An innovation from Swansea University has today been named as one of the UK’s 100 best breakthroughs for its significant impact on people’s everyday lives.
Professor Paul Dyson from the Medical Schoolis honoured in the UK’s Best Breakthroughs list for his pioneering work which has shown that Salmonella could be used to create better cancer treatments.
The research shows that unlike chemotherapy and radiotherapy, these treatments would be non-toxic, would target only the tumour, leaving healthy tissue unaffected, and could require only one dose. The technology at the heart of the approach is called RNAi, a natural process that cells use to turn down, or silence, the activity of specific genes.
Professor Paul Dyson has previously used this technology to develop a pesticide-free weapon against insects that cause sleeping sickness and damage crops, research which was funded by the Gates Foundation. In the next phase, the team will test whether bacterial strains can be combined to target the different cancer-causing genes (“oncogenes”) in different types of cancer including breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
The list of breakthroughs demonstrates how UK universities are at the forefront of some of the world’s most important discoveries, innovations and social initiatives, including the creation of the internet, work tackling plastic pollution, ultrasound scans to check the health of unborn babies and the establishment of the Living Wage.
The list also highlights the less celebrated breakthroughs that transform lives, including a specially-designed bra to help women undergoing radiotherapy; a toilet that flushes human waste without the need for water; the development of a new scrum technique to make rugby safer; a sports initiative that aims to use football to resolve conflict in divided communities; - and even work to protect the quality of the chocolate we eat.
The list was compiled by Universities UK, the umbrella group for UK universities, as part of the MadeAtUni campaign to change public perceptions of universities and bring to life the difference they make to people, lives and communities across the UK.
It follows independent research undertaken by Britain Thinks which found that the public has little understanding of the benefits of universities beyond undergraduate teaching. The findings show that research is one of the key triggers to change opinion about universities but for many people, it is an abstract concept.
Swansea University’s Registrar and Chief Operating Officer Andrew Rhodes said: “It is a fantastic achievement for the university to be featured in the UK’s Best Breakthrough list. We’re extremely proud of the work of our academics and difference they are making to people, lives and communities.
“The MadeAtUni campaign is an incredibly important initiative for Swansea University as it allows students, alumni, the local community and the wider population to understand the work that we do and the impact it has.”
Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said: “Universities really do transform lives. The technology we use every day, the medicines that save lives, the teachers who inspire – all come from UK universities and the important work being done by academics.
“The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list is a testament to the difference that universities make to people’s lives and we want everyone to join us in celebrating the work they do.”
The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list: 100+ Ways Universities Have Improved Everyday Life was put together in partnership with universities across the UK. As part of the MadeAtUni campaign, every university in the country was invited to nominate the one thing from their institution which they believe has had the biggest impact on people, lives or communities. Over 100 universities submitted a nomination. The entries cover health, technology, environment, family, community, and culture and sport.
You can find out more about the UK’s Best Breakthroughs and the MadeAtUni campaign here .
RNAi was supported by AgorIP, who are part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. Based at Swansea University, AgorIP helps researchers, entrepreneurs and inventors take their intellectual property (IP) to the marketplace and make it a commercial success.