11th June, 2020

BREATH Annual Conference 2020 (Virtual) – hosted by UWS

Outreach News | Research


The 2020 BREATH Annual Conference was hosted this year by UWS from 15-17th Jun – and was online due to the current pandemic.  Organisers: Dr Anne Crilly, Ida Cleland and Brainin Lennon.

Two exciting days chaired by the Postdocs, of PhD students presenting ‘hot-off-the-press’ results to audience >60:


Followed by a Teva UK Ltd delivered training event entitled ‘The Pharmaceutical Industry in Action‘.  So far >100 have registered (and counting).


Conference Report

Authored by Fawziye Tarhini & Mark Thomas (UWS PhD Students)

The first day of the virtual conference was launched by Prof John Lockhart and Dr Anne Crilly (UWS PIs) welcoming us all to the conference and setting the scene for the upcoming presentations. This was followed by the first session of PhD student speakers, chaired by Dr Roddy Large (PDRA, DkIT). A wide range of advanced scientific topics were superbly presented by students, which included, modulation of epithelial sodium channels, and oxidative stress in lung epithelium, to the impact of inflammatory mediators to induce relaxation in airway smooth muscle, and regulation of inflammation via a protein called PAR2.

The afternoon session was chaired by Dr Joanna Brzeszcynska (PDRA, UWS). Once again, the BREATH PhDs performed well, updating us on the extensive and in-depth work they have carried out during the past year. This covered areas such as PAR2 induced autophagy, characterization of a potential biomarker in COPD, mechanisms of viral-induced airway neural deregulation in COPD, role of cytokines in protein expression in the airways and the role of LINGO1 peptides in modulating BK (large conductance, voltage and calcium gated K+ ) channels. The first day of the conference was then concluded with special words from both Dr Anne Crilly and Prof John Lockhart (UWS) to congratulate the speakers on their excellent work and presentations.

On the following day, UWS PI Dr Gary Litherland began the opening address with the final session of student presentations then proceeding, chaired by Dr Anna Claire Devlin (PRDA, QUB). Once again, there were a number of fascinating presentations such as airway irritants modulating neural pathways in COPD, murine bronchodilation via PAR2, blockage of store-operated calcium entry by GSK-7975A on airway smooth muscle contractions, the inflammatory response to pathogens, modelling microbial interactions in the airway, and utilization of mutations and chimeras to identify the site of binding of a peptide in KV7.4 channels.

The final day started by a brief welcome by Johnny Mones (UWS Enterprise), discussing the importance of science and research in enterprise and business, and the incredible interlink we at UWS have with a number of businesses in society today, paving a path to the future. Mrs Kim Innes, the acting manager of Teva UK and Ireland then presented her current role within the above company, the impact Teva has globally and its importance in the treatment of numerous diseases. This incorporated enthralling information of the global presence of Teva and its note of importance by the World Health Organisation in both development and distribution of disease treatments.

This was followed by Dr Brendan Muldoon, who gave an in-depth view on the developmental role of Teva in pharmaceuticals. Dr Muldoon explained how they progress an idea to a chemical, and then to a cure.  This was particularly fascinating due to his use of examples of drug developments they have produced in their own labs, for chronic and acute diseases. Most fascinating of these was the incredible research they have carried out into the debilitating disease ulcerative colitis.

Our last presentation of the morning was delivered by Orla Barron on “Pharmacovigilance and patient safety life cycle: from pre to post marketing phase”. This presentation highlighted the importance of the care taken in the post-drug development stage, to ensure that pharmaceuticals are still safe once out in the public. This is due to an important fact Ms Barron conferred that, even with large cohort studies at the final stages of drug development not all side-effects can be identified as those individuals in these studies are fit and healthy. As such, there is no knowledge how they will affect people with different conditions, other to those for which the drug is designed to treat, or pregnant women. Ms Barron explained this and compared it to the thalidomide treatment with undesired side effects on the unborn children of treated mothers, this gave a lot of food for thought and opened up our minds to different areas.

The afternoon session begun by presentation by Mr Sean Twohig, who gave an insightful talk on his path into the pharmaceutical industry.  Mr Twohig was a community pharmacist who decided that this was not the career path he wanted, so returned to education, receiving an MBA and joined Teva, moving through the company and acts as a liaison between the NHS and Teva, ensuring that the NHS has the best drugs to treat various different afflictions and at the best value.

The final presentation was given by Mrs Louise Bousfield (Alexander Mann Solutions); this was a brilliant opportunity to learn how best to improve our future chances of success in the recruitment market. This covered an extensive overview of how to best prepare CVs, covering letters and optimise our online presence, including use of social media sites and LinkedIn accounts.

Finally, we received very kind concluding comments from a number of the partner institute PIs. At this point that Professor Gerard Sergeant (DkIT) awarded well-deserved BREATH Conference awards. In recognition of Excellence in Research, Miss Carly Woods from UWS was awarded a prize on her presentation “An investigation into particulate matter on epithelial cell line with site specific air pollution analysis”. Miss Tuleen Alkawadri from DKIT was awarded her prize for research on “Role of post-junctional M2 muscarinic receptors in cholinergic-mediated contractions of murine airway smooth muscle”. Miss Orla Dunne from QUB was awarded the prize for the Best Oral Presentation.

Professor Keith Thornbury (DkIT), Professor John Lockhart, Dr Anne Crilly and Dr Gary Litherland thanked all for joining together to present on our research, Teva UK for their insightful presentations, and a special thanks was given to UWS colleagues who made the virtual conference possible.

Finally – click the link for the collective round of applause by all, bringing BREATH 2020 Conference to a formal close!


Conference featured in regional press.


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