On topic: seeking new horizons

July 19, 2019

The National Horizons Centre, a new Teesside facility financed by the Local Growth Fund, is set to develop technical, innovation and management skills in the bioscience sector

A new centre of excellence for the bioscience industries, now open, is helping to drive the economic growth of the Tees Valley.

Work has been completed on the £22.3 million National Horizons Centre at Teesside University’s campus at Central Park, Darlington, and the state-of-the-art facility is already delivering teaching, research and industrial collaboration.

The centre delivers an industry-informed programme that concentrates on developing the technical, innovation and management skills and knowledge needed for the bioscience sector to continue to grow and generate jobs and wealth in Tees Valley and the UK.

It has been financially supported by the Local Growth Fund, via the Tees Valley Combined Authority and the European Regional Development Fund. The Local Growth Fund contribution of £17.5 million represents the single biggest investment by the fund in the Tees Valley.

The new centre will work in synergy with other buildings on Darlington’s Central Park, including the University’s Centre for Professional and Executive Development, CPI’s National Biologics Manufacturing Centre and Darlington College.

It is already working in partnership with regional, national and international industry partners to provide specialist education and training for the current and future workforce, and to promote industry-focused innovation and research.

First training course delivered

Staff from some of the region’s most innovative companies have developed their skills in a cutting-edge area of protein science at the first continuing professional development (CPD) course to be held at the National Horizons Centre.

The centre hosted a three-day workshop on Practical Proteomics – the large-scale study of all the proteins present within a cell, tissue or organism.

The CPD course was led by Professor James Scrivens, a research professor at Teesside University and a leading expert in the field of mass spectrometry, who has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers, as well as numerous book chapters and industrial reports.

Practical Proteomics ran in conjunction with Waters, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of analytical laboratory instrumentation. It was held in the NHC’s state-of-the-art bioanalytical laboratory, a Waters Centre of Innovation (COI).

The course, which was attended by staff from companies including Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, Quorn, GlaxoSmithKline and Hart Biologicals, consisted of a mixture of lectures and practical sessions on topics including:

  • Data generation
  • Bioinformatics
  • Peptide analysis
  • Separation science
  • Recent developments in proteomics

Professor Scrivens says: “Proteomics is an inter- disciplinary study with numerous applications in fields such as medicine, food science and agriculture.

“It requires the identification and quantification of ever- smaller amounts of proteins in increasingly complex systems.

“The facilities and expertise at the National Horizons Centre enable us to achieve this in an automated, sensitive and selective fashion.”

New courses to drive bioscience growth

From September, Teesside University is offering four brand new bioscience postgraduate courses, which will be based at the National Horizons Centre (NHC).

They are the first courses to be developed from the new state-of- the-art facility and are made up of three MSc programmes in Advanced Biomedical Science, Microbiology and Bioinformatics, as well as an MRes in Biological Sciences.

Dr Dimitrios Nicolaou, associate dean in Teesside University’s School of Science, Engineering & Design, said: “The National Horizons Centre is an ambitious new facility, which will help to drive forward key areas within the bioscience sector – including biologics, biomedical sciences and industrial biotechnology.

“We are delighted to be offering four new postgraduate programmes from September, which will provide a fantastic opportunity for students to learn and study within a bespoke, state-of-the-art facility.”

Cutting-edge research

Nearly £300,000 of funding has been granted to researchers at Teesside University to explore ground-breaking developments in bioscience.

The money has been granted via the THYME project, which is a collaboration between Hull, York and Teesside Universities to boost the bioeconomy across Yorkshire, Humber and the Tees Valley.

Seven projects, totalling almost £350,000, have been funded across the three universities in the first-round of THYME proof of concept funding.

Teesside University is partner in six of these seven projects.

Each of the projects is worth almost £50,000 and involves collaboration with an industrial partner, as well as a partner university.

Teesside University’s work will be carried out through the National Horizons Centre and will involve collaborating with industrial and academic partners on the following THYME projects:

  • Quadrum Institute and University
    of Hull – using machine learning techniques to model the best conditions for microorganisms in the human gut to underpin the improved efficiency of a probiotic product.
  • Unilever, Quorn, Croda and University of Hull – developing a micro-bioreactor system for a range of miniaturised bioprocessing applications. Providing a rapid and low-cost means of acquiring physiological, metabolic and productivity data within a variety of cells.
  • Fujifilm Diosynth technologies and University of York – increasing productivity and reducing waste in microbiological protein production by exploiting how microbes react to the formation of protein aggregates.
  • Northumbrian Water and University of York – investigating the microbiology occurring within the anaerobic digestion process during waste water treatment and generating recommendations for AD process optimisation.
  • Naturiol Bangor Ltd and University of York (lead partner) – determining the feasibility of oil extracted from Alexanders seed as a highly valuable food ingredient to create low saturated fat, dairy-free products.
  • Yorkshire Water and University of York (lead partner) – investigating the feasibility of an anaerobic digestion innovation facility to test and demonstrate new AD processes and technologies.

Dr Geoff Archer, head of knowledge exchange at Teesside University, says: “Each project will involve cutting-edge research and they are projected to make a huge impact on the development of the bioscience industry by generating the vital skills and knowledge to help grow this important sector.”

Teesside University
For more information on the National Horizons Centre visit: www.tees.ac.uk/nhc

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