Imperial reactor delicensed and viral variants: News from the College | Imperial News
Here’s a batch of fresh news and announcements from across Imperial.
From efforts to secure the safety of a former nuclear research reactor site, to new findings on how COVID-19 variants infect animals, here is some quick-read news from across the College.
Imperial reactor delicensed
The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has delicensed the Imperial College Consort Reactor Site at Silwood Park after nearly 60 years.
The Imperial Reactor Centre, which was the UK’s last civilian nuclear research reactor, closed in 2012. Since then the site has been gradually decommissioned with significant work to clear the site, including demolition of the reactor building itself. This formal de-licensing of the site confirms that the site presents no hazard to human health. The area will be grassed over whilst the College decides how it will use the space.
ONR Chief Executive and Chief Nuclear Inspector, Mark Foy, said: “The delicensing of the Imperial College Consort Reactor Site is a significant achievement and the culmination of many years of hard work by all those involved.
“I would like to pass on my thanks and appreciation to the College and its workforce, both past and present, for their professionalism and dedication in ensuring the safe and secure operation of the site over many decades.”
Read more about the history of the Reactor Centre at Imperial: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/stories/nuclear-history/
Imperial has been named as one of the top universities in the UK for spinouts – companies that split from a separate organisation to form an independent corporation – in a report by the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub and the data platform Beauhurst.
The report highlights how innovative ideas developed in universities are being turned into real-world products, processes and commercial successes – with Imperial ranked as the 3rd best origin university by number of spinouts tracked since 2011.
Imperial’s Enterprise Division brings businesses, researchers and students together in a flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystem, including supporting staff to find ways to turn their research into benefits for society.
Maria Dramalioti-Taylor, a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Committee Member, and member of the project steering group, said: “It’s our hope that recognising IP and commercialisation successes – and failures – will lead to progressive improvement within the spinout sector, including the encouragement of leadership diversity among spinouts.”
Read more about the report on the Royal Academy of Engineering’s website.
Variants of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes COVID-19) may be able to infect a wider range of animals than the original strain.
In work carried out by The Pirbright Institute, as part of the Imperial-led G2P Consortium, researchers found that the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants all had mutations in their spike protein which enabled them to latch on to their target receptor (ACE2) in a broader range of species compared to the original virus – including mice, rats, civets, ferrets and hamsters.
The team say that better understanding how the virus gains entry to cells will help to make sure scientists use the right animal models in the lab, and potentially identify which species could act as reservoirs for the virus.
Speaking at the Microbiology Society Conference, Professor Wendy Barclay, co-author of the paper and Head of Imperial’s Department of Infectious Disease, said: “I think one of the only good things to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is that people really have worked together”, adding that this is “essential for those rapid responses we need”.
Read the full study in The Journal of General Virology.Want to be kept up to date on news at Imperial? Sign up for our free quick-read daily e-newsletter, Imperial Today.