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Science film earns festival plaudit

A documentary charting the history of stem cell technology has been honoured at this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Still from Stem Cell Revolution, illustration by Cameron Duguid

Innovative collaboration

Stem Cell Revolutions, created through a collaboration of University of Edinburgh scientists and artists, has been awarded the Tam Dalyell Prize for Excellence in Engaging the Public.

The 70-minute film was developed by scientist Clare Blackburn from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine - a world-leading centre for stem cell research - and filmmaker Amy Hardie from the Scottish Documentary Institute at Edinburgh College of Art.

Esteemed award

Launched by the renowned politician and former Rector of the University of Edinburgh, the Tam Dalyell Prize acknowledges the work of outstanding science communicators based at the University of Edinburgh.

The film tracks the rapid advances made in stem cell research, from its inception after the nuclear attack of Hiroshima in 1945 to its role in society today.

Science explained through art

Dr Hardie and Professor Blackburn have succeeded in bringing clarity and beauty to difficult, complex processes.

Noé MendelleDirector of the Scottish Documentary Institute

Scientific explanations are illustrated by intricate hand-drawn animations by ECA graduate Cameron Duguid.

Contributing to the film are world-renowned scientists, including 2012 Nobel Prize-winners Shinya Yamanaka and Sir John Gurdon, as well as Sir Ian Wilmut, famed for cloning Dolly the sheep. Acclaimed novelist Margaret Atwood offers a non-scientific perspective in the film.

Festival event

The film was celebrated with a science lecture and award ceremony in the University’s Playfair Library on Sunday, 7 April.

The talk provided audiences the chance to hear Professor Blackburn and Dr Hardie give a thought-provoking lecture, Stem Cells: A Vision of the Future, in which they discussed stem cell innovations and future projects.

The film that Clare and Amy have made is both a wonderful work of art and a superbly accessible presentation of science. Their recognition by the University with this prestigious award is richly deserved and will be welcomed with gratitude by all those who realize that the need for accurate explanation of stem cells and their applications to the medicine of regeneration is more urgent than ever.

Charles ffrench-ConstantDirector of the Univeristy’s MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine

Stem Cell Revolutions was supported by the Wellcome Trust, and EuroStemCell - a pan-European public engagement project on stem cells funded by the European Commission and led by Clare Blackburn.

The Scottish Documentary Institute also played a vital role involved in the project’s development.