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Interdisciplinary Research and Innovation Event on Cell Mechanics and Mechanobiology

Published: 30 September 2013
At the closure of the workshop

Chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart failure and arthritis, are the focus of huge international attention. At UCT, many departments in the Faculties of Health Sciences, Science, and Engineering and the Built Environment engage with treating patients with chronic diseases. In a recent workshop held at the Breakwater Lodge, scholars from around the world came together to discuss how cells migrate and interact with their physical environment in tissue as a way of understanding better how to deal with chronic diseases.

The event was organized by A/Prof Thomas Franz from UCT’s Chris Barnard Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Research Office and was funded by the British High Commission Pretoria, the Technology Innovation Agency and UCT’s Research Office. The aim of the event was to enhance international collaborations and enable South Africa and the UK to access high-value multilateral funding for interdisciplinary research and innovation to advance understanding, prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.

The workshop showcased the importance and impact of interdisciplinarity with topics ranging from fundamental mechanics and physics of cells migration in cancer, advanced computational modelling in heart diseases, a new generation of arthroscopic medical devices using atomic force microscopy for early diagnosis of arthritis to the potential of mechanics in fighting HIV/aids and malaria.

The speaker consortium comprised Dr Georges Limbert, Dr Martin Stolz and Dr Nicholas Evans (University of Southampton, UK), Prof Yiannis Ventikos (University College London, UK), Prof Philippe Young (Simpleware Ltd, UK), Dr Mark Yeoman (Continuum Blue Ltd, UK), Prof Ben Fabry (Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany), Prof Xavier Trepat (Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia, Spain) and Dr Neil Davies and A/Prof Thomas Franz (University of Cape Town).

The workshop was opened by Professor Danie Visser, UCT’s Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research, and Mr Chris Trott, the British Consul General, and attracted fifty delegates including established academics and clinicians, junior researchers and students from health sciences to science and engineering.

In subsequent meetings, the consortium identified a number of research and innovation concepts to advance research in cell mechanics and mechanobiology and accelerate the translation into the clinic for treatment, management and prevention of chronic diseases.

A highlight of the event was the discussion of the outcomes of workshop and meetings with the UK Minister of Science and Universities, Rt. Hon. David Willetts, MP, and a UK delegation from UK Research Councils.

Emma Vaughan from the UCT Conference Management Centre and Fikiswa Majola from the British Consulate in Cape Town are acknowledged for their excellent support in organizing the event.


  • At the closure of the successful workshop: Prof Philippe Young, Dr Mark Yeoman, Ms Emma Vaughan, Dr Martin Stolz, Dr Georges Limbert, Prof Yiannis Ventikos, Prof Xavier Trepat, Prof Ben Fabry, Dr Nicholas Evans, A/Prof Thomas Franz and Dr Neil Davies (from left to right, photo courtesy of Dr E van der Merwe)
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