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The future faces of cancer research meet at Malmö University

2018-01-19

The next generation of researchers in cancer related technologies met for the first time at Malmö University as PhD students from two EU-funded projects gathered for a week-long workshop.

BioCapture and GlycoImaging are European Training Network (ETN) spearheaded and run by Malmö University. They have the aim of developing future tools and methods for cancer research and diagnostics.

While each project has met before, this was the first time they had both joined forces to explore and discuss each other’s research. Some 40 people, made up of PhD students and industry partners, attended the week-long conference.

Martha Kimani

PhD student Martha Kimani has been working on the GlycoImaging project for the past five months. Based in Berlin, her role is to prepare molecularly imprinted polymers to target cancer biomarkers. 

“In a nutshell, this means that we use these polymers to detect certain types of cancer. We do this by basing them on polystyrene and magnetic particles,” she explained.

“I have really enjoyed the conference, particularly the way that it brings people together from very different areas; there are students and professors of course, but also company representatives. This enriches the discussions taking place and means that I get to learn more about how we can move from academic work to actually having a product that can be sold on the market.”

This ultimate objective is an important motivator for Kimani personally.

“It’s definitely a benefit to be working on something so meaningful. This is not a project we are doing in order to conduct lab work or so that research papers can be published. Our goal is to transform the research into a product that people can use — we’re not just doing research that is going to be collecting dust on a shelf somewhere.”

Anette Gjrloff Wingren

Anette Gjörloff Wingren is the project leader for Glycoimaging, she explained.

“This is an excellent way for the students to learn from each other and to discuss what they are doing in their individual projects. 

“Within Glycoimaging there is both chemistry and cell biology and medical biology. A lot of the research we are dealing with has been done before, but how we are combining that research is new.

“Even though there are six different research groups spread across Europe, it is planned so no one can work on their own — we have to collaborate to get our results.

Nicholas Mckitterick

Originally from New Zealand, Nicholas Mckitterick  is currently working on the BioCapture project at the University of Oslo. His research involves the enrichment of small cell cancer biomarkers using molecularly imprinted polymers. 

“This project has been extraordinarily beneficial; the amount of collaboration and expertise from every angle, it is unmatched compared to the research I have done before. There is always someone coming along, and the breadth of knowledge is staggering, I think there is 200 years of research between us.

“It has been fantastic meeting the researchers from GlycoImaging, it has given me a far broader spectrum of knowledge and now I am seeing how our application can move on from my speciality. 

“Malmö University is doing a wonderful job. I always know what I am doing and what needs to be done next — the projects are exceptionally well coordinated,” he said. 

Börje Sellergren  

Project leader for BioCaputure Börje Sellergren said: “There is a very strong need for improved tools at a molecular level, so many of the clinically-orientated groups which are involved in this project are interested in finding more reliable ways of detecting molecules which are good indicators for cancer.

“We have to develop better tools and they have to be able to find these molecules in a very complex environment — it is like finding a needle in a haystack.

“GlycoImaging look at this at a cell/tissue level whereas BioCapture are interested in finding these in biological fluids, such as blood samples. The two networks are complementing each other.”

Sellergren explains that the funding could only come about due to EU cooperation. “This was a unique opportunity to get two projects funded and coordinated from the same site and we are really benefitting from the synergies of that now.”

Ian Pike is chief scientific officer of the partner company Proteome Sciences.

“The most important thing about the EU funding science is it provides a way of pulling together research groups who have a common interest. 

“This has been a great venue and Malmö University has been fantastic with providing facilities. Chances to meet up like this and have the right environment for educational and social things are absolutely critical. It’s been brilliant.”

Text: Adrian Grist

Last updated by Maya Acharya