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Professor Mimoun Azzouz from the University of Sheffield has been presented with a €2.5m award from the European Research Council (ERC) for his groundbreaking work in gene therapy for neurodegenerative diseases.
Professor Azzouz, Chair of Translational Neuroscience at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), has been recognised with the prestigious and highly competitive ERC Advanced Investigator Award, a great distinction in European biomedical research. The outstanding achievement allows Professor Azzouz and his team to expand the horizon of translational research at SITraN and develop tools for efficient, safe and selective delivery of therapies to the central nervous system (CNS) to treat neurological disorders. His research team will also undertake studies in order to gain a better understanding of disease mechanisms at the molecular and cellular levels in two devastating neurodegenerative diseases, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and Motor Neuron Disease (MND).
Professor Azzouz said: "I am delighted to be presented with this prestigious award. This is a wonderful achievement which will enhance the research capability and profile of my research team as well as neuroscience research in Sheffield. This award now offers me a platform to reinforce my, and SITRaN's, European and international leadership in the field of gene therapy for neurodegenerative disease."
SITraN is an essential development in the fight against Motor Neuron Disease and other common neurodegenerative disorders of the motor system. Professor Azzouz has a long-standing interest in developing gene therapy approaches for neurodegenerative diseases. Professor Azzouz and his team utilise viral based gene transfer systems both for research and gene therapy applications. Such viral systems have included lentiviruses and adeno-associated vectors. His research focuses on developing new therapeutic strategies for Motor Neuron Diseases and Parkinson's disease. He also collaborates with other groups looking at new experimental approaches for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Patients suffering from a devastating disease are being given fresh hope through an innovative trial being led by the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.
The trial uses a new device to see if it can help patients with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), a condition that leads to muscle weakness and ultimately death, to live for longer and with a better quality of life. Patients with the disease, which affects around two in every 100,000 people in the United Kingdom, experience weakness of the limbs, have difficulty with speech, swallowing, and breathing. Weakness of breathing muscles including the diaphragm (the main breathing muscle), usually results in death within two to three years.
In the revolutionary trial patients with MND are having a device – called a diaphragm pacing (DP) system – implanted to help increase the strength of their main breathing muscle. Small electrodes are implanted into the diaphragm, while a small external stimulator delivers electric pulses, strengthening the muscle. Patients carry a small device that enables them to switch the pulses on and off.
The study, called DiPALS, is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme and the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA), to a value of over £1.3m. It will compare use of the device with the standard treatment for MND, which involves providing the patient with ventilation through a mask. The trial will take place at five different sites across the country, and will see 108 patients taking part, with half receiving the device and half the standard treatment.
After 12 months, patients with the device can choose to stay with it or revert to standard treatment. It is hoped that the device will prove to have benefits that are not gained through standard treatment. For example, not all patients are able to tolerate standard treatment, as it can interfere with communication and eating, and the ventilator can restrict mobility. Use of the device could potentially provide patients with a better quality of life, and life span.
Dr Christopher McDermott, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Neurology at the University of Sheffield and Honorary Consultant Neurologist, who is leading the study, said: "It's excellent that we've been able to gain such generous funding to trial diaphragm pacing in a large-scale study. The technique has shown promise in our pilot series, and so we are pleased to have the opportunity to fully assess the devices and establish if they can provide benefits to patients.
"Treatments for breathing difficulties in MND have improved in recent years, but this trial will establish whether we can improve the quality of life and life expectancy of MND patients even further. We hope, if proven to be of benefit, that diaphragm pacing could become standard treatment in the NHS."
Patient Malcolm Chattle, 70, of Crookes, Sheffield was diagnosed with MND in 2006 and had the device implanted as part of a pilot version of the trial in 2009. He said: "The disease was making it difficult for me to breathe, and as a result I was having trouble sleeping. Having the device has really helped me to breathe and has improved my quality of life. The device means I can still walk quite a distance, and I can sleep much better. Using the device is very simple – I just have to switch it on at night. The staff have also been great and very helpful. I'm really pleased this trial is taking place, as it should help lots of patients in the future."
The trial will conclude in 2014, when all the results will be brought together. The research will take place in NHS Hospital settings in Sheffield (Royal Hallamshire Hospital), Oxford (John Radcliffe Hospital), Newcastle upon Tyne (Royal Victoria Infirmary), Manchester (University Hospital of South Manchester and Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust Hospital), Birmingham (University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust).
The Department of Neuroscience and SITraN has launched its second MSc course in September 2012 to complement the MSc in Translational Neuroscience which ran successfully from September 2011.
The MSc in Clinical Neurology, working with NHS colleagues, provides the students with an in-depth overview of a range of neurological diseases, their symptoms and treatments as well as giving students the opportunity of attending clinics to consolidate that theory.
We welcomed sixteen students to the department and SITraN in 2012, [9 Home/EU and 7 International], including one student funded by the prestigious Commonwealth Scholarship. Applications for 2013 are substantially higher so the department looks forward to continued interest in these courses in the coming years.
Two University of Sheffield developments were honoured at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Pro-Yorkshire Awards 2011 last week (20 May 2011).
The Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) and the Western Bank Library beat off competition from the rest of Yorkshire's most impressive property schemes to win. SITraN scooped the award for Best Design and Innovation, whilst Western Bank Library won the award for Best Building Conservation. The RICS Pro-Yorkshire Awards celebrates inspirational initiatives in the land, property and construction sectors. From an entry of 69 projects from all over Yorkshire and Humberside, 56 schemes were shortlisted for eight RICS category trophies.
The award for SITraN is another in a series of accolades that the institute has received since its opening by Her Majesty the Queen in November last year. SITraN also won the award for Best Commercial Development at the South Yorkshire and Humber Local Authority Building Excellence Awards in April. Also in April, the Duke of Devonshire, Honorary Patron of SITraN, addressed an audience at the institute's first public open day. Professor Pamela Shaw, Head of Department at SITraN, said of the RICS Award: "This is wonderful recognition for the talented teams that designed and built the SITraN building. Research on Motor NeuronDdisease and related neurodegenerative disorders now has state of the art facilities in Sheffield. These will have a huge impact on the speed and quality of our research, in terms of creating benefits for patients and our ability to attract talented clinicians and scientists from around the world to join our research effort in the city of Sheffield."
Opened by poet T.S. Eliot in 1959, the University's Western Bank Library is widely regarded as one of the most significant academic buildings of the immediate post-war period, and was designed to hold over a million books. A refurbishment project completed last year saw the building restore its distinctive original features whilst updating the building's facilities for current library users. Martin Lewis, Director of Library Services, said: "I'm very pleased, on behalf of the project team and the University Library staff, that the sensitive redevelopment of this fine building has been recognized by RICS. It follows the project's success at the Royal Institute of British Architects White Rose Awards and Sheffield Design Awards and reflects the outstanding quality of both the design and execution."
David Briggs, Project Manager of the SITraN development, commented: "It's satisfying for the whole team that their efforts in delivering this excellent building have been rewarded. Combined with the award for the Western Bank Library, this demonstrates the University's commitment to combining both modern and sympathetic design with the world leading research which takes place within."
Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, will visit the University of Sheffield later today to officially open the new Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), a centre of excellence for research into motor neurone disease (MND) and other neurodegenerative diseases.
During the morning part of the visit, Her Majesty and The Duke will officially unveil the new state-of-the-art £12 million research institute at the University, which is set to make Sheffield a world leader for research into motor neurone disease (MND). They will also view the new facilities at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) and meet with scientists and medical specialists who will dedicate their research to finding the causes and cure for MND.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will also visit Sheffield Cathedral where they will view a number of award-winning projects led by SheffieldVolunteering, based in the University's Students' Union. This will include a showcase of the Flourish project, where students work with people with traumatic brain injuries and the Lego Club, which helps children to engage with parents through imaginative play sessions.
Her Royal Highness will also tour the University's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing, lead a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) with Rolls-Royce and see at first-hand the award-winning volunteering projects led by the Students' Union. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will be welcomed to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing during the afternoon. They will have the opportunity to tour the world-class global research facility and view at first-hand the innovative and advanced technological solutions that are manufactured there as part of a cutting-edge collaboration between academia, government and industry. Her Majesty will also lead a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction for the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) with Rolls-Royce.
Her Majesty's last visit to the campus was to personally inaugurate the University's Jubilee celebrations back in 1954. 49 years prior to this, Her Majesty's Great-Grandfather King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, officially opened the University of Sheffield in July 1905. The great event was of huge significance to the people of the city, who turned out in their thousands to view the King and Queen personally open their new university. The event was marked with street decorations, triumphal arches and a procession of open carriages.
Professor Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: "It is an enormous privilege for the University to be welcoming Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh to our campus today. Her Majesty's last visit to the campus was to personally inaugurate the University's Jubilee celebrations back in 1954. Fifty six years on and Her Majesty will be able to see at first-hand some of the University's many accomplishments - from a world-leading medical research centre, to our cutting-edge engineering research facility, to our nationally-acclaimed volunteering projects. We are eagerly awaiting the visit and it will undoubtedly be an exciting occasion for the University community and for people across the region."
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