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Institute For Global Food Security (IGFS), The Queen’s University of Belfast (QUB)

QUB is one of the top 24 research intensive universities in the UK with >3,000 researchers and annual research income of over €337.6 M. QUB is a leading center for life science researches in the UK with special strengths in nanoscience, agriculture, pharmacy, information technology, computer science, biology, and medicine. QUB was rated No.1 in the UK for Food science and Pharmacy, based on research intensity (REF 2014). IGFS was developed from the UK’s first Institute of Agri-Food and Land Use founded in 2006. It is regarded internationally as a key hub for research in agriculture, food and nutrition, conducting research with impact to influence food and nutrition policy at a national and international level. Among its many resources, it boasts some of the most advanced research facilities in Europe, encompassing a huge range of highly developed technologies, including highly sophisticated biosensor and mass spec platforms. IGFS provides a dynamic and stimulating environment for all staff and students. It nurtures and inspires young scientists. Undergraduate and postgraduate courses have been developed to equip scientists and future industry leaders with the skills required to deal with new and emerging global food challenges.


Role and Commitment of key persons

(including supervisors)

Professor Chris Elliott, Founder of IGFS and Pro Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Medicine, Health & Life Sciences. Prof. Elliott will manage the progress of the work plan and research activities, discuss any technical problems arisen, and be the primary supervisor for ESR14 and secondary for ESR13 (15% of his full-time employment).


Dr. Cuong Cao, Lecturer in Advanced Micro- and Nanodiagnostics. Dr. Cao will sit on the advisory committee, plan the research activities, be the primary supervisor of ESR13, and will be responsible for the design, fabrication, and characterization of the plasmonic nanostructures. He will contribute about 20% of his full-time employment for the project.


Dr Julie Meneely is a senior research fellow in the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences at QUB. She will act as secondary supervisor for ESR14 (10%).


Key Research Facilities, Infrastructure and Equipment

IGFS has had over €60M invested since 2015 in staff, facilities and infrastructure to support ~70 academics, ~70 post-doctoral researchers, and more than 100 post-graduate research students. The €6M funded state of the art ASSET Technology Centre (Centre for Assured, Safe and Traceable food) hosts a sensors laboratory with optical, electrochemical biosensors, and nanosensing technologies. IGFS also houses a range of molecular and protein tools for characterization such as RT-PCR, 2D gel electrophoresis, Western blots, bioanalyser, and CellInsight high content screening platform. The €5M funded Advanced ASSET Technology Centre  hosts modern spectrometry/spectroscopy equipment: HPLC, UPLC, LC-MS/MS, LC-QTOF, ICP-MS, GC-MS, isotope ratio NMR, XRF, UV/Vis/NIR spectrometers, Raman spectroscopy, and confocal Raman microspectroscopy. The Institute also has top class Category 2 and Category 3 mammalian and bacterial cell culturing facilities for phage protein and monoclonal antibody production and for the utilization of bacterial cultures for developing and validating rapid methods of analysis for pathogen detection. The University also operates core technology units on advanced imaging, mass spectrometry, genomics, and advanced information ( )


Status of  Research premises

University research premises are independent from other beneficiaries and the partner organisations


Previous Involvement in Research and Training Programmes

Numerous international collaborations for decades, the majority though EC Framework programs. (* Projects co-ordinated by IGFS).

- Foodsense*: Development of optical biosensors for food safety monitoring (FP4)

- Glucocorticoids: Rapid detection methods for illegal drugs (FP4)

- Foodbrand: Uncovering illegal use of antibiotics in global food production (FP5)

- Feedstuff Radius*: Development of rapid detection methods for illegal drugs in animal feeds (FP5)

- Biocop*: Methods to detect multiple chemical contaminants in foods (FP6)

- Detectox: Sensor based detection of marine toxins (FP6)

- Conffidence: Rapid screening tests for chemicals in feeds and food (FP7)

- QSAFFE*: Fingerprinting feeds and foods (FP7)

- MicroAqua: Sensor based detection of fresh water toxins (FP7)

- Beacons: Sensor based detection of toxic algae, NSF (USA)

- Antibiotic & Anthelmintic Drug Control: Detection method development for Antibiotic and Anthelmintic (FAO/IAEA)

- ECO-FEC*: Delivered new ways to feed farm animals (FP7)

- Ciguatools: Development of rapid tests for emerging marine toxins (FP7)


Current Involvement in Research and Training Programmes

Selected collaborative EU projects carried out at IGFS (* Projects co-ordinated by IGFS).

- FoodSmartPhone: Smartphone analyzers for on-site testing of food quality and safety, H2020 (ITN)

ProtectED*: Protection against endocrine disruptors; detection, mixtures, health effects, risk assessment and communication, H2020 (ITN)

EUChinaSafe*: Mobilisation of resources in Europe & China to develop a cohesive partnership for a shared vision for food safety & authenticity & work towards “mutual recognition”, H2020

VIVALDI: Preventing and mitigating farmed bivalve diseases, H2020

EuroBioTox: European programme for the establishment of validated procedures for the detection and identification of biological toxins, H2020


Relevant Publications and/or Research / Innovation Product

Meneely, J.P., Hajšlová, J., Krska, R. & Elliott, C.T. 2018, "Assessing the combined toxicity of the natural toxins, aflatoxin B1, fumonisin B1 and microcystin-LR by high content analysis", Food and Chemical Toxicology, vol. 121, pp. 527-540

Carrizo, D., Chevallier, O.P., Woodside, J.V., Brennan, S.F., Cantwell, M.M., Cuskelly, G. & Elliott, C.T. 2017, "Untargeted metabolomic analysis of human serum samples associated with exposure levels of Persistent organic pollutants indicate important perturbations in Sphingolipids and Glycerophospholipids levels", Chemosphere, vol. 168, pp. 731-738.


Zhang, J., Cao, C., Xu, X., Liow, C., Li, S., Tan, P. & Xiong, Q. 2014, "Tailoring alphabetical metamaterials in optical frequency: Plasmonic coupling, dispersion, and sensing", ACS Nano, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 3796-3806.


Cao, C., Zhang, J., Wen, X., Dodson, S.L., Dao, N.T., Wong, L.M., Wang, S., Li, S., Phan, A.T. & Xiong, Q. 2013, "Metamaterials-based label-free nanosensor for conformation and affinity biosensing", ACS Nano, vol. 7, no. 9, pp. 7583-7591.

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