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Face to Face with the New Optimists: Peter Sadler

Another scientist featuring in our first Kindle book The New Optimists: Challenging Cancer is Professor Peter Sadler FRS, an inorganic chemist.  In this video clip, he talks about what makes him optimistic.

Like many scientists, he’s far more excited by what he doesn’t know than what he does. Chemists know very little about how the eighty or so elements of the Periodic Table play a part in living organisms — yet a greater understanding, Peter argues, will lead to radically more effective drug treatments.

For example, every Agatha Christie fan knows that arsenic is poisonous. But lobsters (lobsters!) make some arsenic compounds that are

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Face to Face with the New Optimists: Paul Moss on controlling cancer

Our first Kindle book, The New Optimists: Challenging Cancer has just been released so it’s a good time to continue our Face to Face series by getting to know some of the scientists who have contributed essays on the topic.

We’ll be interviewing some more of the New Optimists over the summer, but here’s a video we first posted before the launch of the book last year – it’s an interview with Paul Moss, Head of the School of Cancer Sciences at the University of Birmingham, and Director of the Birmingham Cancer Research UK Centre.

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Challenging Cancer – the first of a Kindle series coming soon

Since the excellent Kindle Camp at Aston Business School on 1st June, we’ve been beavering away to create the first New Optimists Kindle book, the first of a series of mini-collections of essays by scientists on particular topics. And so The New Optimists: Challenging Cancer looks set to be out at the end of the month.

With an Introduction by broadcaster and journalist Sue Beardsmore, it comprises ten essays by leading oncologists, both researchers and clinicians. And yes, they are very optimistic about medical advances in our understanding and treatment of cancers.

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Make-a-Human DNA instruction kit, Ian Stewart & a third cup of coffee

I’m midway through the OU short course Human genetics and health issues. (I thought I needed more than a smattering of understanding about genetics and epigenetics, given I’ll be talking to a few top-notch researchers in the field in the coming months.) And until Chapter 11, I was doing just dandy at answering the questions in the OU text. I linked cytosine with guanine in a meaningless kind of way, realised why The Binding Site (HQ in nearby Edgbaston) is so-called, know a tad more about the double helix and what mitosis is. But getting thus far hadn’t begun to touch my ignorance

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Andreas Hornung @ Cafe Scientifique — Alternative energies: Biofuels

New Optimist Professor Andreas Hornung will be leading a discussion at the July Cafe Scientifique at the Jekyll & Hyde (6:30pm for 7pm on Tuesday 5th July) on biofuels as an alternative source of energy.

He’s in charge of the European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) which recently won £16.5M to develop low carbon technologies — the “lab” will include a power plant on the Aston University campus — the long term idea is to have a “thermal ring” of small-scale power plants around the city (Birmingham). Exciting stuff, very much in the Chamberlain tradition of taking the long view about resources.

Here’s a video of Andreas talking about the use of algae, sewage, biochar and other matters to generate energy:

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Stem cells: Scientists disappointed by tissue rejection

Just as I was getting the first slug of caffeine into my system around 7:30, I listened to a Today interview with Oxford’s Paul Fairchild, Director of their Stem Cell Centre. (My ears inevitably prick up with the words ‘stem cell’, what with our new project on the topic and all.)

He was talking about research by San Diego molecular biologist Yang Xu which appeared in this week’s NatureReprogrammed cells trigger immune reactions in mice.

One of the great hopes of stem cell research is their use in regenerative medicine, creating living functional tissue to repair or replace tissue or organ function.

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David Sansom: How our immune system doesn’t kill us

Yesterday in the Birmingham Post Science Blog I wrote about some work by Brum academic Dr David Sansom. His work has big implications in the treatment of some very debilitating and potentially dangerous diseases.

Reported in the prestigious Science journal on 29th April, this research is about the mechanisms by which a particular protein, CTLA-4, damps down our immune system by ‘hoovering’ up aggressive T-cells which are at the forefront of fighting invasions.

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Kindle Camp — A Kindle Publishing Workshop

We’re going be creating digital books this summer. In the first instance, on Kindle. Our first will be about ten articles by some of our leading scientists in cancer research, both existing and newly commissioned stuff. And in the pipeline is an e-book about the stem cell project too.

To make all this happen, we need experts in digital publishing. So we’ve joined forces with Digital Birmingham on a Kindle Camp, a workshop on how to create e-books. It’s at Aston Business School on 1st June, 1000-1600, lunch provided plus continuous supplies of caffeine. Free, too!

If you’re interested in sharing and developing your expertise in this exciting technology, please sign up here.


New Birmingham . . .

Several hundred people piled into Birmingham’s Council House last night for the launch of the Birmingham Leadership Foundation, myself included. People who know me will realise I’m a tad allergic to the word ‘leadership’; intelligent “followership” is, I think, a more useful, more demanding attribute.

Nonetheless, what was impressive was the type of engagement and discussion. For starters, we represented the demographics of the city far more than at most such gatherings. Plus, the hoary stuff about our auto manufacturing skills didn’t get a mention.

We exchanged information about the tiny signs of a new economy.

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