Mazumdar-Shaw Advanced Research Centre (ARC)
The ARC, the Advanced Research Centre, is the creative and collaborative heart of research at the University of Glasgow. The £116m building will help bridge the boundaries between research, cross subject collaboration and true societal impact.
The ARC brings world leading researchers together in a building specifically designed to break down organisational structures and facilitate collaboration. By housing diverse teams within the same building, the ARC exposes individuals and research areas to each other, increasing opportunities for cross-disciplinary working.
As well as providing collaboration facilities for the entire University research community, it is home to academics working on global challenges across five broad themes: Creative Economies & Cultural Transformation, Digital Chemistry, Global Sustainable Development, Quantum and Nanotechnology, and Technologies Touching Life.
The ground floor of the ARC will be open to the general public from September 2022. Alongside a cafe the ground floor offers a mix of multi-purpose spaces for events and conferences, as well as team building and networking activity and public engagement.
Photo credit: Keith Hunter
Our research - tackling global challenges together
Water Engineering – tackling the global water challenge
Some 35% of the world's population, most of whom live in rural communities, lack access to either improved sanitation or safe drinking water. The western, centralised model for water supply and treatment is too energy and capital-intensive to deliver sustainable solutions in these countries.
Professor Bill Sloan and his team will harness the bioprocessing power of microorganisms to deliver clean drinking water and treat wastewater in rural communities using low-energy, sustainable, off-grid technologies.
He said: “I have spent much of my career to-date researching the fundamentals of engineering biology in water systems. A suite of emerging technologies now presents me with the opportunity of applying the knowledge I have gained in new ways that will help to deliver clean water and sanitation to rural communities. We intend to work in collaboration with global partners to develop new off-grid water technologies for remote communities from the Scottish islands to tropical rainforests.”
Working from the Advanced Research Centre will ensure Professor Sloan and his team have proximity to a range of disciplines which will help him achieve this ambitious goal.
The team will be working with biomedical engineers who have developed low-cost point-of-use sensors to monitor the biology and chemistry of distributed off-grid water biotechnologies, and with chemists applying ideas from digital chemistry to bioremediation. They will collaborate with social and political scientists through demonstrators and workshops to explore responsible and acceptable solutions.
The goal, as Professor Sloan says “is a co-located cohort of academics, business development professionals, and research and development facilities, that will have international reach.”
Malaria – drug discovery offering new hope
Malaria, a mosquito-borne infectious disease, currently affects over 200 million people, and kills nearly half a million people – mostly children – every year.
Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which infects humans through the bite of a mosquito. It then grows in red blood cells where it causes the symptoms of malaria. The parasites infecting the blood can also be taken up in the blood meal of a biting mosquito and infect the mosquito so that when the mosquito then bites another person the parasite can be transmitted.
Scientists led by Professor Andrew Tobin, Director of the Advanced Research Centre (ARC), have discovered a drug that can kill the parasite at all stages of its life cycle in humans and in so doing provide a treatment that can cure the person of malaria and also stop transmission through the mosquito.
The new drug works by stopping the activity of an essential protein, which controls the production/activity of other proteins that are involved in keeping the parasite alive. By blocking this protein’s activity, the drugs can effectively kill the malaria parasite, which not only prevents it spreading, but also holds the possibility of treating the disease in humans too.
Professor Tobin said: “We are tremendously excited about these new findings, and hope they pave the way for the first step in the eradication of malaria. Our work has shown that by killing the parasites at the various stages of parasite development, we have not only discovered a potential cure for malaria but also a way of stopping the spread of malaria from person to mosquito which can then infect other people.”
Transforming pre-clinical drug discovery is a key focus of researchers in the ARC, bringing together expertise from molecular pharmacology and chemistry to speed up the drug discovery process and increase the likelihood of a drug being effective.
Monitoring healthcare at home – quantum-powered sensors
Over the next five years, engineers, psychologists, computing scientists and physicists from the University of Glasgow will collaborate with primary and secondary care clinicians, and health economists from the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences and statisticians at the University of Lancaster to explore how healthcare sensors can be integrated into the home of the future.
Building on technology already in development by the researchers, the Healthcare QUEST initiative, which will be housed in the ARC, will find new ways to use quantum technologies to directly monitor health markers like blood flow, heart rate, movement and potentially even brain function in people’s own homes. The project will be supported by input from industry, clinicians, charities and patient groups.
Professor Jon Cooper, the University’s Wolfson Chair of Bioengineering, is the project’s principal investigator. Professor Cooper said: “We’ve put together a really strong research team, with expertise in bioengineering, quantum technologies, primary and secondary care clinicians, artificial intelligence, real time data interpretation and healthcare economics, and we’re looking forward to starting the work which will make this ambitious project a reality.”
The project has secured £5.5m in new funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and is a flagship example of what we can achieve through collaboration in the Advanced Research Centre.
Alzheimer’s Disease – restoring memory loss and prolonging life
The ARC will provide a collaborative environment which will enable researchers to work side-by-side to address major healthcare challenges such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and it affects an estimated 850,000 people in the UK alone.
There are no treatments that can slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and patients are currently treated with drugs which temporarily mask the symptoms of the disease. Often these treatments are associated with side-effects which can limit patient compliance.
In 2016 Professor Andrew Tobin, Director of the Advanced Research Centre, his research team and international collaborators identified a drug target for not only improving symptoms of brain degeneration - but also to extend the lifespan of terminally ill mice suffering from neurodegeneration.
In the ARC Professor Tobin will build on this work, collaborating with colleagues in Digital Chemistry team to find a novel molecule that can treat the disease without side effects. Looking to the longer-term the team will work with researchers in Quantum and Nanotechnology who will implement high-resolution brain imaging techniques to monitor the effectiveness of the drugs developed.
Andrew Tobin, Professor of Molecular Pharmacology, is the ARC's founding Director.
Professor Tobin joined the University of Glasgow in September 2016 and he has been closely involved with the development of the ARC since the project began. He is passionate about the opportunities this new building brings.
“I am delighted to have been asked to contribute to this fantastic project that underlines the commitment of the University to ground-breaking collaborative research across disciplines.
The ARC, and the principles behind it, have been a long-term goal of the University. As a name, it encompasses our vision to conduct collaborative, out-of-reach research that has real societal impact.
It is so much more than a building. We want to take a shared vision and expertise from across all areas of the University community to genuinely transform the way we do research, with the ultimate aim of changing the lives of the people, community and world around us.”