Students Staff

Impacts

Our research network

Two scientists working in a lab

We have a range of Centres, units and groups involved in a variety of specialist areas. These networks enable us to produce leading research informing areas ranging from the development of new medical treatments, research technologies, environmental policies and more.

Our research activity produces effective outputs for our partners in industry, government, NGO's and other research institutes.

Impact activities that have emerged from our group strategy of internationally-renowned research includes:

  • the development of new medical treatments;
  • research technologies;
  • gene and bioremediation products;
  • the development of economically sustainable environmental policies; and
  • natural resource management tools.

We promote our research, its societal value and impact through presentations to educational institutes, interest groups, government bodies, industry conferences and workshops. Our staff are active members of national and international select committees, advisors to governments and multi-national organisations.

Our research staff have published impact-oriented books, journal special issues, and impact-led reports. There is a commitment to maximising society's understanding of key scientific issues and often participate in science documentaries and public science programmes for TV and radio. Active engagement with the research community and its end user is central to our work and allows us to determine how solutions can be provided for problems that are, or will in the future, have the biggest impact on society.

Impact activities

  • Environmental

    Healthy and sustainable environments

    This core theme groups together research activities which strive to provide biological solutions to:

    • reduce marine pollution;
    • enhance ecosystem health;
    • promote sustainable exploitation;
    • protect natural resources;
    • inform conservation policies; and
    • enhance the biodiversity, service provision and resilience or a wide range of marine systems.

    Outcomes

    • The primary goal of our Coral Reef Research Unit (CRRU) is to carry out impact-led research. This approach helped Wakatobi Marine National Park, Indonesia to become a UNESCO World Biosphere reserve.
    • Several environmental microbiologists within our School work with the oil industry to establish novel bioremediation protocols that increase the effectiveness of oil clean-up procedures.
    • Our researchers are engaged with numerous stakeholders to quantify ecosystem service provision of estuarine and coastal environments.
    • Members of our research group advise government, conservation bodies and industry to raise awareness of environmental issues and the value of research through public lectures, open seminars, radio, newspaper and television.

  • Plant biotechnology

    Agricultural biotechnology

    Agricultural biotechnology has an important role to play in developing an environmentally sustainable and intensive agriculture. We defined our theme of plant productivity even before the current Food Security priorities became prominent.

    Outcomes

    • Current funding allows us to primarily transfer genes from our model plants to crop species.
    • Improvements in photosynthetic efficiency are being made by modifying the Calvin Cycle and circadian clock function in barley, wheat, cassava and maize.
    • Regulatory genes that improve yield by enhancing tolerance to environmental stress, have been transferred into oil seed rape (canola) and Indian mustard. Results from our glasshouse studies in this area have encouraged us to proceed to field trials.

    Moving our research from model plant in the lab to crops in the field is only made possible by our current funding. This funding brings with it a prominent international dimension and strong collaborations with industry, government agencies and university groups in Europe, India, USA and Australia.

  • Biomedical research

    Artificial blood

    There is a global shortage of donated whole blood needed for life-saving transfusions. Donated blood is a natural material that requires refrigeration because of its short shelf life It must be matched to a patient's blood type before administration and there is an ongoing challenge to screen blood for known and emerging pathogens. A universal, pathogen-free blood substitute with an extended shelf life has been a long term goal for biotechnology and would satisfy the continuous global demand for blood.

    Our staff conducted research to discover how the challenges posed by a global demand and its short shelf-life could be more effectively tackled. Chris Cooper, Mike Wilson and Brandon Reeder's research revealed a previously unknown through-protein electron transfer pathway. The manipulation of this pathway has the potential to decrease the free radical mediated toxicity of earlier generations of blood substitute without affecting the oxygen-carrying capacity of the haemoglobin.

    Outcomes

    • Our University has filed for patent protection of the through-protein electron transfer pathway discovery in critical market areas.
    • The patent is recorded as PCT/GB2008/002199-WO2009/004309 "Modified Globin Proteins with Altered Electron Transport Pathway" which has achieved the national phase application stage in eight important market regions - Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, India, Japan and the USA.
    • This research was previously funded by BBSRC (project grants and follow-on fund) and is currently funded by the ICENI Seedcorn Development Fund.
    • Our research in this area was recognised and reported by Channel 4 News.

    Preventing iron toxicity in thalassaemia

    Deferiprone (commonly known as Ferriprox) is a drug used to remove the toxic iron caused by regular blood transfusions in the treatment of thalassaemia major. It was engineered by chemists at our University in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming one of the few successful drugs developed entirely in a UK university research facility. The desferrioxamine treatment used before deferiprone required lifetime overnight infusions which resulted in poor compliance. The invention by the chemists at Essex engineered an orally active chemical that maintained effective iron chelation properties.

    Outcomes