RESEARCH in Bradford aimed at developing new cancer medicines has been given a further boost with a scientist now fully focused on analysing data from a new £1 million state-of-the-art machine.

Sadr Ul Shaheed has been appointed as a research technician tasked with operating the new ThermoFisher Orbitrap Fusion mass spectrometer, bought as a result of the successful Telegraph & Argus Bradford Crocus Cancer Appeal.

The new post has been funded for the next four years with a £247,500 grant from Yorkshire Cancer Research (YCR), alongside a contribution from the Masonic Samaritan Fund.

Mr Shaheed will be providing technical support for the proteomics facility within the Institute of Cancer Therapeutics (ICT) at the University of Bradford, using the new machine to research drug discovery into conditions such as lung, colon, head, neck, breast, prostate, and bladder cancers.

The new machine is designed to identify tiny amounts of proteins found in cancer cells, so researchers can determine whether they can be used as biomarkers for the detection of cancer, targets for new therapies, or indicators of a patient’s likely response to current treatments.

Professor Laurence Patterson, professor of drug discovery at the ICT, said the spectrometer was now being used for both drug and biomarker discovery, looking at ways of activating molecules to treat cancerous tumours, restricting their toxicity and side effects.

"The new machine is about upgrading the facility in order to stay competitive in the field," he said.

"If we hadn't have got it, we might as well have packed up and gone home in terms of proteomics, it's as simple as that.

"I always use the analogy of smartphones, but it would have been like trying to do modern work on a phone that was a decade old.

"Research is about the opportunity to discover something. You have to give yourself the best opportunity to make those discoveries, and that's what we've done with this machine and Sadr's role."

Mr Shaheed said five years' experience in proteomics and previous work with spectrometers and biomarker discovery had allowed him to adapt successfully to the his new post.

"The basic principles of proteomics remain the same, so I was able to transfer my skills to the new machine," he said.

"The old machine was like a phone where you could just call or text, this one is like a brand-new smartphone where you can download anything.

"The machine analyses data 24/7, so it is working all the time."

Dr Chris Sutton, who is using the spectrometer to carry out a study into the diagnosis of breast cancer, said the new machine was one of only about a dozen in the country.

"The old instrument was very manually intensive," he said.

"The new one is faster, more sensitive, and far more versatile. We can do a lot more different types of analysis than ever before.

"It was a natural choice to appoint Sadr, and he has shown an amazing resilience to learn new skills.

"This new instrument is such a leap forward, and he has really been able to take it on and is already starting to get results."

Prof Patterson added: "The machine does the physical analysis of what protein fragments are present in the sample, but the information is transferred to a computer to be analysed, which is part of Sadr's role.

"Somebody whose job it is to look after and run the machine is an integral part of the process, you need someone dedicated to getting the best out of it.

"These machines are very sensitive, like a well-tuned vintage sports car, you've got to have a feel for them, and you get that feel by working with them every day.

"The role is not about maintaining the machine, sample preparation alone requires a range of biological skills, which Sadr has."

Kathryn Scott, head of research and innovation at YCR, said: "We’re delighted that Sadr is now in post and the team in Bradford can begin to use the mass spectrometer to its full potential.

"The new machine will play a huge role in the development of new treatments, and we hope that drug discovery in the city continues to go from strength-to-strength."