AMR ‘a silent pandemic’: What can we learn so far from the covid pandemic?

The covid-19 pandemic should be awakening us to valuable learning to be gained in many different areas and in particular for the issues and challenges of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

We have seen the value of early research and scientific understanding. We have seen how, when necessary, regulatory processes can be speeded up (whilst not compromising on safety and quality).

There is so much to learn from different science and health aspects
(and also the economic impacts and politics, of course).

We need to be alert and prepared for the future as best we can.
Let’s make the most of what we have learnt!

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 29/3/21

This is a subject I have posted on several times before

Expert Peer Review

It doesn’t take much to say thank you and it can make all the difference. The message below perked me up in a tough week. It concerns unpaid work that can be time-consuming, but it is important because ‘Peer review is a critical component of the research process. Peer reviewers dedicate their time and knowledge to help validate the work of other researchers.’
——
Message I received from SPRINGER NATURE:
‘ Thank you for serving as a peer reviewer
Your contributions are important and do not go unnoticed.
Thank you for helping us publish important research during an unprecedented year by reviewing papers for Springer Nature journals. The past year presented unique challenges that have heightened the importance of publishing sound, expertly reviewed research. We appreciate the time you took away from your personal life and research to accept and submit reviews.’
——
It was a privilege to be invited to be an expert peer reviewer in the first place. To hear that the work I have been doing is valuable and appreciated meant a lot to me.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 16/3/21

A moment for reflection.

For International Women’s Day (Monday, 8th of March, 2021)

There were no obvious early signs that the girl would become a scientist.

.

Home haircuts were the norm in those days, so plaits were a good option. On reflection and on other photos there are a few short wonky fringes 😂. A bit like some Lockdown looks today 😉.

……..

For Mothers Day (Sunday, 14th of March, 2021 in the UK):

‘A mother’s hug lasts long after she lets go.’

……..

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 8/3/21

Green shoots: literally and metaphorically.

Here are a few photos I have taken today showing the early signs of Spring. Metaphorically, the roll-out of vaccines brings hope and hopefully green shoots of recovery for global health and well-being.

Spring Shoots 2021

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 3/3/21

Covid-19 Vaccination: a personal perspective.

My key message is that this is A Super-Efficient Experience!

On receipt of my invitation from the NHS I logged on to the appointment link provided. Of the nearby options offered my choice had to be Alderley Park, of course. (Having previously worked for AZ for 20+ years on this site it seemed fitting.)

Vaccination at Alderley Park

The vaccination process was efficient, professional and friendly.

A high five to NHS staff, volunteers and everyone involved.

VACCINE ROLL-OUT CONTINUES AT PACE!

Please allow me a short digression here for a touch of nostalgia and more about Alderley Park.

Notably, the history includes involvement and important contributions to international research as the location ‘for ICI and latterly for AstraZeneca (after ICI Pharmaceuticals became Zeneca Pharmaceuticals in 1993)’
In 2013, ‘AstraZeneca announced plans to cease R&D work at Alderley Park.’ Although relocated over subsequent years some AZ non-R&D work continued here.
In 2014, ‘Alderley Park was purchased by Manchester Science Parks’ leading to subsequent redevelopment.

For some interesting history of Alderley Park and also for more about Alderley Park today you can find further information in links below.

Recent covid-related news:

In 2020, Alderley Park was in the news for its role as a Lighthouse Lab with an ability to accurately process thousands of Covid tests a day.

February 17th, 2021 was a key date in the commencement of NHS covid-19 vaccination at Alderley Park, now also an NHS Covid-19 vaccination centre!

In conclusion, today, I have a feeling of gratitude and also a touch of nostalgia*.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 17/2/21

[*nostalgia ain’t what it used to be 😉 – sorry I couldn’t resist that joke]

Links for further information:

For some interesting history of Alderley Park here:

And, you can find more about Alderley Park today, here:

From down to earth roots to salad teas

This is a post for the weekend on the theme of positive surprises for January 2021.

Garden Beetroot to salad

And so, for something more ‘down to earth’, back to the garden in Lockdown 1 (2020) when I surprised myself with home grown beetroot.

My dad would have been proud of me for this, and also very surprised. (The salad is a tribute to my mum’s salad teas every weekend whatever the season!). My parents died years ago but their influence of course, is strong.

I am proud of my smart working-class roots and values that have stood me in good stead. Indeed, a dose of Yorkshire grit has greatly helped! I have much to be grateful to them for. I now understand their wise words that I didn’t perhaps fully appreciate at the time and I can chuckle at some of their quirkier expressions and stories.

Be true to yourself.

To warm memories and simple pleasures.

Stay safe, stay strong.

(and you could even beetroot to yourself as well 😉)

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 30/1/21

A quantum leap in my learning

There is a new technology that will impact society and the future of sciences: Quantum Technology. Oh, and did you know that apparently a quantum object can be in 2 places at the same time?

Context and background
In 2020 I participated in the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF2020 Trieste). As in previous years not only did I check out some developments in my own specialisms and interests, but I also took the opportunity to get a flavour of some completely different areas.

I have prepared this short blog as a ‘taster’ to share my own ‘enlightenment’ with you and maybe to spark your curiosity.

Quantum technology has enormous potential. ‘It is expected that this will lead to an exponential growth in computing power, allow information to be communicated in an absolutely secure way and, again, allow measurements to be made with extreme precision.’

Some possibilities which were deemed science fiction in the past may become reality.

Computer power
Aspects of quantum computing are moving from the theoretical phase. We were told to watch out for big developments in the next 10 years or even in the next 5 years!

In classical or binary computing (i.e., the traditional approach) computers are said to perform calculations using “bits” of information. Like on-and-off switches, these exist in only two states: either 1 or 0. Quantum computers, however, use quantum bits, or “qubits,” which can exist as both 1 and 0 simultaneously!

To understand the potential of quantum computing requires a different way of thinking about information and also there are concepts that will be new to many people. An explanation provided in an expert panel discussion, at ESOF2020 helped me. This is the gist of it:

Consider the challenge of finding your way out of a very complex maze or labyrinth. With a classical computer you can think of a stepwise process choosing Left or Right until you find the right path. However, with a quantum computer you can explore all paths at once – can be likened to flushing a bucket of water through the labyrinth. That explanation was an ‘aha moment’ for me!

Elsewhere, I have heard that it is like ‘being able to read all the books in a library at once’. The speed and scope of this new technology viewed in this way becomes immediately more apparent to me.

What could the advantages be for users and citizens?

Here are examples of some potential and possible applications:

• Quantum simulation for use in the discovery and development of new drugs
• Quantum sensors and a role at the human brain interface e.g. potential for communication use maybe even for ‘locked-in syndrome’.
• Satellite navigation – the prospect of providing very accurate location.

Secure communications
Communication security is a top priority for governments around the world. There are some collaborations and there are also competitive aspects. The Chinese satellite, Micius, was launched in 2016 and recently reported a secure method of quantum messaging (published in Nature, 2020) which has generated interest. Other countries and regions are very interested in quantum satellites and are at various stages of research and development in this field.

The Italian ‘experiment’ at ESOF2020
The closing ceremony of the conference featured an ‘experiment’; the first Italian public demonstration of encrypted communication using Italian-made optical-fibre quantum technology. Participants and attendees were able to witness the capability of the technology and its ability to detect and prevent attempted ‘hacking’.

Europe is equipping itself with a quantum communication network called EuroQCI, which includes optical-fibre cables and satellites. Italy is at the forefront of this field.

Beyond Trieste
After the ESOF conference I felt it was time for some consolidation of what I was learning. If this is a new subject for you and you want to learn more you will encounter new concepts and new terms such as repeaters, entanglement etc. We need a better understanding of terminologies and basic physics. Of course, there will be many sources of further information. I have provided examples of videos I found helpful (see below).

Phases and progress of quantum technology: Where are we now?
Different aspects of quantum technologies are at different points in this path:

Research → Development → Innovation

Discoveries will be made and facilitated by new investments and collaborations including academia and industry. There is already a lot of knowledge in Europe (and Italy is ‘a big player’ in Europe).

It is a promising field where some things are coming already, or some things may come soon, and there are some things where there are still major challenges.

There are likely to be exciting breakthroughs but also disappointments. There will definitely be A NEED FOR HYPE CONTROL!

Call to action
Do not worry if you find this subject challenging to understand, many people do. It is OK to be still grappling with some of the ideas and terms. I am told even many physicists feel the same way. Working through the confusion is how we learn. Writing this blog helped me and I hope reading it helps you.

Be curious.

A small brave step could lead to a quantum leap in your understanding on many levels.

I hope sharing my learning is useful to others.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 26/1/21

Further information:

Recent publication about the Chinese satellite (Nature, 2020)
Yin, J., Li, YH., Liao, SK. et al. Entanglement-based secure quantum cryptography over 1,120 kilometres. Nature 582, 501–505 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2401-y

Videos I found helpful:
Quantum Computers Explained – Limits of Human Technology
Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. You Tube

If You Don’t Understand Quantum Physics, Try This!
DoS- Domain of Science. You Tube

A big thank you to ESOF2020 for the opportunity to learn about quantum technology.
I have written several previous posts about ESOF2020 for example here

Some happy surprises for Weekend 3 Lockdown 3

It was almost Weekend 3 of Lockdown 3 here in the UK.

The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, however, brought a surprise visitor to the garden which lightened the mood a little amidst all the ‘doom and gloom’. (It also reminded me of another surprise in the previous lockdown.)


[Photos: Goldcrest ‘smallest bird in Britain and Ireland; 9cm from head to tail’ surprise garden visit, 21 January 2021. Ruby Wedding Roses still blooming in Lockdown 2 with the surprise appearance of clusters of fresh daisies (November 2020)]

Saturday of Weekend 3, Lockdown 3 and even more surprises…

I woke up on the Saturday morning to a snowfall surprise ❄️😊.
(This was particularly welcome after the unfortunate surprise power cut the night before).

So, with the music turned up loud, I made the most of it with a suitable soundtrack! A few hours later, after my ‘exercise’ in the fresh air (i.e., building snowmen in the garden), I took a few more photos.

Result – 2 more ‘visitors’ to the garden and a little post to lighten the mood 😉.


[Snow surprises in my garden in Lockdown 3]

I built the snowmen at the weekend for fun to show my young grandchildren (and grown-up ‘kids’) being separated from them all. I got a bit playful and saw there was a message to share more widely😉. We all need some fun.

Here’s to much-needed happy surprises.

Stay safe, stay strong.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 24/1/21

Kickstart to 2021: excellence in research

In the first month of 2021, as an uplifting example of excellence in research, I’d like to share a link (see below*) to the December 2020 Nobel Lectures in Chemistry concerning work in the field of CRISPR and gene editing.

See what doing science is like – and how scientists work together.
Feel the joy of discovery – and the clarity of communication.

Dip in or delve deeper to learn about the fascinating science of gene editing.
Enjoy lectures by 2 highly successful scientists, recipients of the Nobel Prize 2020.

The presentations describe fundamental biology and show how research in bacteria and viruses can be valuable for developments in biotechnology. Challenges and opportunities are discussed. There are pointers to where such research is heading and its applications in research, public health, agriculture, and biomedicine. The lectures also touch on its potential use in applications for covid detection and screening, and indeed for future pandemic preparedness.

Hear 2 leaders in their field praising the enthusiasm and commitment of young scientists. It is indeed an exciting time for scientific research, and CRISPR methodology is ‘a powerful tool for young scientists’.

International collaboration is important. The mobility of researchers enables them to work in different labs and encourages the circulation of ideas.

In view of the opportunities and where some of this research is heading I think people should be prepared for wider consultations. It is important to increase the general understanding about this technology.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 20/1/21

*
Click here for the link to the 2020 Nobel Lectures in Chemistry
Thanks to ‘The Nobel Prize’and the scientists involved.

……

[Here is a link to a piece I wrote previously on a similar topic, frontier research in synthetic biology]

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