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Something rather different today and seasonal to boot. It is the strawberry season and pick your own does seem to result in the accumulation of very large quantities of fruit. I guess it always looks like less in a field. Indeed, there have been a few cries for help on Twitter and elsewhere, as people contemplate a huge pile of strawberries at home, wondering if they can possibly eat them. My late father had three excellent solutions.

In no particular order: Continue Reading »


We have until June 23rd to submit this form to our GP to prevent the sale of medical information that is identifiable back to the patient (that means you) to 3rd parties.

Thanks to Byline Times for the tip!

The sale of such information is part of the Grand Sale of the NHS, which has been taking place since Thatcher came to power in 1978. A quick check of the effectiveness of health systems around the world will show that the private sector is not able to deliver adequate healthcare. Indeed the profit motive and the Hippocratic Oath are hardly compatible.


What is important for your career in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at the University of Liverpool

With Project SHAPE progressing in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at the University of Liverpool, we have now moved onto the compulsory redundancy stage. As a senior member of staff who went back to the trenches after ten years in management, I have been contacted informally by a number of staff who have been sent a notice that they are at risk of redundancy. So I used my experience in management and my knowledge of the University to figure what may be important for retention in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at the University of Liverpool and, perhaps more important, what may kill your career and result in a P45.

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My current list of major unforced errors by the Johnson government that have led to the covid disaster that is now 15 months old and shows little sign of letting up.

1.  No enforced quarantine for international travellers, starting in March 2020.

2. Allowing both Liverpool away and home matches in March.

3. Allowing Dido Harding to go ahead with Cheltenham races.

4. Locking down too late in March 2020 and no control over interactional travel during 1st lockdown.

5. Not implementing a full mask policy by March 2020, when aerosols were known to be main rout of transmission.

6. No measures at transport hubs such as airports, railway stations, major bus terminals, e.g., thermal imaging cameras: not perfect, but will stop symptomatic travellers.

7. Failing to beef up NHS testing and instead spaffing cash on private sector testing.

8. After 1st lockdown, continuing to allow international travel, rather than focussing on supressing virus: Scotland was 2 weeks, England ~1 months away in July 2020.

9. Late lockdown in November 2020.

10. Early release of lockdown in December = early Christmas for virus.

11. Continued absence of proper border controls for travellers and one month late in putting India on red list.

12. Reversal of school mask policy, despite deep understanding of aerosol transmission, and no implementation of rules on air exchange determining number of people in a room.

Clots and vaccines


Blood clots, for example, deep vein thromboses or pulmonary embolisms, are serious and we should rightly be concerned about these. With ~ 17 M doses of the AZ vaccine delivered into people, we have reports of 15 cases of deep vein thrombosis and 22 cases of pulmonary embolism. Deep vein thrombosis occurs at rate of 0.1% (so 1 in 1000) across all age groups, increasing with age. So every day that means around 47 cases in a population of 17 million – in fact it will be more, because those vaccinated are not representative of the population, but an older segment.

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Where are the plans?


In three weeks schools re-open and a few weeks later undergraduates return to university. Universities appear to be moving to a model of having all students in attendance, and using a lot of remote teaching. This in itself is not necessarily a bad idea, as there will be facilities available and for 1st years in Halls and for many later year undergraduates they may have better internet connectivity, plus there is the library various computer rooms.

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The UK fiasco in school exam grades highlights the poverty of the political class in all the constituent nations, though the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon are rather better than their Westminster counterparts. Better because after defending the indefensible, they came up with the only equitable solution given the circumstances. In contrast Westminster keeps digging.

The challenge was caused by locking down too late, though this has not been admitted and never will. Consequently, schools could not re-open, so no examinations (Highers, A-levels etc.). Add in the multiplicity of exam boards separate from government, with a central office responsible for oversight, and you have a rigid system, unable to adapt to new circumstances. So impossible to construct alternative assessments, as was done successfully and to great effect in other countries.

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Our building complex of Biosciences and the research parts of the connected Life Sciences and MerseyBio buildings opened this week – a two week pilot and the first research building complex on campus to re-open after the lockdown. In reality, like a number of buildings in the Faculty, these had never closed. A small number of covid-related projects were running during lockdown, including our glyco one. These required skeletal support services. Moreover, key maintenance, from plants, to fly strains and flushing the water system to prevent a Legionella outbreak had to continue during lockdown.

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With new data in hand, our first preprint on SARS-cov-2 receptor binding domain (RBD) interacting with heparin now has a sibling, which demonstrates that heparin inhibits the infection of Vero cells by SARS-cov-2

Some of the key points of the team’s new work are:

  1. Inhibition of viral infectivity in a Vero cell model by heparin, which is a better inhibitor for SARS-cov-2 than SARS-cov.
  2. Analysis of the interactions of a more extended library of model heparins with the SARS-cov-2 receptor binding domain. As with many other heparin-binding proteins, these data show that while sulfation is critical for RBD binding, the amount of sulfate is not, but instead it is the spatial arrangement of sulfate groups that is most important.

Together the data point to heparin being a potentially useful therapeutic to reduce infectivity. Continue Reading »

Work on Week March 16


E-mail I sent out to the research group today.

Dear All,

From now on we really do need to reduce lab work and enforce strictly social distancing, something we stated last week.

The first transmissions from Scousers who picked up the virus on match night (bars, clubs, hotels) from Athletico fans will occur this coming week and next week; we will then get F2, F3 (F number related to contact: primary = F1, a contact’s contact = F2 etc.) transmission. Continue Reading »


Thursday last week (Feb 27) Mark was up from Keele and popped his head around my office door – not a surprise, as he is often here to do circular dichroism on various heparin-binding proteins – to announce that Marcelo had managed to make some SARS-CoV-2 S1 receptor binding domain. Mark had asked Hao,  my postdoc, to do some SPR measurements to see if it bound heparin.

Later in the day I went over to the SPR/CD lab to find Courtney, Mark’s PhD student and Mark beavering away on the CD. A quick discussion. Hao had finished some work on our first grade A heparin functionalised SPR surface, so we set about injecting the SARS-CoV-2 surface protein (Spike) S1 Receptor Binding Domain – a one shot experiment, as amounts of protein were limited, so we injected 1 mL at 500 µL/min (I like high flow rates as mixing is way better, though still far from perfect).

Bingo. Continue Reading »