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Giant bacteria, electric shocks and dusty medicinal discoveries – all in a day’s work for CHC

Jeremy Clark

September 30, 2016

The CHC offices are full of people who have a real passion for science, so it’s important to us that we maintain our curiosity and stay informed. That’s why the CHC team found themselves faced with a 28ft giant inflatable E.coli as we ventured along to two days of New Scientist Live, taking place at the ExCel London.

The hall was split into four themed zones: Technology, Brain & Body, Cosmos and Earth, with each section hosting a number of exhibits and talks. Some of our highlights included:

The future of healthcare –Ruth McKernan of Innovate UK

The talk examined P1vital’s PReDicT project, which aims to improve treatment outcomes in depression using an early test to predict response to antidepressants, and a pioneering breathalyser developed by Owlstone Medical, which aims to improve early diagnosis of cancer in primary care settings in order to save 10,000 lives and £245million for the UK economy by 2020.

Electricity’s healing spark –Kris Famm, President of Galvani Bioelectronics

Electricity is already used in muscle rehabilitation, deep brain stimulation, and pacemakers. Even Roman physicians used shocks from torpedo fish to treat headaches and gout. But could controlling the electric signals in the nervous system allow us to progress into a new age of medicine? Using precision modulation and improved mapping of the nervous system, Galvani hope to target specific nerves to control electrical signals that are associated with chronic diseases such as; asthma, type II diabetes, inflammatory bowel syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. Developing these techniques will call on the skills of biologists, data scientists, neurologists, engineers and materials scientists.

The medieval medicine cabinet – Dr Freya Harrison, University of Warwick

Freya explained that the project came about from her curiosity in ethnopharmacology combined with scouring ancient Anglo-Saxon text for medicinal remedies. After approaching Dr Christina Lee, a professor in Viking Studies, they set about testing ‘Bald’s Eyesalve’ an ancient treatment for sties made of garlic/onion, wine and cow bile. Astonishingly, not only did they find that the remedy killed established S.aureus infections much more effectively than Vancomycin, it also killed clinical isolates of various other nasty infections, and failed to evolve resistant bacteria. It is well known that bacteria have become dangerously resistant to many of our modern day antibiotics, to the extent even of the rise of ‘superbugs’ such as MRSA. With discoveries like this, perhaps looking to the past could lead the way to medicines of the future.


Though at CHC we may have a slight bias towards the more health related talks, the day covered all realms of science. We particularly enjoyed exploring the technology on display, such as the organic art virtual reality presented by Goldsmiths University’s Department of Computing. We also visited the ‘Pestaurant’ and snacked on ants and the Black Forest Floor Brownie, containing batter made from, and garnished with mealworms.

We were thoroughly inspired by our day at New Scientist Live; it was amazing to see so many scientists collaborating and captivating their audiences through communication. It reminded us of what can be achieved for science and healthcare when we come together.