlarging it and preventing the bacteria from getting out.”

The team also analysed the typical coughed-up material from human patients with active TB. They found that these patients had more Rab20 in their body than people without TB, supporting the idea that Rab20 is important in fighting the TB infection.

“A very high proportion of people that are likely exposed to M. tuberculosis, are able to clear the infection without developing full-blown TB,” says Maximiliano. “It is possible that the body’s natural mechanism to enlarge phagosomes plays a part in this.”

“The capture and escape of M. tuberculosis in cells is a highly dynamic process, so the only way you can understand what is going on is to image cells in real time at very high resolution. We are one of the few labs in the world that can perform long-term live cell imaging at sub-cellular resolution with the safety infrastructure required to work with a life-threatening bacterium.”

Openness Awards and Paget Lecture 2017

Posted by: UAR news team

The Openness Awards celebrate five winners who have encouraged the widespread sharing of best practice in animal research communications.


openness-logoOpenness around animal research, the fourth UAR Openness Awards celebrates a year of achievements of the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research. The evening recognises and rewards best practice in Openness around animal research, following nominations made earlier in the year. There have been some fantastic entries to the awards, and the winning entries have set a new standard for open communications.

Openness Awards celebrate how far the UK has come in communicating animal research. The University of Cambridge won the Award for Website or Use of New Mediafor its videos explaining how animals, including non-human primates, are used to understand and treat OCD.

pic-1The winner of the Award for Media Engagement was King’s College London for its eager involvement in the documentary ‘The Monkey Lab’, allowing cameras into to see its marmosets. Harry Dayantis, previously of UCL, was highly commended for his role in bringing ten universities together to press release their animal numbers.

The Award for a Public Engagement Activity was presented to the four organisations that came together to open their labs to 3D cameras in order that the 360o virtual Lab Animal Tour could be made.


The winning institutions were MRC Harwell Institute, The Pirbright Institute, the University of Bristol and the University of Oxford. Tony Davidge, from Cancer Research UK Cambridge
Institute, was also highly commended for his role in introducing local school children to the ethical and practical issues associated with animal research.

The Internal or Sector Engagement Award was presented to the Babraham Institute for their partnership with the Sophianum SGS school in Netherlands, getting its students to design and create solutions to challenging problems faced by Babraham, such as creating more effective mouse cages.


UAR’s Individual Award for Outstanding Contribution to Openness in Animal Research was presented to Rachael Buchanan and Fergus Walsh for their time and persistence in getting access and filming laboratory animals and subsequent balanced reporting at a time when ‘animal research’ evoked a knee-jerk response from much of the public and media.

Following the awards, Professor Clive Page, Head of Sackler Institute of Pulmonary Pharmacology, KCL, delivered the 81st Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture ‘How animals have helped with the discovery and development of drugs ofr the treatment of asthma and COPD’.

The Paget Lecture was first delivered in 1927 and has subsequently been presented by scientific luminaries including Sir Henry Dale (Nobel Prize, 1936), Sir Howard Florey (Nobel Prize, 1945) and Sir John Boyd Orr (Nobel Peace Prize, 1949). Last year the lecture was delivered by Professor Sir Mark Walport, the Government Chief Scientific Advisor.

To coincide with the Openness Awards and Paget Lecture, UAR has published the third annual report on the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK. The report details how signatories to the Concordat have fulfilled their commitments to improve openness and transparency, summarising information provided by the signatory organisations at the end of the Concordat’s second year.

Details of awards and a video of the lecture will be available here within a few days. The awards and lecture was live-streamed and can be seen on our facebook page:








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Datesand at LASA

img_9434It was a frosty winter’s morning when we, once again, set off to set up the Datesand stand for another LASA Winter Meeting in Birmingham.  At the now-familiar venue we were met by the super helpful Stuart Lamming and his team who helped me with my first issue of the week – that I’d booked myself in incorrectly!!  After a small panic about who I’d booked where, I was relieved to discover that Jonathon and Ryan’s bookings were correct – phew!

Ryan and I then set about opening our pallets and starting to assemble the Datesand stand.  A few grumbles later about height and the pallets were unpacked, the carpet was down and the frame was up.  After a quick snack break (the fish finger sandwich looked great!) we were ready to go again and by tea time the stand was looking fab.

Feeling pretty accomplished we had a relaxed evening in the bar with a few customers and trade colleagues and readied ourselves for the start of the main meeting the following day…

to be continued…

Datesand Crossing Continents – SALAS

We’re delighted to be represented now in Singapore and Malaysia by our friends at iDNA Biotechnology. iDNA are a very well established company based in Singapore, with a  strong business and distribution network in South East Asia.

Our photo shows the iDNA stand at the recent SALAS (Singapore Association for Laboratory Animal Science) exhibition in Singapore. We were very excited to see our products and banner stands on display at this important national meeting.



The Stars come out at night for UNICEF

unicef-2As a life-long Manchester United Fan, Jonathon was really delighted to receive an invitation for him and his wife Claire to join players and supporters at the annual  MUFC UNICEF charity dinner held this month. This year’s dinner celebrated 18 years of the partnership between Manchester United and UNICEF, the world’s leading children’s organisation.

Hosted by Mark Chapman and Rachel Riley and attended by all of the first team squad and staff, it was a star-studded occasion – topped off with a solo performance by Stormzy!

Jonathon and Claire report that the players were extremely friendly and open to talk and take selfies. Jonathon also mentioned that the only slightly morose looking figure present was, true to form, a certain Mr Mourhino!!

The annual event has helped to raise over £4 million for Unicef over the years. This year’s extravaganza netted over £200,000 for the organisation aimed particularly at its vital work in Thailand supporting education programmes for children with little or no access to schooling.

It was a great evening enjoyed by all – hopefully we’ll be invited again next year!

unicef-3 unicef-1


AALAS Bulletin from our social affairs correspondent, Ryan Hill

img_9138AALAS really does bring people together from across the globe for science, business and, of course, those highly enjoyable social events.

As the 2017 meeting drew to its close, it was only fitting for us Brits to follow tradition and conclude another fantastic conference with the now legendary Brits Night! Painstakingly organised by our own Nicky Windows, this year’s event saw the coming together of 43 British AALAS delegates.

The  evening was held  at an old school American bar named Buffalo Billiards. Pool and billiard tables were available to enjoy whilst socialising and catching up with fellow colleagues. The venue itself as well as the food and drinks were kindly sponsored by Agenda, Allentown, Datesand, Fuel 3D,  IPS, Rees Scientific, Sychem and Tecniplast.img_9152

Our sincere thanks to all the sponsors. With your support, everyone was able to enjoy yet another really successful Brits night.

The event ended at approximately 9pm. For many of us though, the party continued as we moved on to what had become our regular venue, The Blind Pig. There was music, dancing, lots of chat as well as more memories made and friendships forged.

NHS must drive forward life sciences

NHS must drive forward life sciences strategy, says Lords’ leader

November 28, 2017

lord-patelThe success of the government’s life sciences strategy hinges on the NHS using novel medicines and therapies, according to Lord Patel, the peer leading an inquiry into the sector.

Lord Patel is chair of the Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, which today takes evidence from big US pharma companies, including MSD, which has just announced a major investment in an R&D centre in London.

Representatives of two other big US pharma companies, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit, will also give evidence this morning.

Originally trained as an obstetrician, Lord Patel has a strong background in biomedical sciences and is leading the committee’s inquiry into the life sciences strategy, after the sector was one of four that have been given special deals to boost growth.

The other three sectors are construction, automotive and Artificial Intelligence. The life sciences sector deal has been agreed, but more detail will be announced next week.

But Lord Patel is the latest to stress the importance of the NHS, the single largest consumer of health products in the country.

Unfortunately, the NHS has a reputation for slow adoption of the latest drugs and therapies, and the argument is that this must change if the pharma and life sciences sector is to achieve its true potential, as well as ensuring patients get the best possible treatments and outcomes.

He told pharmaphorum in an interview ahead of today’s evidence session that MSD’s announcement is “very important for the UK” and the life sciences sector deal.

The government is already trying to encourage use of novel drugs and therapies, by creating an Accelerated Access Pathway that will select a handful of products, hasten their clinical development, and encourage their use in the NHS.

But this is set against a backdrop of a continued squeeze on funding, and an annual struggle to meet waiting times targets in A&E and cancer each winter because services cannot meet demand.

Although the chancellor Philip Hammond in his Autumn Budget pledged an extra £2.8 billion in funding to relieve pressures until 2020, critics have said this still falls short

“What this demonstrates is the confidence in life sciences and biomedical life sciences. It is true that biomedical sciences are quite strong. We are well regarded in our biomedical sciences and companies large and small will be interested if we can develop this.”

“What is important is how this will be driven by the NHS. It will only happen with the NHS,” said Lord Patel.

Lord Patel said that a body with oversight of the life sciences strategy will be a key part of the sector deal, and will need to be influential to steer the plan to success.

“There will be a creative council that will report to the government – it is important to see how high a level it is and how much authority it has.”

Labour has criticised the sector deals, saying that the government should be focusing on improving productivity, and pay and conditions, in industries such as hospitality.

In response to this, the crossbench peer said: “What the plan is about is investing over 10 years in life sciences. That does not mean we are not interested in other sectors, or other services.”