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Science and the Assembly/Gwyddoniaeth a’r Cynulliad

6 June 2017, Cardiff, United Kingdom

Designed to foster close relations with the National Assembly and the Welsh Government, Science and the Assembly is organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry, on behalf of, and in cooperation with, the Welsh science and engineering community.

The theme for 2017 is Antimicrobial Resistance
Professor Sir John Holman BA MA CChem FRSC, President, Royal Society of Chemistry, United Kingdom

John Holman is President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Emeritus Professor in the Chemistry Department, University of York, UK, and adviser in Education at the Wellcome Trust and the Gatsby Foundation.  

He was the founding Director of the National Science Learning Centre from 2004 until September 2010, and adviser to the English government as National Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Director from 2006 until September 2010.  

He was re-appointed a Trustee of the Natural History Museum (2015), he is Chair of the Salters’ Institute Board (from 2013) and Chair of the Teacher Development Trust (from 2014).

After studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge, John taught in a range of secondary schools and in 1994 he became principal of Watford Grammar School for Boys, an all-ability state school. From 2000 to 2004 he was Salters’ Professor of Chemical Education at the University of York.  John has taught learners of chemistry and science at all levels from 11 year olds to undergraduates and currently teaches chemistry to undergraduates at York.  He has created curricula and written books for science learners of most ages in the UK and overseas and was the founding director of the Salters Advanced Chemistry programme.

John was named in 2014 by the Science Council as one of UK’s 100 leading practising scientists, and was awarded in 2014 the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Lord Lewis Award and the Royal Society’s Kavli Education Medal.  He was knighted in 2010, for services to education

Peter Knowles FRSC, Cardiff University, United Kingdom

Session Chair
Peter Knowles is Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at Cardiff University, where he has been since 2004, including a period as Head of School (2009-2013). He previously held a chair at the University of Birmingham (1995-2004), a lectureship at the University of Sussex (1989-95), and an SERC Advanced Research Fellowship at the University of Cambridge (1987-89).

His Cambridge PhD was followed by postdoctoral work in Cambridge and at the University of Western Ontario.

Peter’s scientific interests are in calculating from first principles the quantum electronic structure of molecules, in order to provide quantitative predictions of structure, bonding, properties and reactivity of molecular matter. He has contributed to the development of many of the standard methods of computational quantum chemistry, and is a lead author of the widely-used Molpro software package. His research has been recognised through the award of the Royal Society of Chemistry Harrison, Marlow and Computational Chemistry awards. He is currently a member of the Council of the RSC.

Almero Barnard, Neem Biotech Ltd, United Kingdom

Biochemist by trade, Almero has spent his professional career in Research and Development (R&D) and management of commercial (industrial-scale) protein extraction and purification departments. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Animal Biotechnology and Hons. Biochemistry at Stellenbosch University (South Africa). He then moved to industry and also obtained his MSc. in Biochemistry during his work at one of the world's largest natural enzyme manufacturers. Currently, he is part of the management team at Neem Biotech, where he leads a group of researchers focussed on finding solutions for human health challenges, including the development of antimicrobial compounds.

Talk title - ​Reducing the demand for antimicrobials through stewardship - the role of alternative approaches
Neem Biotech, a Welsh biotech SME, is pioneering research into alternatives to antibiotics such as those that act as resistance breakers, giving antibiotics a new lease on life. Through development of alternatives such as quorum-sensing inhibitors that reduce the virulence of pathogens, Neem Biotech is increasing the potential efficacy of current antibiotics. Further alternative approaches to combat antimicrobial resistance include improvements to sanitization, surveillance and diagnostics. These are also crucial interventions. Over and above these approaches there is a need to incubate and incentivize the development of new antibiotics to re-populate the antibiotic pipeline.
The mechanisms that bacteria use to resist antimicrobial compounds are not new but are a part of the mechanisms bacteria use to overcome environmental stresses. The challenge that has arisen due to bacteria showing resistance to all known antibiotics can in part be ascribed to the often unnecessary use of antimicrobials in man as well as in agriculture resulting in the selection for resistance. As part of our approach to combating the challenge of antibiotic resistance in bacteria Neem Biotech advocate’s stewardship through direct and indirect interventions to reduce the unnecessary use of antimicrobials in order to prolong the efficacy of current antibiotics and ensure the longevity of new drug entities.

Dr Arwyn Edwards, Aberystwyth University, United Kingdom

Dr Arwyn Edwards graduated from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth with BSc Microbiology (2005) and PhD Molecular Microbiology (2009) degrees and joined the faculty in 2010. He is presently Senior Lecturer in Biology at IBERS and Director of the Aberystwyth University Interdisciplinary Centre for Environmental Microbiology. He is also currently a Leverhulme Trust Fellow and the inaugural Royal Geographical Society Walters Kundert Arctic Fellow, tackling research problems related to the interaction of microbes with Earth's cryosphere over the last 600 million years and their implications for our society this century. This research coupled with the supervision of PhD students supported by the Life Science Research Network Wales and EU Horizon 2020 to identify novel antibiotics from the cryosphere has led him to develop teaching activities which immerse Aberystwyth University undergraduates in the challenge of exploring for new antimicrobials.

Talk title - From Aber to the Arctic
Developing the next generation of Antibiotic Resistance Fighters Arwyn Edwards Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS),  Aberystwyth University Securing the well-being of future generations requires immediate and sustained action to deliver new insight, new tools and crucially, new scientists. I will illustrate the importance of integrating action within these three domains to tackle the intersection of two challenges facing both Wales and the world: climate change and antimicrobial resistance. Specifically, I will highlight how climate change poses new risks and opportunities in combatting antimicrobial resistance both within the Arctic and in Wales. These range from legacy pathogens and antimicrobial resistance released from not only the melting Arctic but Welsh floodplains to the exploration of the Arctic for novel antimicrobials and the development of new tools for rapid, in-field genome analysis. Finally, I will show how research-led teaching at Aberystwyth University supported by the Microbiology Society's "Antibiotics Unearthed" initiative completes the triad in training new scientists armed with the new tools to carry forward the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

Vaughan Gething AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport, United Kingdom

Vaughan Gething was born in Zambia and brought up in Dorset. He was educated at Aberystwyth and Cardiff universities, and is married to Michelle. Vaughan is a largely retired cricketer and a fan of both rugby and football.

Vaughan was a solicitor and former partner at Thompsons. He is a member of the GMB, UNISON and Unite unions, and was the youngest ever President of the TUC in Wales. He has previously served as a county councillor and school governor. He has also been a community service volunteer – supporting and caring for a student with cerebral palsy, and is former president of NUS Wales.

Between 1999 and 2001, Vaughan worked as a researcher to former AMs Val Feld and Lorraine Barrett. Between 2001 and 2003, Vaughan was the chair of Right to Vote – a cross-party project to encourage greater participation from black minority ethnic communities in Welsh public life.

Vaughan is a member of the Co-operative Party.

In June 2013 Vaughan Gething was appointed Deputy Minister for Tackling Poverty. In September 2014, Vaughan was appointed Deputy Minister for Health. In May 2016 he was appointed Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport.

Dr Rowena Jenkins, Cardiff Metropolitan University, United Kingdom

Having graduated form the University of Wales Aberystwyth with a degree in Microbiology (2004) followed by a PhD in Molecular Microbiology from the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (2009). Rowena has been researching natural antimicrobial agents ever since. Rowena is currently a Lecturer in Microbiology within the department of Biomedical Sciences at Cardiff Metropolitan University, with research focusing on the current challenges of antimicrobial resistance, novel antimicrobial agents and their role in combating chronic microbial infections.  To date the main body of her research has focused on the antimicrobial effects of manuka honey on potentially pathogenic microorganisms. Rowena has a research group at Cardiff Metropolitan University investigating the infections associated with Cystic Fibrosis and Diabetic foot ulcers as well as zoonotic pathogens found in companion animals, with collaborators in the NHS, industry and academia.

Talk Title - ​Microbial resistance and antibiotic alternatives
There is a growing interest in alternatives to antibiotics since many antibiotics are failing to clear infections due to the presence of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria.  The global use of antibiotics grew by 40% between 2000 and 2010. When this is coupled with a shortage of new antibiotics coming to market and the emergence of increasingly resistant bacteria, suggests our current use of antibiotics is not sustainable. The UK government’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance has estimated that by 2050, 10 million people annually will die from AMR infections if we do not change the current trend.  In an attempt to reduce antibiotic use and preserve the effectiveness of “last resort” antibiotics, there has been an international effort to identify alternatives to antibiotics which could treat infection or work in synergy with antibiotics. There is growing evidence that honey, maggots and silver as well as many other natural remedies have exceptional antimicrobial activity which could be utilised for the treatment of topical infections.

Dr Lovleen T Joshi, Cardiff University, United Kingdom

Lovleen Tina Joshi received B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in microbiology form Cardiff University, Cardiff, U.K. in 2008 and 2012 respectively. She has worked as a Post-Doctoral Researcher for 5 years at Cardiff University School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences to further develop and enhance the rapid detection technologies for C. difficile, MRSA and Bacillus anthracis. She has currently extended her research repertoire by studying mobile antibiotic resistance genes in Gram negative bacteria

Talk title - Detection of Antimicrobial Resistance: Now and the Future
By 2050 it is estimated that 10 million people world-wide will die as a result of being infected with drug- resistant bacteria. Bacteria which were previously susceptible to antibiotic treatment have evolved to develop resistance to commonly used antibiotics, rendering them ineffective to combat infection. Now there are fewer antibiotics available to treat patients with certain infections. Hence there is a global drive not only to discover new antibiotics to combat these bacteria, but also to develop new types of diagnostics that can help diagnose infection at point of care.
In this talk I will discuss the current and newest technologies that are in development for rapid detection of Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria.

Professor Eshwar Mahenthiralingam, Cardiff University, United Kingdom

My undergraduate studies in Applied Biology were completed in 1987 in Cardiff. I completed a Ph.D. (1991) at the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill, London, working on tuberculosis. I took up a 2-year postdoctoral position (1991) at the Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada where I developed expertise in the cystic fibrosis lung infections, working on Pseudomonas and Burkholderia bacteria. The short postdoctoral position turned into a nine year stay in Canada, but in June 1999 I returned to Cardiff and joined the School of Biosciences as a Lecturer. I was promoted to Professor in 2011 and now also work with school management as Co-Director of Research. My current research focusses on Burkholderia and Pseudomonas bacteria, and their multiple interactions from infections to biotechnology and antibiotic discovery.

Talk Title - Exploring new sources of antibiotics - can we catch up with resistance?
The majority of our current antibiotics were discovered between 1950 and 1970, and are natural products produced by bacteria and fungi. A group of soil bacteria called the Actinobacteria have proved to be a particularly rich source of antibiotics. Since the 1970s few new antibiotics have reached the clinic due to multiple, largely commercial reasons. Yet during this time antibiotic resistance has continued to rise to what is now recognised as global health crisis.
Multiple strategies will be required to combat antimicrobial resistance and the discovery of new antibiotics is a fundamental one – but can we discover resistance-busting drugs fast enough? A group of bacteria called Burkholderia hold considerable promise as a new source of antibiotics. Modern genomic technologies and interdisciplinary chemical-biology can also speed up drug discovery. However training in medicinal chemistry skills and considerable further research investment will be required to enable next-generation antibiotic discovery to keep pace with resistance.

Dr Rachel McMullan, The Open University, United Kingdom

Rachel McMullan received her BSc and PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology from the University of Birmingham. Following a postdoctoral position at the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology at University College London she held a Wellcome Trust funded career development fellowship at Imperial College London. She is now a Lecturer in Health Sciences at The Open University.  Here research uses the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans as a simple model to understand how animals respond to infection. She is currently interested in how animals change their behaviour in the presence of pathogenic bacteria in order to protect themselves from infection.

Talk Title - Yuck, that’s disgusting! How your emotions protect you from infection 
Promoting safe hygiene may be one, if not the most, cost-effective means of preventing disease however, less than 17% of the world population washes their hands with soap after the toilet. The human emotion of disgust is an adaptive disease avoidance system that can be harnessed to improve hygienic behaviors such as handwashing and prevent infectious disease spread.
Avoidance behaviours are the first line of defence against infection and have been selected for throughout evolution; simply put animals that avoid situations where the risk of infectious disease is high are more likely to survive and procreate. Pathogen avoidance has been observed in many animals including worms, flies, birds, fish and primates. In this talk I will discuss how we can begin to understand disgust through experimental studies of pathogen avoidance in animals and show how this understanding can be harnessed to improve human health around the world.

Dr Geertje van Keulen, Swansea University Medical School, United Kingdom

Geertje completed her MSci degree in Biochemistry and PhD in Microbial Physiology at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, after which she obtained postdoctoral experience in her first interdisciplinary project on marine antifouling. She then relocated her research to the UK upon receiving two fellowships, a Marie Curie IEF and a NWO Talent fellowship. She moved to a permanent academic position at Swansea University next, where Geertje is now Associate Professor in Biochemistry in the Institute of Life Science at the Swansea University Medical School.
Geertje’s research focuses on the microbiology of natural antibiosis and resistance to antibiotics and metals, microbial adaptation to drought and bioengineering of water repellency of manmade and natural materials. Her research team collaborates in highly interdisciplinary projects with soil scientists, materials engineers, hydrologists, nanotechnologists and (climate) modellers. Geertje is the lead-organiser of Soapbox Science Swansea, an annual open-air public science event showcasing the exciting research of female researchers in STEMM.

Talk title: Antimicrobials the natural way
The use of modern antibiotics in clinical practice started in the first part of the 20th century, which have led immediately to the rise of resistant infections. In contrast, natural antibiosis (natural biosynthesis of antibiotics) and co-resistance to antibiotics are ancient, millions of years-old traits. In this talk I will discuss how we can achieve a better understanding of nature’s way of balancing antibiosis and resistance. This in turn can provide insights to a more sustainable use of antibiotics in the clinic and in agriculture to tackle modern global challenges in healthcare and food security.

Nick Ramsay AM, Welsh Assembly, United Kingdom

Born in 1975, Nick is originally from Cwmbran. Aside from politics, Nick is a keen tennis player and member of Cwmbran Tennis Club. He is also a follower of Welsh rugby. He is involved in charity work.
Nick went to Croesyceiliog Comprehensive School before attending St John's College at the University of Durham where he gained a Joint Honours degree in English and Philosophy. He later gained a Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Linguistics from Cardiff University.
Nick has previously worked as a researcher for former Welsh Conservative party leader Nick Bourne. Prior to that he worked for former Monmouth AM David Davies.
Nick was elected as Welsh Conservative Assembly Member for Monmouth in May 2007 and was Shadow Minister for Local Government and Public Services until October 2008 when he was appointed Shadow Minister for Finance. He was appointed Shadow Minister for Business, Enterprise & Technology, Chair of Enterprise & Business Committee 2011-2014.

David Rees AM, Welsh Assembly, United Kingdom

David is a strong advocate for trade unions and the important role they play in supporting working people.  He is a member of Unite the Union and was previously also a member of the Universities and Colleges Union during his educational career. His academic interest in the application of computing led him to become a member of the British Computer Society and a Chartered Engineer.
His political interests include the future of manufacturing in Wales, health, education, economic development& regeneration including the opening up of more tourism opportunities within the South Wales valleys and improving public services within local communities.

David Rees is a native of Aberavon and was educated in local primary and comprehensive schools. Upon completing his A-levels he attended University College Cardiff (now Cardiff University). He has always lived in Port Talbot and now lives in Cwmafan, Port Talbot, with his wife. They have two adult daughters, both of whom attended local Welsh medium schools, and four grandchildren.
David has an honours degree in Civil & Structural Engineering from Cardiff University (formerly UCC), as well as a post-graduate teaching qualification and a master’s degree in Computer Science.
David started his education career as a teacher of mathematics in Cynffig Comprehensive School, Kenfig Hill, before becoming a lecturer in computing at Afan College. He then moved into higher education as a senior lecturer in Computing and prior to his election to the National Assembly in 2011 was an Assistant Dean of Faculty at Swansea Metropolitan University (now part of UWTSD).  During his time at Swansea Metropolitan University, David was chair of the Joint trade union committee and a lay member of the Welsh regional committee of UCU (NATFHE) representing members across the institution.
David has been a staff governor at Swansea Institute of HE and Afan College and a parent governor at Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera.

David was first elected to the National Assembly for Wales as the Assembly Member for Aberavon in 2011, succeeding Dr Brian Gibbons. During the fourth Assembly term David chaired the Health & Social Care Committee and also sat on the Enterprise & Business Committee, the Environment Committee and the Children, Young People & Education Committee.  He also chaired cross party groups on Science & Technology, Mental Health and Industrial Communities.
Since joining the Labour party in 1982 he has held a number of positions within the party in Wales, as well as in his trade unions. Prior to his election in 2011 he was a member of Labour’s Welsh Executive Committee and its Welsh Policy Forum, actively involved in the policy agenda ahead of that election.  He was also a member of the regional committee of his trade union and a lay officer at his workplace.
Before being selected to represent his home constituency in 2011, David was the Labour Party’s candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire in the 2003 National Assembly election and a list candidate for South Wales West in the 2007 election.

Simon Thomas AM, Welsh Assembly, United Kingdom

Simon's political interests include: the environment; food and rural affairs; transport; international development; energy; and culture, media and sport.
He lives in Aberystwyth with his wife; they have two children.
Simon worked as a librarian before becoming a researcher for Taff-Ely Borough Council.  He was also an anti-poverty worker and a rural development manager for Jigso.
Simon was elected to the House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Ceredigion in 2000 and 2001, and became a member of the Environmental Audit Committee.
After losing his seat, he became a development manager with Technium in Pembrokeshire. He then became a special senior advisor to the Welsh Government, advising the Deputy First Minister and other Plaid Cymru Ministers.
He was elected to the National Assembly for Wales in 2011 and again in 2016.

Registration is now open for Science and the Assembly.  The event is free to attend but please register to guarantee your place.
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