Photo of the ARC building take on a sunny day in August 2022

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 helps to 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 is open to the general public. Alongside a cafe (opening February 2023) 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. 

Researcher in Thailand with a wastewater bioreactor.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.

Image of a mosquito on skin

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.

An illustration showing how healthcare technologies could work in a home

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 provides 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.

MRI Scan brain image showing evidence of Alzheimer's Disease

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 is building 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.

Climate change and the music industry

At Glasgow researchers have been collaborating with industry partners and campaigning organisations to help understand the environmental impact of the music industry. The industry has seen several initiatives aimed at increasing awareness of climate issues and decarbonising music events and products.Graphic with the words MUSIC DECLARES EMERGENCY against a yellow and white background

In 2022 researchers from the Creative Economies and Cultural Transformation Theme in the ARC conducted a survey, Turn Up the Volume. The research, funded through the Natural Environment Research Council Disciplinary Hopping Fund, showed that music fans are more likely to care about climate change and want the music industry to do more to tackle the crisis than non-music fans.

Dr Matt Brennan, lead investigator, said “This sends a strong message across the music industries – to record labels, concert promoters, streaming platforms, artists, and other sectors – that there is an appetite for industry initiatives to tackle climate change, and that fans support, and indeed demand, bolder action."

In the ARC Dr Matt Brennan, College of Arts and Dr Mark Wong, College of Social Sciences continue to build on this work, collaborating across sectors to provide evidence to inform and influence our societal and industry-focused responses to the climate emergency.