We Are Randox | Christopher McNally climbs the career leader from Placement to PhD
The name Christopher McNally may be one that you already recognise. In 2016 he earned 1st place in the Science category of the Randox Pinnacle Placement Awards, having caught the attention of Senior Management for his pioneering work developing a new diagnostic for pancreatic cancer.
Fast-forward two years and Christopher is now back at Randox as a PhD student, conducting research in prostate cancer as part of the recently-announced Randox-Ulster University PhD Academy.
We sat down with Chris to hear all about his revolutionary prostate cancer project, what motivated him to sign up to our PhD Academy and what it’s like to be back in the place where his scientific career began.
Here’s Chris’ story.
I came into Randox when I was just 19 years old for my third year at university as part of the company’s year-long placement programme. It was a great way to truly experience a working laboratory outside of the classroom and really cemented my desire to work in biomedical science.
I was lucky enough to be placed in the company’s Donegal branch, Randox Teoranta, which is close to where I grew up in Gartan, and offered me the opportunity to carry out ground-breaking medical research surrounded by my home of Donegal.
I would highly recommend the opportunity to perform an industrial placement to anyone. It helps you to prepare for what comes after university, develops your skills in the area in which you are interested, and refines your laboratory techniques. I was delighted to hear I won in the Science Category of the Randox Pinnacle Placement Awards during my time there as well, and this really inspired a confidence in me that I had become a talented scientist even before I graduated.
When I completed my fourth year of studies at Ulster University, I graduated with a degree in Biomedical Science and Professional Practice, and returned to work for Randox. The traits and qualities I learned during my placement had subsequently brought me to post-graduate employment, and I was thrilled. I was lucky enough to be able to walk straight back into the lab knowing exactly what to do and how to do it.
Despite becoming employed within Randox straight out of university however, I had this feeling that I was not finished with regards to academic study. I knew I wanted to do more, to perform more research. So, when I heard about the Randox-Ulster University PhD Academy I really was intrigued. It was the perfect platform to further my studies and be able to give more to the scientific community.
When choosing the area of research for my PhD I was keen to hear more about a collaborative prostate cancer project led by two of Northern Ireland’s leading cancer researchers Dr Mark Ruddock (Randox) and Dr Declan McKenna (Ulster University). From my time at university and my time spent at Randox, I thought I could bring my experience and knowledge in cancer research into this project, so I thought, let’s go for it.
Ultimately, the project involves looking at prostate cancer patients as well as patients who have other non-serious prostate conditions, and recognising any potential differences in the two. We can then develop a clinical diagnostic test that can identify the men at the highest risk of prostate cancer and stratify the patients accordingly.
The earlier we can do this, the quicker a patient can be treated, or not treated as the case may be. Overdiagnosis is a significant problem in prostate cancer care and many men, who do not have prostate cancer, but present with prostate cancer-like symptoms, unfortunately go through invasive, uncomfortable and most importantly, unnecessary procedures.
This work therefore has real potential to improve the management of prostate cancer, which is currently the most common cancer in males within the UK. It’s a very rewarding field to be working in and I thoroughly enjoy the work I’m doing knowing that it will have a real-life impact on many men. I’m very proud to be able to say that my PhD research will really make a difference and I now know for certain that I will continue working in cancer research after my project is complete.
Knowing that I’m helping to improve the quality of patient’s lives brings a great deal of satisfaction that few jobs can replicate and I’m excited to see what the next three years will bring.
We’re very proud of Christopher and the amazing work he is doing in prostate cancer research, and are delighted that he has made the decision to join the Randox-Ulster University PhD Academy.
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Randox Laboratories has today announced an innovative European partnership with French biotech company Transgene, which aims to develop a game-changing therapy for cancer treatments.
It involves cutting-edge technology and ‘anti-cancer weapons’ in the form of oncolytic viruses which directly target and destroy the cancer cells, and also deliver antibodies in the tumour microenvironment to further attack the rest of the tumour. This has clear advantages over traditional treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy which as well as targeting cancer cells, can affect healthy cells.
In addition, if successful, this therapy will address the efficacy challenges faced by either Oncolytic viruses or Check-point inhibitors’ neutralization used independently, as their combination is expected to trigger a sustained anti-tumoural immune response from the patient.
The partnership will bring together Randox’s unique collection of therapeutic single domain antibodies (sdABs), which are on the front line in the fight against cancer, and Transgene’s next-generation viral platform Invir.IO™.
Commenting on the agreement, Dr. Peter FitzGerald, Managing Director and Founder of Randox Laboratories, said:
“This collaboration will enable ground-breaking innovation and research to be carried out in a critical area of human health. The work we will be doing in the field of cancer treatment has an enormous potential benefit for patients through the delivery of more effective treatments. We are looking forward to working with Transgene to generate oncolytic viruses that will be able to deliver single and multiple payloads directly into the tumour, enhancing their efficacy. This partnership will allow us to better leverage our SdAb capabilities and immuno-oncology expertise, and add to our strategic collaborations across the world.”
Eric Quéméneur, PhD, Executive VP and VP Research & Development of Transgene, said:
“We are delighted to collaborate with Randox. Its library of SdAbs against major targets in immuno-oncology provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the high potential of our Invir.IO™ platform. We look forward to working with Randox and to generating novel product candidates which combine the merits of oncolytic virotherapy and local delivery of therapeutic payloads. We believe such targeted expression of therapeutic agents including immune checkpoint inhibitors will better potentiate the tumour microenvironment and paves the way for the development of a broad range of innovative cancer treatments.”
For further information about Randox’s collaboration with Transgene, please visit our Randox Biosciences website. Click here.
If you have any additional questions please contact Randox PR by phoning 028 9442 2413 or emailing RandoxPR@randox.com
Today, Randox Biosciences and Dana Farber Cancer Institute highlighted the milestones achieved during their joint partnership. The collaborative partnership was the focus of the Boston-Ireland Precision Medicine Seminar with partners the City of Boston and the Massachusetts Life Science Center (MLSC).
The City of Boston Office of Economic Development and the Massachusetts Life Science Center are collaborating with Randox Biosciences on an innovative event to discuss the Boston-Ireland linkage in the field of Precision Medicine. The event will build business and science relationships between leading life science organizations. The program will highlight Boston as a global life science hub and illustrate why global leaders like Randox are seeking to build business partnerships in the area.
“Dana-Farber is a world-renowned name in the field of oncology and it is great to be working on this exciting new technology which is being developed in the lab of Dr. Novina.” Marshall Dunlop of Randox Laboratories said.
In the last year, the clinical diagnostics and life sciences provider Randox Laboratories has established a collaborative agreement with Dr. Carl Novina at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. The goal of this collaboration is to develop therapeutic antibodies that will be incorporated into a platform technology that can reprogram patients’ immune systems to attack cancers.
“I am excited to work with Randox and use these important antibody technologies to help develop a novel cancer therapy that could potentially make a real difference for cancer patients.” said Dr. Carl Novina, Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
The Randox BioSciences and Dana Farber relationship highlights the close ties between Boston, Massachusetts and Ireland and provides another example of the strengths of Boston and Ireland in the life sciences sector. The life sciences industry continues to thrive all across Boston, from Longwood Medical Area – a world-famous medical campus with over 43,000 scientists, researchers, and staff including over 19,000 students – to the South Boston Waterfront District, the city’s newest cluster of high tech research, development, and manufacturing firms.
The City of Boston Chief of Economic Development John Barros said, “Mayor Martin J. Walsh is proud of Boston’s historic links with Ireland and the diverse economic bridges these links have created today. Within the life sciences alone, our researchers and businesses work together in new ways every day to shape how we treat, cure, and innovate together. By partnering with Randox and other leaders in the field, we continue to tackle global challenges together. Here at the City of Boston, we are committed to maintaining open doors as a global and welcoming city. These international partnerships will continue to play an active role in fostering opportunities for collaboration and growth.”
“Collaboration is the key ingredient that makes Massachusetts the best place in the world to innovate,” said Travis McCready, President & CEO of the MLSC. “It is great to see Randox collaborating with the leading scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, toward the development of improved, targeted treatments for cancer patients.”
For more information about the Precision Medicine Seminar in Boston please contact Randox PR on 028 9445 1016 or email RandoxPR@randox.com
With the January blues in full force we decided to have a look back over all the wonderful events that Randox staff took part in during 2016. Together Randox staff rallied together to raise money for numerous events and charities making a huge difference to the lives of others.
Back in April Rachel Walls, our technical support specialist in Ardmore initiated a bake sale on behalf of her sister, Ursula McKenna who ran both the Dublin Marathon and Manchester half Marathon in aid of Cystic Fibrosis Trust. The bake sale was a roaring success and Randox staff enjoyed a selection of scrumptious buns raising a total of £308 that went towards Ursula’s total fundraising amount of £3000.
“Our cousin suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, and running a few marathons is easy compared to what he has to deal with on a daily basis.”
Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic condition caused by a faulty gene that controls the movement of salt and water across the cell wall. This causes mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive tract, causing problems with breathing and digestion. An estimated 1 in 2,500 babies born in the UK have Cystic Fibrosis, with more than 2.5 million people in the UK carrying the faulty gene. Currently there is no cure for Cystic Fibrosis, however there are treatments to help manage the symptoms. The Cystic Fibrosis Trust helps suffers by funding cutting-edge research, driving up standards of care and supporting people with the condition and their loved ones every step of the way.
May was the month that Randox staff and the Randox Biosciences department joined together to help raise awareness of stroke by wearing purple clothes to work.
Stoke is a brain attack that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen to the brain so without blood your brain cells can be damaged or die.
This damage can have different effects, depending on where it happens in your brain. A stroke can affect the way your body works as well as how you think, feel and communicate. The Stroke Association have dedicated the month of May to raising awareness and increasing the public’s knowledge of this condition.
In July Gary Laverty, one of our software developers who works in our Laurelbank site took a beating when he allowed Randox staff to throw water balloons at him in order to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. This charity aims to improve the lives of everyone who is diagnosed with cancer. Their aim is to make life a little brighter and ensure that no one faces this horrible disease alone. They are on hand to offer assistance right from the beginning of a diagnosis, through treatment and beyond, including support to the wider family circle.
Gary raised a total of £409.38 on the day which was presented to Margaret Young from Macmillan Cancer Support at Randox headquarters in Crumlin.
Gary Laverty said,
“When my father was ill last year, Macmillan offered tremendous support to both him and my family. Their commitment to helping cancer patients is incredible, really life-changing. I debated a few fundraising ideas but thought that the water balloon idea was something unusual so I hoped people would see it as a really fun event. The fundraiser went really well and I am delighted at the amount we raised for such an amazing charity! My colleagues got really involved and it was a really fun event, thankfully it wasn’t too cold on the day!”
In the months leading up to Christmas Randox Teoranta in Dungloe our team of scientists engineers and software developers organised a Christmas shoebox appeal in conjunction with Team Hope, a charity based in Ireland, who for the past 18 years have delivered Christmas shoebox gifts to over three million children in some of the remotest and poorest parts of the world. Randox Teoranta filled a total of 54 boxes with items ranging from school essentials, clothes, hats, scarves gloves and socks and of course extra special gifts for Christmas including games toys, sweets and even musical instruments.
Claire Newbon, Manufacturing Operative said,
“Within the team here at Randox Teoranta we are all very fortunate to have great jobs, loving families and a roof over our heads. But we are very aware that there are adults and children in other parts of the world who aren’t so lucky, through no fault of their own.
“At the most joyful time of the year, the Teoranta team wanted to be able to share the magic of Christmas with those children who would otherwise not get any presents.”
In the week leading up to Christmas Randox staff organised a Christmas jumper day with donations going towards Save the Children and a Christmas raffle on behalf of Hope 365. £640.25 was raised for Save the Children, and £4464.00 was raised for Hope 365, which would go towards furnishing “Hope Homes” in Ethiopia so that the children will have somewhere peaceful to sleep at night.
The Christmas raffle took place on 23rd December during which all staff from each site came together to see if they were lucky enough to win any of the prizes that were on offer. Prizes included a 55inch TV, M&S and Amazon vouchers, Christmas hampers, an IPad Air 2 and an extra day’s annual leave.
Randox Teoranta in Donegal also held their own Christmas Raffle and Coffee Morning with all proceeds going towards the local hospital in Dungloe. A total of €740 was raised for the hospital which was greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your generous donations throughout the year, we hope that we can continue to support charities and events throughout 2017.
If you would like to further support Hope 365 they are actively seeking 52 people to take part in a marathon or part of a marathon this year, to compliment a person who is running 52 marathons in one year for the charity. There is also a football academy, endorsed by Paddy McNair, which is taking place in July in Ethopia if you would like to get involved with this. For further information, please contact Internal Communications.
If you would like to get involved with charity fundraising in 2017, please share your ideas with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A stark warning has been issued this week by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) that NHS cancer testing services are at tipping point, caused by increased demand and a lack of capacity.
Tackling this is essential, according to pathology expert Professor Manual Salto-Tellez, “We need to act now before this situation gets worse. It’s vital that patients are diagnosed at an early stage when treatment is more likely to be successful.”
CRUK says the UK’s cancer survival falls behind that of other European countries and is urging an improvement in early diagnosis through diagnostic services. The importance of this is emphasised by estimates from the charity that cancer diagnoses in the UK will rise from 352,000 (2013) to 500,000 (2035).
According to the report:
- One in two people will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime
- Well-resourced testing services are crucial to early diagnosis of cancer which in turn is vital to increase survival rates
- Up to 70% of clinical decisions are based on diagnostic testing
- Pathology numbers are not growing to meet rising demand for tests
Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK’s director of policy, said;
“Diagnostic services, including pathology, urgently need support and investment to ensure that diagnoses aren’t delayed and patients benefit from the latest treatment. The diagnostic bottleneck will only get worse without action now and this involves addressing staff shortages in imaging, endoscopy and pathology.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said, “Early and fast diagnosis is crucial in improving patient outcomes and experience. Getting pathology test results to patients quickly is a key part of this. That’s why we have invested over £2.5bn on efficient and robust pathology services across the NHS.”
Following the publication of the report Dr Martin Crockard, Head of Molecular R&D at Randox, said;
“As populations continue to age, illnesses like cancer, stroke, diabetes and cardiovascular disease will become more common. We know this is going to have a huge impact on healthcare systems but what is yet to be determined is how they will respond.
“Currently 70% of clinical decisions are using in-vitro diagnostics and that will likely increase – therefore it’s essential that pathology services are fully supported. Better diagnostics enables clinicians to make evidence-based decisions, which delivers improved patient outcomes.”
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