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  Graphic element INNOVATION, POLITICS:Boosting innovation in Europe (01/02/02)  
    The Economic and Financial Council (Ecofin) which co-ordinates economic policy in the EU, has given its backing to a new report emphasising the importance of R&D investment to the future of Europe.  
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  Graphic element BIOLOGY, DRUGS: Locking the cancer cells (01/02/02)  
    Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory have made an important discovery about the workings of a molecule linked to leukaemia.  
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  Graphic element HEALTH, GRANTS: Universities to tackle Parkinson's disease (01/02/02)  
    Three European universities have teamed up to carry out advanced research into Parkinson's disease after securing a €1.6 million grant from the European Commission.  
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  Graphic element GENOMICS, BOTANY: A natural defence (28/01/02)  
    French researchers have recently made a discovery which could lead to new ways of fighting crop diseases.  
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  Graphic element GENDER, INDUSTRY: Industrial revolution. (28/01/02)  
    On 22 January a European Commission high-level expert group met to examine how to maximise women's scientific talents for the benefit of European industry.  
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  Graphic element TRAINING, PERSONNEL: Battling the brain drain (28/01/02)  
    More and more highly-skilled workers, such as scientists and researchers, are moving abroad to take up employment, encouraging the spread of innovation and boosting economic growth, according to new study from the OECD.  
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  Graphic element CLIMATE, EARTH SCIENCES: Drilling deep for climate history (18/01/02)  
    A team of European scientists participating in a seven-year research programme are now able to study past climate shifts within hours of drilling through Antarctic ice.  
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  Graphic element ENERGY, PHYSICS: A UnivERsol success (18/01/02)  
    The University of Barcelona has taken its first steps towards becoming a 'green campus' with the announcement of plans to construct the most powerful photovoltaic system ever installed in a building in Barcelona.  
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  Graphic element ARCHAEOLOGY, CULTURE: Exploring Europe's underwater treasures (18/01/02)  
    An EU project organised by six European countries aims to reveal the riches beneath Europe's seas, and will focus on four historic shipwrecks located in Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, and Germany.  
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  Graphic element DEVELOPMENT, TELEMEDICINE: The caring face of space technology (11/01/02)  
    A new initiative by the French Ministry of Research will use the latest satellite communication tools to bring medical expertise to developing countries.  
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  Graphic element FELLOWSHIPS, RESEARCHERS: Opportunities for young NIS scientists (11/01/02)  
    Scientists from the New Independent States (NIS) can give their careers a boost by getting involved in the INTAS fellowship scheme for 2002.  
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  Graphic element MULTIMEDIA, MEDICINE: New views on anatomy (11/01/02)  
    The Europrix Prize for Learning and e-Education has been awarded to a UK company for its innovative anatomy software product.  
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graphical element INNOVATION, POLITICS:Boosting innovation in Europe (01/02/02)
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  The Economic and Financial Council (Ecofin) which co-ordinates economic policy in the EU, has given its backing to a new report emphasising the importance of R&D investment to the future of Europe.
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At their last meeting in Brussels on 22 January, members of the Ecofin Council together with Commissioners Solbes (monetary affairs), Bolkestein (internal market), and Schreyer (budget), endorsed a report stressing the need for concrete improvements to help innovation and R&D in Europe. The report, which was presented by the Economic Policy Committee, made several recommendations, including the need to develop and promote broad intellectual property protection at Community level; the important role to be played by the EU's Sixth Framework Programme in promoting networking and researcher mobility; and the need for improved frameworks to encourage and aid innovation at national and European levels.

Looking ahead

The report also targets Member States directly, drawing their attention to the need to improve the effectiveness of their publicly funded research, analyse a mix of instruments and incentives to stimulate private R&D and forge stronger links between industry and research. The importance of facilitating early-stage investment and introducing support measures for SMEs is also underlined. At a conference on the European Research Area in London on the same day, Commissioner Busquin emphasised many of these same points and went on to propose that the EU should raise its R&D spending to 3% of GDP if it is to keep pace with scientific performance in the United States and Japan. The report will be forwarded for discussion at the forthcoming Barcelona Council in March.

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Source: Council of the European Union

Contact: Nicolas.Kerleroux@ue.eu.int

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graphical element BIOLOGY, DRUGS: Locking the cancer cells (01/02/02)
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  Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory have made an important discovery about the workings of a molecule linked to leukaemia.
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Photo: Maj Britt Hansen EMBL Photo: Maj Britt Hansen EMBL

Many effective drugs have been discovered accidentally by scientists observing that they attach themselves to a particular molecule in a cell thereby blocking part of its activity - acting like a clamp on a light switch. Building on this observation, scientists now aim to design drugs capable of blocking specific 'switches', by studying detailed technical diagrams of cancer-causing molecules. The Italian researcher Giulio Superti-Furga and his colleagues at the EMBL have produced a diagram of a cancer-causing molecule called Abl which is produced in all human cells. Some people develop a defect in the genetic blueprint for this molecule, which can result in certain forms of leukaemia. The Abl molecule transmits messages from proteins to other molecules, but when it malfunctions it either fails to pass on these messages or it passes them on repeatedly without having been instructed to do so. The main danger of this is that it can send repeated signals to cells to divide, thus leading to cancer.

Key discovery

"Abl needs to be switched off, and one of the chief questions that people have had is whether other molecules are needed to throw the switch or whether Abl can turn itself off," says Giulio Superti-Furga. A key discovery by the EMBL researchers has been that the clamp which holds everything in place is actually located quite far from the signal transmission part of the Abl molecule. The researchers discovered this by monitoring artificial versions of Abl with certain elements missing. When a cap section connected to two major substructures of the molecule was removed they noted that Abl could not be shut down. Even when this cap structure was present the other molecules could interfere with it and break the internal switch. Identifying the important role played by this switch is a crucial step towards designing new drugs to fight leukaemia.

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Source: EMBL press release

Contact: info@embl-heidelberg.de

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graphical element HEALTH, GRANTS: Universities to tackle Parkinson's disease (01/02/02)
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  Three European universities have teamed up to carry out advanced research into Parkinson's disease after securing a €1.6 million grant from the European Commission.
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The University of Northumbria, UK, the University of Leuven in Belgium, and the Vrije University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands are taking part in a collaborative project called RESCUE (Rehabilitation in Parkinson's disease; strategies for cueing). The RESCUE team aims to understand, develop and evaluate the uses of cues - or rhythmic stimuli - as a rehabilitation strategy to improve mobility.
People suffering from Parkinson's disease use cues to improve their quality of movement. For example, cues may be associated with light or sound, or thinking through how an action should be carried out.

Helpful strategies

Little is known about the suitability of different cues for different people, how they are used over the long term, or whether they are being used to their best advantage.
The research team aims to develop the best possible package of cueing strategies for rehabilitation and self-management. A prototype cueing device, designed to supply an appropriate cue to help movement in a variety of settings, will be developed. Other work will include testing the results of initial work in a randomly controlled trial using cueing strategies with 145 patients in the three countries involved.

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Source: Alphagalileo news service

Contact: katrina.mulligan@unn.ac.uk

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Leuven University website - project information
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graphical element GENOMICS, BOTANY: A natural defence (28/01/02)
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  French researchers have recently made a discovery which could lead to new ways of fighting crop diseases.
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Photo: Alfred Schwartz © IRD
Photo: Alfred Schwartz © IRD

Plants have several defence strategies against parasites, one of which is a sort of cellular 'suicide' which causes the plant to sacrifice a part of itself in its own defence. A team of researchers led by the French Institute of Research for Development (IRD) have discovered that salicylic acid - the chemical structure of aspirin - and jasmonate acid are both released by cotton plants in response to infection by the bacterium Xanthomonas. These two substances help provoke the plant's defensive reactions against the threat of bacterial blight - a major cause of reduced cotton yields. Jasmonate acid is already well known for its role in seed germination and plant ageing. The new findings now show that its production is also stimulated by injury, in a way similar to the immune system of humans or animals, with a reaction taking place between 90 and 120 minutes after infection of the cotton plant.

A subtle defence

The two substances work together to protect the plant against disease, depending on plant species and the type of infection. The system is both complex and subtle and the defence mechanisms which stimulate the substances are accordingly repressed or stimulated by each other. In addition, ethylene, which affects flowering and fruit production, works together with jasmonate acid which, in turn, can block the mechanisms activated by salicylic acid.

In the long term this research should contribute to the identification of more effective forms of biological defence systems. The researchers hope they will be able to use their findings to stimulate the production of these chemicals in plants, thereby improving their natural resistance to parasites and reducing the need for pesticide use.

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Source: IRD press release

Contact: nicole@mpl.ird.fr

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graphical element GENDER, INDUSTRY: Industrial revolution (28/01/02)
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  On 22 January a European Commission high-level expert group met to examine how to maximise women's scientific talents for the benefit of European industry.
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Universities across Europe are currently turning out more female graduates than male - a fact that is not reflected throughout European research, where women are still notably under-represented. A new high-level expert group set up by the European Commission aims to examine the current situation of women in research in the private sector and come up with better ways to promote gender equality in industrial research, while bearing in mind the goals of sustainable development and economic competitiveness. Excellent researchers are essential ingredients for innovation and competitiveness in Europe and for the creation of the European Research Area. One of the principal aims of this initiative is to advise the Commission, the Member States and industry on new ways of attracting women into careers in industry.

Focal point

Most of the group's 17 members are either senior managers of international companies with significant research departments, or political actors. Together they represent a broad section of industry sectors and scientific disciplines - from chemicals and pharmaceuticals to IT/communications and biotechnology, - as well as research-intensive business organisations in Europe, including SMEs, and policy-makers. The group will also focus on the need for a more widespread and detailed collection of statistics on women's participation in research in industry, broken down by country and sector. They will be supported in their work by six working groups on 'young scientists', 'women in top-positions', 'female entrepreneurs', 'best practices', 'public image of industrial research' and 'women in research in industry as related to EU-programmes'. A final report will be presented to the Commission in October 2002. This week the group will launch its own website - 'WIR - Women in Industrial Research' to further its goals of transparency, public awareness, and communication of good practices.

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Source: Women and science unit, EC

Contact: Helga.Ebeling@ec.europa.eu

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graphical element TRAINING, PERSONNEL: Battling the brain drain (28/01/02)
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  More and more highly-skilled workers, such as scientists and researchers, are moving abroad to take up employment, encouraging the spread of innovation and boosting economic growth, according to new study from the OECD.
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However, the report, International Mobility of the Highly Skilled, states that fears of a "brain drain" from developing to technologically advanced countries may be exaggerated because many professionals do eventually return home.
To avoid losing their brightest and best, developing countries need to build their own innovation and research centres, says the OECD. China, for example, has recently launched a programme to develop 100 universities into world-class research centres.

The report also suggests that students could be encouraged to return by making grants for study abroad conditional on their going back home.

Clear benefits

Many countries can actually benefit from their skilled workers going abroad to learn and work for a time. Returning migrants bring with them new technical and entrepreneurial skills and may have capital to invest as well as useful contacts in the international science and technology communities. All this can be a significant boost to the home economy and the report uses the examples of Taiwan, South Korea and Ireland to explain how high-tech industrial growth can be fuelled by returning professionals.

The study explains that recent increases in flows of highly skilled workers have been from Asia and central and eastern Europe into North America, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom.

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Source: OECD

Contact: dominique.guellec@oecd.org

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graphical element CLIMATE, EARTH SCIENCES: Drilling deep for climate history (18/01/02)
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  A team of European scientists participating in a seven-year research programme are now able to study past climate shifts within hours of drilling through Antarctic ice.
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Epica ice coring
Epica ice coring

EPICA (European Ice Core Project in Antarctica), which aims to uncover the history of the earth's climate, is drawing together scientists from ten European countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK). In the first week of the New Year the team of European scientists successfully drilled through 2002 metres of ice at Dome Concordia, on the East Antarctica plateau. The ice at this depth resulted from snowfall 170,000 years ago, when the region was 10ºC colder than it is today. The 22 scientists and drilling experts involved in the project have set up a laboratory and drilling platform on the ice allowing them, for the first time, to analyse past climate shifts within a few hours of drilling each length of core. Once the drilled cores have been studied on-site, they are sent to over 30 different European laboratories for detailed study.

Making the link
The EPICA research team focuses on the relationship between the chemistry of the atmosphere and climate shifts, especially the effects of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides. The scientists measure impurities in the air bubbles trapped in the ice to investigate the link between climate and greenhouse gases. This information can subsequently be used to test and enhance computer models used to predict future climate patterns. Next year the team plans to drill to the very bottom of the ice - the information gathered will allow them to generate a history of climate and atmospheric composition for the last 500 000 years. Drilling will also begin this month in Dronning Maud Land, one of the least explored regions of Antarctica, 3 000 km from the Dome Concordia site. The project is being co-ordinated by the European Science Foundation with funding from both the participating countries themselves and the EU.

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Source: British Antarctic Survey press release

Contact: l.capper@bas.ac.uk

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graphical element ENERGY, PHYSICS: A UnivERsol success (18/01/02)
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  The University of Barcelona has taken its first steps towards becoming a 'green campus' with the announcement of plans to construct the most powerful photovoltaic system ever installed in a building in Barcelona.
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The university is participating in the "UnivERsol" project (Universities, Renewable Energies, solar) which will enable the installation of this type of electricity generator in 25 university buildings or cultural centres in the UK, France, the Netherlands and Spain, and which is co-financed by the EC's Directorate-General for Transport and Energy. UnivERsol aims to develop 'green campuses' and 'green municipalities', in order to lay the foundations for tomorrow's sustainable cities. Twenty-nine European institutions are involved in the project which is being managed by the University of Barcelona in co-operation with the Catalonian Government's Institute of Energy. The Euroregional Photovoltaic Systems Group (GESP), which is located in the Barcelona Science Park, developed the project design. The generators will be constructed over the next three years and will produce more than 800 MW of clean and renewable electric power, as well as preventing atmospheric contamination of around 320 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

Clean alternative
The University of Barcelona generator will be one of the project's largest and when completed will cover 500m² of the physics and chemistry faculties. Researchers and students will be able to study the performance of the photovoltaic systems via the internet, and consequently improve its energy-saving and design aspects. A social forum to encourage discussion on this technology is also planned for the near future. UnivERsol hopes to promote the many benefits of photovoltaic energy as a clean, safe, durable and reliable resource which is becoming increasingly affordable.

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Source: Barcelona Science Park press release

Contact: rmalagrida@pcb.ub.es

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graphical element ARCHAEOLOGY, CULTURE: Exploring Europe's underwater treasures (18/01/02)
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  An EU project organised by six European countries aims to reveal the riches beneath Europe's seas, and will focus on four historic shipwrecks located in Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, and Germany.
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The project will be partly financed by the 'European Community Culture 2000 Programme' which supports international cultural co-operation by promoting common European cultural treasures, and encouraging interest in European history and culture. The four shipwrecks concerned are all extremely well preserved - the paddle steamer, E. Nordevall was wrecked in Lake Vättern in Sweden in 1856; the trade-ship Vrouw Maria, went down in the Finnish archipelago in 1771; a medieval cog from the 13th century had its final resting place at the mouth of the Prerowstrom in Germany; and a well-preserved shipwreck dating from the 1650s lies in the western part of the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands.

Underwater window
Thanks to various imaging media, the four shipwrecks can be studied at their resting place at the bottom of the seas or lakes, and the methods available for monitoring the physical and environmental conditions of ancient shipwrecks can be developed and improved. The co-ordinator of the Marine Archaeology Project is Finland's Museum of Maritime History in Helsinki. Other partner organisations are the Mary Rose Archaeological Services Ltd (UK); the National Service for Archaeological Heritage (UK); the Netherlands Institute for Ship and Underwater Archaeology; the Centre for Maritime Archaeology (Denmark); the regional organisation for the preservation of cultural environments in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Germany); and the Department of Marine Archaeology at Södertörn University College in Stockholm (Sweden). Websites, publications, posters, information sheets and seminars are just some of the communication activities planned by the project team to incite the interest of the general public and researchers.

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Source: The Swedish Research Council press release

Contact: ingemar.bjorklund@sh.se

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graphical element DEVELOPMENT, TELEMEDICINE: The caring face of space technology (11/01/02)
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  A new initiative by the French Ministry of Research will use the latest satellite communication tools to bring medical expertise to developing countries.
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A consortium including the French National Space Studies Centre (CNES) and the Pasteur Institute recently founded the new non-profit organisation, named LEDA - Liaison, Education, Diagnostics and Assistance. As of February 2002, LEDA will enable doctors in the field to communicate via a satellite pack, or by Internet link-up when available, with doctors from the NGO Médecins du Monde (MDM) at the Pasteur Institute's headquarters in Paris. This will allow isolated practitioners, whether local doctors, or experts on mission to developing countries, to have access to interactive diagnostic help, as well as to specialised databases and to all LEDA's member organisations. For example, the Pasteur Institute has a worldwide network of laboratories and institutes dedicated to combating infectious diseases.

Practical applications

Field practitioners are already being supplied with the necessary tools to transmit images obtained by X-ray, endoscopy, tissue section or smears, which will allow them to have expert opinion and case discussion on histological, cytological, haematological or parasitic pathologies. LEDA should also have an important role to play in distance learning in medicine and health skills. The CNES is keen to develop useful applications from its space technology and has been involved throughout the validation phase of medical teleservices via satellite communications. The other consortium partners include "MEDES", which brings to LEDA its technical skills in specialised teleconsultation, the NGOs "Médecins du Monde", "Douleur sans Frontière" and "Santé, Pathologie-Cytologie et Développement" and the health education NGO "Développement et Santé".

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Source: CNES/MEDES/Institut Pasteur press release

Contact: presse@pasteur.fr

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graphical element FELLOWSHIPS, RESEARCHERS: Opportunities for young NIS scientists (11/01/02)
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  Scientists from the New Independent States (NIS) can give their careers a boost by getting involved in the INTAS fellowship scheme for 2002.
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INTAS aims to encourage East-West scientific co-operation and to support scientists by funding joint high-quality research projects. Through its Young Scientists Programme, which has an annual budget of around €1.6 million, the Association supports projects undertaken in innovative fields of research by motivated young scientists. The INTAS fellowship scheme, which is open to scientists under the age of 35 from the New Independent States, offers four different types of grants: project-linked, PhD, newly qualified postdoctoral, and experienced postdoctoral fellowships. These give young scientists access to additional funding during their early research careers, as well as creating opportunities to develop international contacts or follow training courses in INTAS member states. The fellowships can last from six months to two years, according to the type of grant awarded, while financial support can vary from €3 500 per year for a project-linked fellowship, to €6 000 for an experienced postdoctoral fellowship.

All-round benefits

INTAS actively encourages young scientists in the NIS to develop contacts with their Western peers, hence training periods and/or short-term visits in an INTAS member state are essential elements of all but the project-linked fellowships. Interested candidates can submit their applications by 26 April 2002, and the successful young scientists should be able to embark on their fellowships by early November 2002. However, four times a year INTAS will also accept applications for conference grants from scientists already involved in its projects. The next deadlines for these are 15 January, 15 April, 15 July and 15 October 2002.

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Source: INTAS press release

Contact: ys@intas.be
intas@intas.be

More information on this subject:
http://www.intas.be/

 
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graphical element MULTIMEDIA, MEDICINE: New views on anatomy (11/01/02)
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  The Europrix Prize for Learning and e-Education has been awarded to a UK company for its innovative anatomy software product.
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INTERACTIVE - FOOR & ANKLE - Primal Pictures
Primal Pictures

EuroPrix is designed to provide a marketing boost for Europe's best multimedia products and applications and to give Europe-wide recognition to the leading producers and designers of e-content. This year's prize in the 'learning and e-education' category was awarded to Primal Pictures for their interactive 3D Anatomy Series, at a ceremony in Lisbon on 3 December 2001. The software package - which consists of several CD-ROMs designed for qualified and general medical teaching environments - is the world's first complete 3D anatomical model of the body, built up from various scan data, including X-rays, MRI scans and cadaveric images.

Flexible tool

The software package presently includes the entire musculo-skeletal system and the spine. However, by next year the anatomical model will have been completed to include all internal organs and body systems. Many doctors and health professionals use Primal's 3D Anatomy Series in their day-to-day practice, particularly as a demonstration tool to explain complex procedures to patients prior to surgery. But until now its potential value as a training resource for anatomy and human biology teaching has not been fully exploited. "These are the most advanced 3D models of anatomical structures ever built. You can peel away layers of anatomy and rotate the models at will," explains Chris Briscoe, Creative Director at Primal Pictures. The finalised package will be produced in several user versions - ranging from school students to hospital specialists. Other UK companies wishing to emulate the success of Primal Pictures can benefit from the support of UKISHELP (the UK Information Society Help) which provides information and guidance to anyone interested in participating in EU Information Society programmes.

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Source: UKISHELP press release

Contact: richardg@glasgows.co.uk

More information on this subject:
http://www.primalpictures.com/
http:// www.ukishelp.co.uk/

 
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