News Article | May 25, 2017
Urgent need for better disease prevention policies targeting poor diet, smoking, alcohol, high blood pressure and physical inactivity, as well as increased investment in health and social care. The number of people aged over 65 years needing care could reach 2.8 million by 2025 in England and Wales -- an increase of 25% from 2015 (equivalent to an additional 560000 people) over a decade, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal. The burden of disability will grow as a result of the rising number of people living into old age, rather than an increase in ill-health. The study illustrates the huge challenges looming over the health system as the population continues to age. The authors warn that if the shortage of caregivers and the poor state of social care is not addressed now, the impact on people with lower incomes unable to live independently will increase. Currently, 40% of the national cost of long-term care is paid by the savings and incomes of affected individuals and their families. "The societal, economic, and public health implications of our predictions are substantial. In particular, our findings draw attention to the scale of societal costs associated with disability in the coming decade," said lead author Dr Maria Guzman-Castillo, University of Liverpool, UK. "Spending on long-term care will need to increase considerably by 2025, which has serious implications for a cash strapped and overburdened National Health Service and an under-resourced social care system. More cost-effective health and social care provision will be needed, such as increased availability of institutional care, and better financial support -- such as tax allowances or cash benefits -- for family members providing informal and home care." The study modelled future trends in disability and life expectancy in England and Wales between 2015-2025 by estimating future rates of cardiovascular disease, dementia and other diseases and the functional disability they may cause (difficulty with one or more activities of daily living, such getting out of bed, bathing, dressing or eating). Estimates suggest that the number of people aged over 65 will increase by almost a fifth (19%) -- from 10.4 million people in 2015 to 12.4 million people in 2025. For people aged 65 in 2025, life expectancy is projected to increase by 1.7 years to 86.8 years, but a quarter of later life is likely to be spent with disability (5.4 years after age 65). Overall, dementia represents the biggest growing cause of disability and rates are predicted to increase by 49% in people aged 65 or over between 2015-2025 -- meaning that 699000 people will have dementia care needs in 2025 (compared to 468000 in 2015). The second largest cause will be other diseases including mental health problems, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and other chronic diseases, which will increase by 37% over the decade (from 1018000 cases in 2015 to 1395000 in 2025). These diseases are fastest-rising in people aged over 85, in whom they are set to almost double (an increase of 84%, corresponding to 118000 cases in 2015 to 217000 in 2025). Lead researcher of the study Professor Eric Brunner, UCL, UK says: "Our new forecasting model uses real-life evidence to assess the future impact of the competing forces that give rise to loss of health and well-being in older people in our country. We find that aging of the population in the next 10 years will cause an increase in burden of disability that we must not ignore." The results highlight the growing burden of disability that health and social services will face over the next decade. In addition to increased investment in health and social care, the authors encourage the implementation of effective disease prevention measures to counter poor diet, smoking, high alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, diabetes and being physically inactive which are shared risk factors for chronic diseases and associated disability. Dr Guzman-Castillo continues: "The rising burden of disability and population aging emphasises the urgent need for policy development that includes effective prevention interventions. Sufficient and swift investment in these policies could lead to substantial cost-savings and help the aging population live more healthily in the future." The study did not account for the severity of disability in their model, instead providing overall disability figures to help estimate demand for long-term care in the coming decade. Writing in a linked Comment, Dr Stuart Gilmour, University of Tokyo, Japan, says: "To address these recommendations and the findings of this study, the UK health and social care system needs substantial, sustained increases in funding and commitment at all levels to increase the size and remuneration of the workforce. In view of the realities of the impending departure from the EU, such increases will require investment in local workforce education and training measures-more nurses, doctors, and care workers. Because of the time required to induct new staff in this sector, immediate action is needed to prepare for this unavoidable health system challenge... the British health and social care system faces a rapid increase in the number of elderly people with disabilities, including complex physical and behavioural multimorbidities, at a time when it is uniquely unprepared for even the existing burden of disability in the UK population. This important research should be taken as a warning and a strong call for action on health service planning and funding, workforce training and retention, and preparation for the aging of British society."
News Article | May 25, 2017
LAUSANNE, Switzerland--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Saphetor, SA, a Swiss precision medicine company dedicated to advancing personalized diagnostics based on next-generation DNA sequencing, announced today a research partnership with the Exome Consortium of University College London (UCL), led by Dr. Vincent Plagnol. As part of a series of service agreements with UCL-affiliated research groups, Prof. Michel Michaelides and his team will use Saphetor’s precision medicine platform to investigate eye disorders in patients. By partnering with world-class researchers and clinicians at UCL, Saphetor seeks to improve genetic diagnoses that will enhance prognosis counseling for patients and identify those who may be eligible for specific clinical trials. Dr. Vincent Plagnol is a Reader in statistical genetics at the UCL Genetics Institute with a focus on translational research. His work on rare disease genetics is widely published, both in pioneering methodological advances and significant molecular discoveries. Dr. Plagnol said, “We are looking forward to working with Saphetor, as their fast turnaround and comprehensive platform will ensure timely and accurate results in our wide range of research projects.” Prof. Michel Michaelides is a highly-cited Professor of Ophthalmology at University College London, based at the Institute of Ophthalmology, a premier vision research center. He is also a Consultant Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, one of the most respected eye hospitals in the world. Prof. Michaelides said, "We are pleased to work with Saphetor, as their advanced analytical capabilities are already driving new findings in congenital eye conditions." Andreas Massouras, CEO of Saphetor, said: “We are very honored to work with Dr. Plagnol, Prof. Michaelides, and their collaborators in the UCL Exome Consortium. We intend to accelerate novel research findings on a number of exciting projects.” Saphetor, SA, founded in 2014, is a Swiss precision medicine company dedicated to identifying human genetic variants with improved accuracy by leveraging proprietary algorithms and expert domain knowledge. Capitalizing on the emergence of exome sequencing and whole-genome sequencing, Saphetor’s suite of services offers clinicians intuitive, data-driven solutions to make faster, more accurate diagnoses and treatment decisions. Saphetor is the creator of VarSome.com, a free and widely used genomic variant search engine with more than 33 billion data points.
News Article | May 29, 2017
Teenagers injured through drinking, drug abuse or self-harming have a five-fold increased risk of dying from suicide in the next decade. Children and young people admitted to hospital in England with injuries related to self-harming, drugs or alcohol faced an increased risk of killing themselves over the following 10 years, according to new research. While previous studies have shown that children and adolescents who self-harm are at a higher risk of suicide, the paper by academics from UCL and the University of Leeds, argues that the risks apply to a larger group of adolescents. The researchers say children injured through drink or drugs faced a similar increased risk of suicide as children who had been self-harming -- and the National Health Service needed to revise its guidelines to target help and support at these young people. The study examined anonymous hospital data relating to more than one million young people aged 10 to 19 who were admitted to an emergency department in England between 1997 and 2012 having suffered an injury. The injuries were categorised as having been caused either accidentally -- or through 'adversity', where the injuries were self-inflicted, from drug or alcohol abuse, or violence. The research team then looked at what had happened to the young people in the decade following the hospital admission. They found that the death rate among the group which had suffered the adversity-related injuries was twice as high as the youngsters who had suffered the accidental injuries. Among the adversity group, the death rate for girls was 7.3 per 1,000 -- and 15.6 per 1,000 for boys. Two-thirds of the deaths were attributable to suicide, drug or alcohol misuse or to homicide, according to the research which is published in the Lancet. One of the key findings of the study was that the risk of suicide was similar between young people who had self-harmed and those who had misused drugs or alcohol -- an observation not been reported in medical journals until now. The suicide rate of these young people was about five-times of that seen in the accidental injury group. The researchers also found that young people who had self-inflicted injuries were just as likely to die from drug and alcohol misuse as from suicide. The increased rates of deaths from suicide or drug and alcohol misuse in the adversity group resulted in an additional 1,075 deaths -- 683 boys and 392 girls. This was an observational study, so it can increase our understanding of possible links between self-inflicted injury and suicide, but it doesn't show that one necessarily causes the other because other factors could be involved. Young Minds is a UK charity seeking to promote better mental health among adolescents. Its chief executive, Sarah Brennan, said: "This ground-breaking research demonstrates some of the interconnections between self-harm, substance misuse and violent injury -- and the tragic consequences that these experiences may have. "It is essential that we don't think of young people simply in terms of a list of "issues," and that we understand how distress can be expressed in different ways at different times." The study showed young people are arriving at hospital with injuries which are not being identified as 'red flags' of an increased risk of a premature death. David Cottrell, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Leeds and one of the investigators, said: "Clinicians have not fully appreciated the risks facing children and young people who arrive in hospital emergency departments having suffered an adversity-related injury. "It is well established that children who self-harm are at an increased risk of suicide. "But the research points to that fact that the risk extends to a much broader group. Children and young people who suffered injuries through drink or drugs or violence also faced an increased risk of suicide or premature death through alcohol and drug behaviours." "These young people are coming into contact with the health services and that means there's an opportunity for them to get help and support. Based on this evidence, official guidance given to staff in emergency departments needs to be reviewed so these young people are also seen as being at risk." It is standard practice for a mental health professional to assess a young person who has a self-inflicted injury, but that does not extend to those injuries related to misusing alcohol or drugs or to violence. The researchers say mental health support should also be targeted at all children suffering adversity-related injuries. Dr Annie Herbert, from UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare, said: "A huge amount of deaths after adversity-related injury in our study were from suicide or drug or alcohol abuse, which to an extent should be preventable. "More research is needed to find the best way for clinicians to support these children and young people, to reduce risks of future harm after they leave hospital." Professor Ruth Gilbert, from UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said: "Our findings show the enormous value of using routinely collected patient data to spot opportunities for the NHS to intervene to reduce the risk of harm for vulnerable patients, many of whom come back to hospital time and again."
News Article | May 26, 2017
When trying to make a decision with another person, people tend to match their confidence levels, which can backfire if one person has more expertise than the other, finds a new study led by UCL and University of Oxford researchers. The study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, shows that the degree of stated confidence in one's opinion is infectious when working in a team, which can blur the boundary between well-informed and poorly-informed opinion, sometimes to the detriment of group decision making. "Making a decision collectively is most effective if the person with the most expertise expresses their opinion with the most confidence. If my opinion is more reliable than yours, then I should also be more confident. But it's difficult to express that effectively if you don't know whether the person you're working with is habitually overconfident or too modest," said Dr Dan Bang (UCL Wellcome Centre for Neuroimaging), who led the study while based at both UCL and the University of Oxford. "We found that even when an expert is paired with someone who lacks expertise, both participants will align their confidence levels so that their opinions will carry more equal weight," he said. In six experiments involving 202 participants in Iran and the UK, the researchers asked people to perform a visual perceptual task. On each trial, participants viewed two consecutive displays, with a faint target appearing in either the first or the second display. Working in pairs, each participant privately indicated which display they thought contained the visual target, and how confident they felt about this decision on a scale of one to six. Once both private responses had been registered, they were made public, and the private decision made with higher confidence was selected as the group decision. Participants received feedback so that they could learn about their own expertise on the task. The researchers found that people matched each other's degree of confidence, rather than calibrate it to the reliability of their own opinions, even when offered a financial incentive. Some groups converged onto low confidence, while others converged onto high confidence. This behaviour, named 'confidence matching', meant that people with different levels of expertise performed poorly: the less reliable person was too confident, while the more reliable person was not confident enough. But when pairs were closely matched in their level of expertise, confidence matching helped boost their performance by reducing miscommunication. "One possible explanation is that confidence matching serves to ensure equal influence on group decisions, perhaps as a way to avoid conflict, or as a way to diffuse responsibility. Alternatively, people may struggle to learn from their past failures or successes, and find it easier to mirror each other's confidence levels," Dr Bang said. "The study invites us to reconsider confidence as a social tool, while helping to explain why we can identify local 'cultures' of confidence. For example, previous research has shown that finance professionals, who work in competitive environments, are more confident than the general population. It also helps explain why politicians seem so confident in their opinions; they may be tapping into how people use confidence as a marker of credibility," said co-author Dr Bahador Bahrami (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience). The study was funded by Wellcome, the European Research Council and the Calleva Research Centre for Evolution and Human Sciences, Magdalen College.
News Article | May 25, 2017
Teenagers injured through drinking, drug abuse or self-harming have a five-fold increased risk of dying from suicide in the next decade. Children and young people admitted to hospital in England with injuries related to self-harming, drugs or alcohol faced an increased risk of killing themselves over the following 10 years, according to new research. While previous studies have shown that children and adolescents who self-harm are at a higher risk of suicide, the paper by academics from UCL and the University of Leeds, argues that the risks apply to a larger group of adolescents. The researchers say children injured through drink or drugs faced a similar increased risk of suicide as children who had been self-harming - and the National Health Service needed to revise its guidelines to target help and support at these young people. The study examined anonymous hospital data relating to more than one million young people aged 10 to 19 who were admitted to an emergency department in England between 1997 and 2012 having suffered an injury. The injuries were categorised as having been caused either accidentally - or through 'adversity', where the injuries were self-inflicted, from drug or alcohol abuse, or violence. The research team then looked at what had happened to the young people in the decade following the hospital admission. They found that the death rate among the group which had suffered the adversity-related injuries was twice as high as the youngsters who had suffered the accidental injuries. Among the adversity group, the death rate for girls was 7.3 per 1,000 - and 15.6 per 1,000 for boys. Two-thirds of the deaths were attributable to suicide, drug or alcohol misuse or to homicide, according to the research which is published in the Lancet. One of the key findings of the study was that the risk of suicide was similar between young people who had self-harmed and those who had misused drugs or alcohol - an observation not been reported in medical journals until now. The suicide rate of these young people was about five-times of that seen in the accidental injury group. The researchers also found that young people who had self-inflicted injuries were just as likely to die from drug and alcohol misuse as from suicide. The increased rates of deaths from suicide or drug and alcohol misuse in the adversity group resulted in an additional 1,075 deaths - 683 boys and 392 girls. This was an observational study, so it can increase our understanding of possible links between self-inflicted injury and suicide, but it doesn't show that one necessarily causes the other because other factors could be involved. Young Minds is a UK charity seeking to promote better mental health among adolescents. Its chief executive, Sarah Brennan, said: "This ground-breaking research demonstrates some of the interconnections between self-harm, substance misuse and violent injury - and the tragic consequences that these experiences may have. "It is essential that we don't think of young people simply in terms of a list of "issues", and that we understand how distress can be expressed in different ways at different times." The study showed young people are arriving at hospital with injuries which are not being identified as 'red flags' of an increased risk of a premature death. David Cottrell, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Leeds and one of the investigators, said: "Clinicians have not fully appreciated the risks facing children and young people who arrive in hospital emergency departments having suffered an adversity-related injury. "It is well established that children who self-harm are at an increased risk of suicide. "But the research points to that fact that the risk extends to a much broader group. Children and young people who suffered injuries through drink or drugs or violence also faced an increased risk of suicide or premature death through alcohol and drug behaviours." "These young people are coming into contact with the health services and that means there's an opportunity for them to get help and support. Based on this evidence, official guidance given to staff in emergency departments needs to be reviewed so these young people are also seen as being at risk." It is standard practice for a mental health professional to assess a young person who has a self-inflicted injury, but that does not extend to those injuries related to misusing alcohol or drugs or to violence. The researchers say mental health support should also be targeted at all children suffering adversity-related injuries. Dr Annie Herbert, from UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare, said: "A huge amount of deaths after adversity-related injury in our study were from suicide or drug or alcohol abuse, which to an extent should be preventable. "More research is needed to find the best way for clinicians to support these children and young people, to reduce risks of future harm after they leave hospital." Professor Ruth Gilbert, from UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said: "Our findings show the enormous value of using routinely collected patient data to spot opportunities for the NHS to intervene to reduce the risk of harm for vulnerable patients, many of whom come back to hospital time and again." 1, A proof copy of the Lancet report can be downloaded here. This copy will be subject to changes ahead of publication: https:/ 2, To interview Professor David Cottrell, please contact David Lewis in the University of Leeds press office on (+44) 0113 343 8059 or firstname.lastname@example.org 3, To interview Dr Annie Herbert, please contact Rowan Walker at UCL on (+44) 020 3108 8515 or email email@example.com UCL was founded in 1826. We were the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has over 38,000 students from 150 countries and over 12,000 staff. Our annual income is more than £1 billion. http://www. | Follow us on Twitter @uclnews | Watch our YouTube channel YouTube.com/UCLTV The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, with more than 33,000 students from 147 different countries, and a member of the Russell Group research-intensive universities. We are a top 10 university for research and impact power in the UK, according to the2014 Research Excellence Framework, and positioned as one of the top 100 best universities in the world in the 2015 QS World University Rankings. We are The Times and The Sunday Times University of the Year 2017 http://www. 6, Young Minds is a specialist charity for children and young people's mental health in the UK 7, The research was funded by the UK Department of Health.
News Article | May 23, 2017
Can AI overhaul the social care system? That’s the pitch underpinning UK home care provider Cera‘s plans. The startup has today taken the tiniest baby steps to launch an AI chatbot that it hopes will, at an unspecified point in future, be able to assist carers with recommendations for home care of people with conditions such as dementia. And even potentially steer off medical emergencies via pre-emptive alerts. The far more basic reality of the chatbot it’s launching today is that Martha (as it’s called) will be able to recommend care packages to potential customers. Which underlines how the inflated promises of AI really do hinge on data acquisition. In Cera’s case it’s largely leaning on its social care workers to generate the underlying data to train the AI. These human workers will be tasked with creating the data points to fill out the care records that will be used to power the chatbot’s future care recommendations and alerts. And while there are plenty of symptom-checker type AIs already out there, Cera’s positioning in the social care space sets it apart from other platforms, argues co-founder Ben Maruthappu, given it’s not aiming for the chatbot to be used directly by its clients (who may not be capable of using a smartphone app, for example), but rather to act as decision support for their carers. Here “AI has the scope to be very impactful”, he argues. The startup, which bills itself as a “tech-enabled home care provider” launched its social care matching platform last November, and has raised some $3.4 million to date from investors including Kima Ventures and Credo Ventures. It has “hundreds” of care workers on its platform at this point, according to Maruthappu, and has delivered tens of thousands of care hours — “accruing millions of data points”, as it couches it. Maruthappu says Cera is firstly using technology to accelerate the process of matching appropriate care workers to clients, as a route to outmaneuver traditional providers, and also applying tech to squeeze back-end costs so that it can spend more on front end care and compensation for care workers to try to raise quality standards in an industry that has been beset by scandals. Ultimately, though, it is also hoping all those care-related “data points” being gathered by care workers on its platform will be able to power an AI that it can deploy to augment its future care services with decision support at scale, and provide even more of a differentiator vs traditional care providers. The chatbot, which is being developed in concert with Bloomsbury AI, a machine reading spinout from London’s UCL, will use machine reading and deep learning to dispense personalized care advice. Maruthappu gives the example of a care worker messaging Martha to say that a patient is feeling a bit hot and the AI then pulling relevant info from their care records — noting the patient had a cough last week, and telling them to check for a temperature and other symptoms in case the patient has a chest infection. “We’re going to use Martha [for] supporting our care workers in providing better quality care. Essentially raising the ceiling on the standard that is delivered,” he says of this future plan. “We [also] want Martha to be able to predict if people are going to deteriorate… Based on reading previous entries in care records Martha will flag alerts and essentially pre-empt a person’s deterioration so that care workers and family members can be adequately alerted and a proactive approach can be taken to their care.” He won’t give a time frame for launching the predictive alerts, but decision-support should be coming later this year he says. Of course should Martha actually be in a position to start dispensing care recommendations it would likely need to have been registered as a medical device with the UK’s regulatory body, the MHRA. And Maruthappu confirms Cera has not currently registered the app, since it’s merely dispensing sales suggestions to potential customers at this point. Is the aim to use the AI to effectively upskill care workers with medical training? He says it’s not to upskill them to the level of trained nurses, for example, but to offer decision-support so they may be better able to identify when “escalated care” might be required. Maruthappu also argues that a chatbot interface that can be used to keep track of individual patients’ care records can help quality of service in instances where a client might be seen by multiple care workers — helping to join the dots in their care over time. Cera has partnered with ten NHS organizations at this point ten-weeks in, which Maruthappu says collectively cover a population of around six million people. “We offer a higher quality, more efficient and transparent service,” he says, discussing the business’ pitch to the healthcare organizations it’s selling services to. “At the moment bed blocking is a tremendous issue in the NHS. This is essentially where a patient whose in a hospital could be discharged home and is medically fit to be discharged to go home but for non-medical reasons they don’t go home.” “And if you look across winter the number one reason why people weren’t discharged when they could have been is because their home care package was not organized… This is a massively growing problem for the health service,” he adds. What are the risks of having an automated technology dispensing what amounts to medical advice that may then be actioned by a human? “It’s fundamentally care advice, and it is decision-support, but these are all things that are within the remit of a high quality care worker. We’re simply trying to support and increase consistency in the care,” argues Maruthappu. “As an analogy, if a taxi driver needs to go from A to B and they’re using a maps app, the maps app is supporting them but ultimately it’s the driver who is driving, who is making decisions about the route — and if they need to change the route it will do that accordingly.” “Apps are simply an enabler which can potentially improve efficiency and quality,” he adds. “But ultimately it is up to the person delivering the services to make appropriate decisions and manage that responsibly.”
News Article | May 15, 2017
The Campi Flegrei volcano in southern Italy may be closer to an eruption than previously thought, according to new research by UCL and the Vesuvius Observatory in Naples. The volcano has been restless for 67 years, with two-year periods of unrest in the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s causing small, local earthquakes and ground uplift. Similar unrest occurred over 500 years ago, when it took a century to build up to an eruption in 1538. The authors of the study, published today in Nature Communications, used a new model of volcano fracturing developed at UCL to investigate whether Campi Flegrei may again be preparing to erupt. They found that the unrest since the 1950s has had a cumulative effect, causing a build-up of energy in the crust and making the volcano more susceptible to eruption. Previously, it was generally thought that the energy needed to stretch the crust was eventually lost after each period of unrest. "By studying how the ground is cracking and moving at Campi Flegrei, we think it may be approaching a critical stage where further unrest will increase the possibility of an eruption, and it's imperative that the authorities are prepared for this," explained Dr Christopher Kilburn, Director of the UCL Hazard Centre. "We don't know when or if this long-term unrest will lead to an eruption, but Campi Flegrei is following a trend we've seen when testing our model on other volcanoes, including Rabaul in Papua New Guinea, El Hierro in the Canary Islands, and Soufriere Hills on Montserrat in the Caribbean. We are getting closer to forecasting eruptions at volcanoes that have been quiet for generations by using detailed physical models to understand how the preceding unrest develops." Movement of magma three kilometres below the volcano has caused the episodes of unrest. An eruption becomes more likely when the ground has been stretched to its breaking point, because the molten rock can escape to the surface when the ground splits apart. It is difficult to predict when an eruption may occur because, even if the ground breaks, it is possible for the magma to stall before reaching the surface. The unrest has already caused severe social upheaval in Campi Flegrei. The three episodes of uplift have together pushed the port of Pozzuoli, near the centre of unrest, more than three metres out of the sea. "The unrest in 1970 and 1983 caused tens of thousands of people to be evacuated from Pozzuoli itself," said study co-author Dr Stefano Carlino from the Vesuvius Observatory. The whole of Campi Flegrei covers more than 100 square kilometres outside the western suburbs of Naples and is the closest historically-active volcano to London. It is a large caldera, which means it appears as a giant depression in the surface rather than a conical mountain. An eruption today would affect the 360,000 people living across the caldera and Naples' population of nearly one million. "Most damage in previous crises was caused by the seismic shaking of buildings. Our findings show that we must be ready for a greater amount of local seismicity during another uplift and that we must adapt our preparations for another emergency, whether or not it leads to an eruption," explained study co-author Professor Giuseppe De Natale, former Director of the Vesuvius Observatory, which belongs to Italy's National Research Institute (INGV) for the study of earthquakes and volcanoes.
News Article | May 8, 2017
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwired - May 8, 2017) - MPP Global, a high growth technology business that delivers eSuite, an advanced eCommerce digital monetization platform with services that empower the media, video, sport and retail sectors to drive revenue from digital and physical products, has completed a £12m ($15M) Series B financing round from Albion Ventures and Grafton Capital. Based in Warrington, UK, MPP Global counts major global media companies including Sky, News UK, Daily Mail Group, L'Equipe and McClatchy among its clients. MPP Global's platform, eSuite, converts and retains paid users for its clients, and is unique in its integration of identity management, customer relationship management and automated subscription billing. Global digital media revenues totalled $90 billion in 2016 and are forecast to grow 7 percent per year through to 2020 (Statista). Building on recent success, the investment will enable MPP Global to expand into new geographic markets and further evolve its eSuite platform. In preparation for the next phase of development, Keith Wallington, the former COO of Mimecast, has joined the business as Chairman. Paul Johnson, MPP Global's CEO and Co-Founder, said, "We are incredibly excited to be embarking on the next chapter of MPP Global's evolution, embracing new markets and launching a stream of new eSuite features. We welcome Keith to the team as we look forward to raising international awareness of our leading eSuite platform in the United States and Asia Pacific region." Ed Lascelles, Partner, Albion Ventures, said, "This is a compelling opportunity for Albion to invest in a market-leading, high growth and profitable SaaS business run by an entrepreneurial and motivated team. We see the market for paid OTT content growing rapidly over the medium term and MPP Global is well placed to consolidate its position as the category leader." Oliver Thomas, Partner and Co-Founder, Grafton Capital, said, "Paul Johnson, Chris Cheney and their team have already demonstrated success in building a profitable, growing business which consistently outperforms major competitors worldwide. We are excited to be supporting the company as a growing number of media, sports and subscription retail enterprise businesses are choosing MPP Global's integrated capabilities to maximize the lifetime value of their customers." About MPP Global MPP Global is a technology company that delivers eSuite, an advanced monetization platform to enable subscription business models. By providing convenience and discovery to complement existing sales channels, media, sports and retail companies increase revenues and improve customer engagement, both online and instore. Founded in 2000, with offices throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific, MPP Global has an impressive track record of helping companies deliver digital monetisation solutions. Clients include The Times, McClatchy, L'Equipe, Racing Post, Local Media Group, The Irish Times, Daily Mail, Winnipeg Free Press, the New Zealand Herald Sky and EFL. About Albion Ventures The wider Albion group has just under £1 billion funds under investment management or administration and is a long term investor in UK businesses, from start-ups through to FTSE 100. Albion Ventures has over 30 tech investments in its VCT portfolio, where it typically invests £2-5m from post seed through to Series B, and also manages the UCL Technology Fund. About Grafton Founded in 2014, Grafton Capital is a supportive minority partner for category leading, founder-owned, growth companies in three sectors: B2B software, B2B information services, and online marketplaces.
News Article | May 10, 2017
Scientists are closer to understanding the genetic causes of type 2 diabetes by identifying 111 new chromosome locations (‘loci’) on the human genome that indicate susceptibility to the disease, according to a UCL-led study in collaboration with Imperial College London. LONDON, 10-May-2017 — /EuropaWire/ — Type 2 diabetes is the world’s most widespread and devastating metabolic disorder and previously only 76 loci were known and studied. Very few these loci are found in the African American population where the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is almost twice that in the European American population (19% vs. 10%). Of the additional 111 loci identified by the team, 93 (84%) are found in both African American and European populations and only 18 are European-specific. The study, published today in The American Journal of Human Genetics, used a method developed at UCL based on highly informative genetic maps to investigate complex disorders such as type 2 diabetes. European and African American sample populations comprising 5,800 type 2 diabetes case subjects and 9,691 control subjects were analysed, revealing multiple type 2 diabetes loci at regulatory hotspots across the genome. “No disease with a genetic predisposition has been more intensely investigated than type 2 diabetes. We’ve proven the benefits of gene mapping to identify hundreds of locations where causal mutations might be across many populations, including African Americans. This provides a larger number of characterised loci for scientists to study and will allow us to build a more detailed picture of the genetic architecture of type 2 diabetes,” explained lead author, Dr Nikolas Maniatis (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment). “Before we can conduct the functional studies required in order to better understand the molecular basis of this disease, we first need to identify as many plausible candidate loci as possible. Genetic maps are key to this task, by integrating the cross-platform genomic data in a biologically meaningful way,” added co-lead author, Dr Toby Andrew (Imperial College London, Department of Genomics of Common Disease). The team discovered that the additional 111 loci and previously known 76 loci regulate the expression of at least 266 genes that neighbour the identified disease loci. The vast majority of these loci were found outside of gene coding regions but coincided with regulatory ‘hotspots’ that alter the expression of these genes in body fat. They are currently investigating whether these loci alter the expression of the same genes in other tissues such as the pancreas, liver and skeletal muscle that are also relevant to type 2 diabetes. Three loci present in African American and European populations were analysed further using deep sequencing in an independent sample of 94 European patients with type 2 diabetes and 94 control subjects in order to identify genetic mutations that cause the disease. The team found that all three loci overlapped with areas of the chromosome containing multiple regulatory elements and epigenetic markers along with candidate causal mutations for type 2 diabetes that can be further investigated. “Our results mean that we can now target the remaining loci on the genetic maps with deep sequencing to try and find the causal mutations within them. We are also very excited that most of the identified disease loci appear to confer risk of disease in diverse populations such as African Americans, implying our findings are likely to be universally applicable and not just confined to Europeans,” added Dr Winston Lau (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment). “We are now in a strong position to build upon these genomic results, and we can apply the same methods to other complex diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease,” concluded Dr Maniatis.
News Article | May 12, 2017
A recent conference in Bahrain brought together experts in Islamic archaeology to discuss the lessons of the past and how to safeguard Muslim heritage for future generations. Under the blistering Bahraini sun archaeologist Salman Al Mahari and his team are excavating a section on the western side of the Al-Khamis mosque site. With its twin minarets the mosque used to act as a landmark for ships at sea guiding them to land in the 14th century. But today, excavating the mosque has a far more important function as Islamic archaeology takes on the extremists at their own game. At a recent conference in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, archaeologists working in over 14 Islamic countries around the world participated in a first of its kind conference. Islamic Archaeology in Global Perspective brought together some of the most distinguished scholars working in the field of Islamic archaeology to share first hand their recent practical experience in countries torn apart by war, and to investigate the various influences on the science of archaeology. New Zealander, Alan Walmsley, Professor of Islamic Archaeology and Art at the University of Copenhagen says his investigations aim to disseminate a fuller account of social, cultural, and economic developments in Arab and Islamic history. "I interrogate faded and misinformed historical narratives," he explains. He begins by unpicking past Western interest in Bilad Al-Sham, an historic region of the Middle East known as Greater Syria. "Islamic discoveries were incidental to the objective of archaeological interest in Greater Syria," he says."The focus of digs were on the Biblical, Hellenistic and Classical past. These earlier periods took precedence in research." Animosity between Islam and the West compounded the lack of interest in Muslim remains according to Alastair Northedge, professor at the Universites de Paris 1. He spoke in the context of his recent trip to Iraq, about the West's overwhelming concerns with their own past. "There is quite a good example in Iraq," he says. "Babylon seems to belong to the West." Corisande Fenwick, a lecturer in Archaeology of the Mediterranean at University College London (UCL) took time to describe painstaking research into food remains indicating when pork was no longer consumed and so revealing the pace at which Islam was established across the Maghreb region. She attributes the Western assessment of archaeological finds prior to the mid-1950s to a colonial interpretation. "If you go back before independence, archaeology is all driven by colonial scholars," she says. "They were attracted by the exotic nature of their finds. That reinforced the idea that the Islamic world was somehow different and needed to be controlled by colonial powers," she adds. But it is not just a Western agenda that has shaped excavations in the Muslim world. Alastair Northedge also notes that Muslims themselves have not always been concerned with protecting the material heritage of the great spiritual sanctuaries. "It is not just Mecca and Medina, but also Shia shrines in Najaf and Karbala in Iraq" he says. "There seems to be a preference for building something new rather than conserving the old because the emphasis is on the spiritual nature of these places not their materiality." But a wider vision is coming and the rise in the number of excavations throughout the Gulf area attests to a burgeoning interest in the material past. St John Simpson, archaeologist and senior curator at the British Museum, says that a revival of interest in Islamic archaeology is long overdue. "It's part and parcel of a search for Muslim cultural identity," he explains. It is also an opportunity to redress earlier misconceptions. "Since the 19th century and continuing though much of the 20th century commercial excavations led by dealers have in parts of the world flooded the market with objects which were traditionally celebrated by art historians," Dr Simpson says. "They celebrated the beauty of those pieces and therefore reconstructed material cultures on the basis of those objects." This world of appreciation driven by beauty is the natural perspective of art historians who rate aesthetics over function. "So metal ware, certain types of glass and glazed ceramics are elevated slightly disproportionately to their real functional value in the past. "Metal ware, glass and glazed ceramics are more highly rated than pottery, brass or plain glass and unfortunately that gives a rather skewed impression," he says. This new phase is also putting the spotlight on less well known aspects of the Muslim world. Saudi Arabian archaeologist Saad bin Abdulaziz Al Rashid says the Saudi Authority for Tourism and Heritage is in the process of broadening its scope beyond the Holy Places. "Dams, wells, springs, fortresses along pilgrim tourist routes are all key to the understanding of the spread of Islam," he says. "We are maintaining the Islamic cultural identity while ensuring their future sustainability," he asserts. "These sites are significant not only to Muslims at large, but also to non-Muslim scholars and as part of the archaeological work we are supporting the transference and dissemination of the facts surrounding Islamic history." Saad in Abdulaziz Al Rashid goes on to cite the rich remains of the Nabataean cities of Al Ula and Mada'n Saleh, the furthest western outpost of the civilisation centred at Petra in Jordan. "These first century tombs are now a tourist attraction." he states. Meanwhile Alastair Northedge notes that the contemporary, more comprehensive vision of Islam counterbalances the extremist fixation with the time of the Prophet. "All that millennium and a half of great Islamic civilisation, the golden age, has tended to disappear," he comments. "That means forgetting discoveries in philosophy, science that can tell us so much." Now educated mainstream Muslims are seeking an intelligent tolerant Islam they can relate to and which is absent from Islamic State (IS) discourse. Today's archaeologist may cross modern political frontiers shattering paradigms created within borders. A globalised archaeology sees expert working collaboratively in diverse countries across the Muslim world. St John Simpson says that the British Museum is already working with Iraqi archaeologists to build capacity for a whole new generation. "For a post-Daesh world where we can dig across Iraq safely, training schemes in southern and northern Iraq are helping prepare archaeologists." Some Iraqi trainees are currently working in Mosul at a time of conflict making assessments of the archaeology and the damage to cultural property with a view that when peace is restored there can be reconstruction. Nor far away from the conference taking place in Bahrain's National Theatre, Salman al-Mahari is looking at some newly unearthed tombstones. "These are the same type of stones found in Shiraz, in south-central, Iran," he confirms. "They reflect the cultural and economic exchange between these two places dating from the 11th centuries and perhaps even earlier." As well as introducing the notion of globalism to modern Islamic archaeology, the conference holds out the prospect of an objective assessment of current and previous findings that will offer a more balanced and revisionist account of the social history of Islam.