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The National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit (NPARU) is a specialist centre that is operated by Institute of Science and the Environment (ISE), University of Worcester.

NPARU carries out research, teaching and commercial activities across a range of specific subject areas, mainly by ISE staff members but also with the inclusion of students and international visitors. NPARU has been producing pollen forecasts at the University of Worcester for more than two decades and while also steadily extending the range of its activities over this time period. The monitoring of air-borne pollen led to work on allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and across the increasingly prevalent range of other allergic responses. Such studies have informed commercial activities often in the testing of products designed to remove allergens from domestic environments or mitigate the effects of allergens.

NPARU has benefited from new laboratories in the Charles Darwin building that was constructed in 2010 and consistent investment in new equipment and facilities over recent years (including, for example, a High Performance Computing Facility, a versatile controlled environment chamber a GC/MS facility and novel detection technology using monoclonal antibody methods or next generation sequencing). This has allowed NPARU to expand from pure aerobiology to cover areas like VOC testing, advanced microbiological analysis and more general principles in agricultural (e.g. detection of pathogens within crops) and atmospheric sciences such as movement of bioaerosols (e.g. pollen and fungal spores) and formation of chemical particles in the air by using advanced mathematical models (including meteorological models).

Work within NPARU underpinned two Impact Case Studies used in the University’s REF2014 submission in Biological Sciences. This importance will continue during 2014-20 and is currently being supported by both the university, the UK Research Councils (BBSRC and NERC) and the European Union. A number of active researchers and highly trained technicians at ISE have specialist knowledge about the state-of-the-art facilities within NPARU. This ensures a high level of research but also translation into practice through commercial contracts such as advice to governmental boards or the daily pollen forecasts. This enables first-hand experience to both undergraduate and post graduate students in the application of modern technologies to study biological principles and to address real world problems in society.

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