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University of Southampton student wins Life Sciences Postgraduate of the Year

University of Southampton UK

A student from the University of Southampton has been awarded the prestigious Life Sciences Postgraduate of the Year prize. Dario Carugo, from Engineering Science and the Institute for Life Sciences received his award at the inaugural UK Life Science Skills Awards. The ceremony, held by Cogent, the strategic skills body for the science industries, took place on Thursday 16 May.

The findings from Dario’s studies have opened novel insights into targeted drug delivery for cancer therapy. On winning the award, Dario says: “I am extremely pleased to have won this award. I am planning to continue my research investigations in the field of bio-microfluidics and bio-engineering, with particular attention devoted to applications in bio-analyses, diagnostics and clinical therapies.”

During the course of his PhD studies, Dario analysed, designed and implemented a number of innovative ideas for the study of biofluidics related to therapeutic applications, which have resulted in ten research papers published in high-impact journals. One objective of Dario’s research is to develop microfluidic devices capable of treating cells in suspension. For example, blood from a patient with leukaemia could be introduced into a device, treated using ultrasound and reintroduced into the patient’s body. He is also exploring the potential of developing a device that could be implanted into bone marrow for the treatment of leukaemia.

Development of these microfluidic devices could lead to treatments for cancer that are gentler and more targeted, and therefore reduce the unwanted side effects of conventional therapies. The devices could also be used for quicker and cheaper testing of new drugs. Furthermore, Dario is actively involved in the FP7 AQUALITY project aimed at developing innovative ultrasonic microdevices to be employed in water quality analysis systems. Professor Martyn Hill, Head of Engineering Science at the University of Southampton says: “Throughout Dario’s time with us, he has proved to be a superb bioscientist with a rigorous approach to experimentation and to the analysis of results leading to a set of high quality publications.”

Before winning this award (sponsored by the Clinigen Group), Dario’s Doctoral Thesis won the best medical engineering PhD category at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ 25th Annual Medical Engineering Student Project Competition. Professor Peter Smith, Head of the University of Southampton’s Institute for Life Sciences says: “What a fantastic achievement for Dario and for the interdisciplinary life sciences strategy of the University. It’s not often that you can assess postgraduate progress by glancing over eight collaborative publications. Dario definitely represents an example of the future in Life Sciences where interdisciplinary research and a diverse expertise lead to such notable success.”

The Life Science Skills awards dinner in London was attended by CEOs of multi-national pharma companies and various government people, with prizes given out by Professor Lord Robert Winston. The dinner was opened by David Willets, Minister for Universities and Science, who said: “The UK’s life science industry is exciting, innovative and ground-breaking and I’m thrilled to celebrate its continuing success.”

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