Datesand News

Janet Wood Innovation Awards- the project moves on!

Following the breathtaking success of the first ever JWI Awards last year, we were hoping of course for a similar level of interest and some truly brilliant, innovative ideas for products designed to enrich the lives of the animals so precious to our sector. As those who were able to see the final stage designs during this year’s Congress will have witnessed, we weren’t at all disappointed.

As before, it was extremely difficult for the judges to whittle down the entrants to just three. Some really good ideas were forthcoming in this year’s competition. In the end, it comes down to a combination of innovative design concept and suitability for cost-effective manufacturing. Our three winners clearly had both in spades and we look forward very much to bringing them to you as finished products in the very near future.

The winners


Our third placed designer, Marc Curtis, a Senior Technician from UCL’s Institute of Opthalmology, came up with a clever variation on the Fast Trac with his Mouse Spinning Wheel able to be attached easily to the bars of the cage lid. As Marc points out in his specification,  keeping this up above the floor of the cage provides more space for the mice to move throughout the cage.




Victoria Preston’s Aqua Image/Aqua Floaters design was our second placed product. Victoria is an Animal Technician at Liverpool University and came up with the great combination of a plastic insert shaped to fit into the bottom of a Zebra Fish tank and printed with an image of pebbles and sand.  The easily cleanable insert blocks out light coming from below as well as replicating the natural environment. Studies have shown that this type of substrate image really helps the well-being of the fish.  The second part of this ingenious invention helps the zebra fish in their need to seek shelter as well as providing suitable enrichment activity. Small, easily cleanable plastic discs can be floated on the surface, replicating fallen leaves and the like to provide the hiding places the fish need. They float around freely with the natural movement of the water offering natural enrichment activity as the fish follow them to seek shelter. A simply brilliant combination.



numbreroTalking about brilliant combinations, our first prize winner, Vanessa Jenkins from Plymouth University came up with the Nombrero, a combination wet feed reservoir and extra platform or refuge for mice. The Nombrero hangs easily from the cage lid so it won’t tip over. It can be used as a bowl to contain wet food which won’t therefore come into contact with the cage bedding. It serves equally as an extra platform or refuge for the mice thereby increasing the surface area and providing additional activity.

Great prizes awarded at this year’s IAT Congress in Harrogate

Vanessa wins a fabulous all expenses paid trip to a trade conference of her choice.  Victoria takes home a fantastic iPad Pro whilst Marc wins £200 worth of shopping vouchers. All 3 prize winners will have access to a £4,000 grant for publication in an open access scientific journal. This amazing prize is awarded in association with the Parsemus Foundation. 

Junior Janet Wood Innovation Awards – Here come the Kids part 2 – The winners!

jwi-jr-winnerIn the last edition of Spotlight we were delighted to let you know about the first ever JWIA Kids Challenge Project hosted by the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology. Students from the Academy came up with all sorts of ideas for new enrichment products and pitched them to fellow students and members of staff. Once the winners from each group had been selected, the students then had to present to a panel of industry experts. The  ‘Dragons’ chaired by our very own Ryan Hill, found the decision making to be a real challenge but finally selected a couple of outstanding ideas and two of these are showcased here. We don’t know about you but we’re absolutely blown away by the imagination as well as the serious thinking and presentation that have gone into these projects.

Ist Prize winner was Meriel and her BurrowBall. We’ll let her excellent presentation speak for itself. 

Burrow Ball
My product has been designed to provide environmental enrichment for mice and rats. It would be constructed from paper pulp in order to provide a source of bedding as the rodent would chew it, encouraging the rodent’s natural behaviours of gnawing and nest-making. Due to the fact that the product is hollow, it could be stuffed with additional bedding material to provide further enrichment. As the design allows easy access to the hollow core, it would not likely be a time-consuming process to prepare beforehand. However, it could also be possible to have the bedding placed into the centre by the manufacturer, saving time in the facility. To encourage foraging behaviours, food pellets could potentially be placed in the  Burrow Ball.

The shape of my product allows the rodent to grip it with their teeth or paws and move it about their enclosure, which is important in order to help ensure the rodent feels safe. Mice and rats need to be able to move their bedding material. For mice, the diameter of my product would be around 5cm. This would allow it to fit within the enclosure and be a suitable size for the mouse to move. For rats, the diameter would we around 7cm as they are larger but there are still space constraints in the testing facilities. The bands that make up the product would scale accordingly.

One other potential option would be produce a similarly-shaped product made of mouse or rat food, but this may not be possible due to restrictions in the testing facilities and manufacturing

…and the second prize goes to!

Mouse House by Ethan

My enrichment is designed to simulate a mouse’s burrow. I decided that this would be a good way to make the mice feel like they are in their natural habitat because mice in the wild spend most of their time building burrows to keep themselves safe from predators and to keep them warm.  Therefore this design would help the mice feel more safe which will reduce how stressed the mouse feels. The design will improve the lives of mice with pups because they will be able to keep all of their pups in one place where they are safe.

mouse-house-1The burrow is designed to be as similar as a real mouse’s burrow as possible therefore it will have three main sections an entrance tunnel for the mice to enter and exit the nest, a nest where the mice will have bedding material to move around for warmth and comfort and an escape tunnel that the mice would use in the wild if a predator entered through the entrance tunnel. 

There are also many features of the burrow which help to make life easier for the staff in animal research facilities. It will be made of red polycarbonate so that staff can easily see the mice through the burrow while still making the burrow as similar as a mouse’s natural habitat as possible because mice can’t see red light so the polycarbonate will appear black. The burrow will also have a removable lid so that the burrow can be opened without disturbing the mouse’s nest.

While I was designing the burrow I found it difficult to make it small enough to fit inside of the cage while still making the nest big enough for serval mice to fit inside so I decided that some of the nest could sit below the bedding in the cage rather than on top of it. I wanted to make sure that the nest was dark because inside of a real mouse’s burrow it is dark so rather than having two holes in the nest it has two tunnels leading into the nest to stop as much light as possible from entering the nest.

mouse-house-2  mouse-house-4  mouse-house-3

Oxford Quiz Night

On Friday 13th April, Oxford hosted its annual IAT quiz night.
A long running event for Oxford that welcomed all who wished to take part in a competitive and rather comical quiz night. The quiz saw the coming together of a number of Oxford Establishments such as Oxford University, MRC Harwell and Envigo. We were split into 12 teams. Some at random others, Oxford quiz veterans who have been involved in the quiz in previous years. Tecniplast kindly hosted and organised the quiz. The quiz was split in to 8 different categories. Categories ranging from general knowledge, music history to can you name that breed of dog/cat! Datesand sponsored the event alongside S3 sciences. Ryan Hill was our representative and joined forces with S3 Sciences to form an all trade team. Our team name “it’s the taking part that counts…” suited the team perfectly coming second to last. Ryan personally believes this was no fault of his own!

The quiz was full of laughter and fun in the presence of fellow colleagues and friends amongst the industry. Once the quiz was over and the winning team was announced we moved on to a local pub for celebratory late night drinks before heading home. A great night had by all!

82-year-old Alzheimer’s sufferer who couldn’t recognise son gets memory back after diet change


She failed to recognise her own son Mark Hatzer and even phoned the police accusing the nurses who were caring for her of kidnap

An 82-year-old sufferer of Alzheimer’s couldn’t recognise her own son – but now she has got her memory back after changing her diet.

According to our sister paper, The Manchester Evening News, pensioner Sylvia’s condition became so severe she had to be kept in hospital for her own safety. She failed to recognise her own son Mark Hatzer and even phoned the police accusing the nurses who were caring for her of kidnap. But then came a change in diet – and, with it, a miraculous improvement in her condition.

mum-sonNow, Sylvia eats a diet rich in blueberries and walnuts. She and Mark devised the diet – which also includes broccoli, kale, spinach, sunflower seeds, green tea and dark chocolate – together. The Alzheimer’s Society is now sharing their recipes. Mark, who lives in Prestwich, Greater Manchester, first noticed his 82-year-old mum’s forgetfulness three years ago. She would struggle to remember birthdays or arrangements she had made with friends. After this became increasingly frequent, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in December 2016.

The deterioration was fairly rapid. Alzheimer’s often has the side effect of epilepsy – and after a seizure and fall the following March, Sylvia was taken to North Manchester General Hospital. Here Mark, 50, ‘reached the lowest point of his life’ when his mum did not recognise him. Medics asked if Sylvia could be sectioned, as she had accused staff of kidnapping her. Although this was not necessary in the end, it was two months before it was considered safe for her to be discharged.

One year later and Sylvia, a former telephonist, is still at home and unrecognisable from this low point. She is held up by charity the Alzheimer’s Society as an example of how the disease can be – if not be completely beaten – arrested significantly. She can remember birthdays once more, goes to tea dances and can carry out much of her own care needs.

large part of the transformation is down to a diet and recipes that Mark and Sylvia devised together, containing walnuts, blueberries and other brain-boosting food. They decided that medication was not in itself enough, so took heed of the fact that rates of dementia are far lower in Mediterranean countries and copied their eating habits.

 Mark, whose brother Brent also died in 1977, said:

“When my mum was in hospital she thought it was a hotel – but the worst one she had ever been in. “She didn’t recognise me and phoned the police as she thought she’d been kidnapped. Since my dad and brother died we have always been a very close little family unit, just me and my mum, so for her to not know who I was was devastating. We were a double act that went everywhere together. I despaired and never felt so alone as I had no other family to turn to. Overnight we went from a happy family to one in crisis. When she left hospital, instead of prescribed medication we thought we’d perhaps try alternative treatment.

In certain countries Alzheimer’s is virtually unheard of because of their diet.Everyone knows about fish but there is also blueberries, strawberries, Brazil nuts and walnuts – these are apparently shaped like a brain to give us a sign that they are good for the brain.”



Alex Scapens

 22 APR 2018

Birmingham Mail – Birmingham live news


From rural India to a cutting-edge cancer lab

24 APR 2018

prime-ministerMeeting a Prime Minister would be a significant moment for most of us, but when UCL researcher Dr Raju Veeriah met Indian Prime Minister Nahendra Modi at the Francis Crick Institute last week, everyone in his home village in India came out in celebration.

Raju grew up in a farming family in Periyavadi, a small rural village in South India 50km from the nearest train station. Raju was the first of the family to go to university, after his father spent years toiling on the farm to save up enough money to cover the fees.

Raju excelled as a cancer researcher and went on to do his PhD at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Inspired by his father’s work ethic, he saved up his PhD stipend to pay for his brother’s university education. Raju is now a successful researcher in Professor Charlie Swanton’s team at the Crick and the UCL’s Cancer Institute, where he developed a technique for detecting lung cancer relapse in the bloodstream a year before clinical signs appear.

When the Nature paper reporting this technique was published in 2017, Professor Swanton posted Raju’s parents a copy of the paper and a personal note about Raju’s important contribution. They were incredibly proud when they heard the news and called him up in tears of joy to congratulate him. So you can imagine how they reacted when they heard that Prime Minister Modi, was due to visit the Crick with UK Prime Minister Theresa May and hear about Raju’s work.

“My parents were so excited when I told them I was going to meet Prime Minister Modi!” says Raju. “Our village doesn’t have internet, so my brother drove them two hours to Pudukkottai, the nearest town, to see pictures from the visit at an internet café. They were in floods of tears and wanted to thank everyone involved in organising the visit. Seeing their reaction was truly humbling.”

Raju’s parents printed off a few pictures to take home, and now everyone in the village has been over to see them and celebrate Raju’s achievements

“Raju is a true inspiration and his parents are right to be proud of him,” says Professor Swanton. “What he’s achieved in the face of real hardship is truly incredible, and we’re lucky to have him in our lab.”

prime-minister-2To give Raju’s parents a more permanent memento, Professor Swanton spoke to Joe Brock from the Crick’s Research Illustration team who kindly printed and mounted high-quality images of the occasion to post to Periyavadi. The images capture the warm, friendly tone of Raju’s interactions with the Prime Ministers.

“The visit was a brilliant experience and Prime Minister Modi was so warm and down to earth,” says Raju. “When he came to meet the Crick’s Indian staff, he happily chatted to us in English
and Hindi and it was very casual and friendly. We had a really nice time, and a lot of us didn’t know each other before. After coming together for the visit, we’re all going to meet up again and maybe spark some collaborations – so there’s another bonus!”








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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: