Malaria milestone and using light to hear: News from the College

Dr Andriy Kozlov

Dr Andriy Kozlov

Here’s a batch of fresh news and announcements from across Imperial.

From an important step towards malaria elimination, to experimenting with light to help us hear better, here is some quick-read news from across the College.

Testing modified mosquitos

Genetically engineering certain species of mosquito is one potential new technique to boost malaria elimination efforts. However, scientists want to make sure they know how any modified mosquitos might behave in the wild.

Now, researchers from Imperial, LSTM, the University of Perugia, the University of Oxford and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have followed groups of modified mosquitos in large cages that mimic real environments.

The mosquitos were modified to pass on a trait that makes more of the next generation male. The new study revealed that in larger spaces the mosquitos interacted in such a way that populations were up to 80% male, a figure that could reduce females in local wild populations to a point where malaria transmission may fall.

For more details, read the full paper in Parasites & Vectors.

Good vibrations

The Department of Bioengineering ’s Dr Andriy Kozlov won a Wellcome Trust Investigator award in January. The funding of £920,000 over five years will further his exploration of hearing at the cellular level, focusing on the tiny hairs, or stereocilia, inside the ear, and how they vibrate to help us hear.

For example, Dr Kozlov will try to make stereocilia vibrate using light instead of sound waves.

He said: “We will build new instruments to move stereocilia with light, using the same physical principle that causes a comet’s tail to bend away from the Sun. This work promises to shed light on fundamental aspects of the biophysics of hearing.”

Academy accolade

Professor Molly Stevens of the Departments of Materials and Bioengineering has been elected as a Foreign Member to the US National Academy of Engineering.

The election, which makes Professor Stevens one of 272 ‘foreign members’ of the Academy, recognises her contributions to materials-based approaches for tissue regeneration and biosensing.

Election to the US National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Professor Stevens will be inducted during a ceremony at the NAE’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., in October.

Speaking about her appointment, Professor Stevens said: “I am hugely grateful to my team of talented Postdocs and students as well as to our fantastic collaborators. The progress we make is a real team effort.”

Startup scoops top prize

CustoMem , a student-founded startup developing a new biomaterial to capture and recycle hazardous micropollutants from industrial wastewater, took home ‘Technology Business of the Year’ at the West London Business Awards 2019.

CustoMem was co-founded by Henrik Hagemann and Gabi Santosa while they were students at Imperial and were one of the first tenants to join the White City Incubator in 2017. Last year they received a ¤1.4m grant from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme to bring their product to market.

Workspace provider Central Working White City was also among the prize-winners as they collected ‘Co-working Space of the year’. Located in the I-HUB , Central Working provides businesses of all sizes with the environment, community and support to thrive.

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Andrew Youngson
Communications and Public Affairs