We have a new university in our town but many townspeople know little about what goes on there. It was therefore especially useful on 12 December to hear Professor Brendon Noble's talk about the pioneering research he is heading with a team of bio-technologists, chemists, mathematicians and engineers working in the James Hehir Building on Orwell Quay.
The research is into ways of using stem-cell derived material to treat cartilage damage and joint disease. Unlike invertebrates such as worms, which can be cut up into pieces and still regenerate, mammals have limited capacity for regeneration - blood, skin, liver, etc can re-grow but not cartilage. Consequently we humans losing our shock-absorbers can end up with osteo-arthritis, which claims a huge number of victims. But in these still early stages of research there are no trials yet on arthritis sufferers.
This research, Professor Noble said, is well ahead of competitors. Hitherto it has been in collaboration with a major Californian partner, although that partner now needs replacing by other sources of funding (there is no direct Government funding). The local connections are important. UCS works closely with Ipswich Hospital Orthopaedic Department; Professor Noble also teaches an M.Sc course, so successful students could become a valuable "Suffolk export"; and as the research spreads out it will generate a variety of job situations in this "emerging industry".
The Ipswich Society is, of course, deeply interested in the heritage of our town, and in its present achievements and problems, but also in its future: Professor Noble's talk was an encouraging outline of a very promising future.