Asthma in Ashford project - investigating the causes of childhood allergy and asthma with the aim of discovering why the latter is becoming more common.

The Colt Foundation

The Foundation was established under a Trust Deed of 28 August 1978 by the O'Hea family with gifts of shares in Colt International and Associated Companies Limited. This gift is now represented by 22% of Ordinary £1 shares in Colt Investments Limited, which is the holding company for the Colt Group of Companies. The primary interest of the Colt Foundation is to promote and encourage research into social, medical and environmental problems created by commerce and industry. The Colt Group can be contacted through its website

The Purpose of The Foundation

The Foundation considers applications for funding high quality research projects in the field of occupational and environmental health, particularly those aimed at discovering the cause of illnesses arising from conditions at the place of work. The Trustees are especially keen to fund research that is going to make a difference to legislation or working practices. The work is monitored by our Scientific Advisers and External Assessors to achieve the maximum impact with available funds. Grants are not made to the general funds of other charities, or directly to individual research workers, and the Trustees prefer to be the sole source of finance for a project.

The Foundation also makes grants through selected universities and colleges to enable students to take higher degrees in subjects related to occupational and environmental health. PhD Fellowships are awarded each year, and the Foundation is committed to support the MSc course in Human & Applied Physiology at King's College, London. Please check the 'Students' section of our website.

Research in Occupational Health has evolved since the early post war years when most ill health arising in the workplace was in an environment of steel mills, coal mines and other heavy industries. Today, those industries have all but disappeared in the UK, and the percentage of the workforce employed in manufacturing has declined enormously since the 1950's. In the past, the main hazards were from toxic dusts, for example from coal, asbestos and quartz, and from toxic fumes, the problems of which are now largely understood.

Today there are new hazardous substances such as the recently discovered ultra fine particles (less than 100nm diameter) derived from diesel exhausts as much as from factory processes.


For many years, the Colt Foundation has been supporting research into the health effects of toxic particles and fibres.

In 1989 the Foundation agreed to support a five year programme at the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) in Edinburgh designed to compare the toxicity of the man made mineral fibres, then coming into use, with asbestos whose toxicity was by then well understood.

By 1996, the Foundation was supporting work at Napier University led by Dr (now Professor) Ken Donaldson and Dr (now Professor) Vicki Stone, which studied the mechanism whereby toxic particles of dust penetrate lung cells and act on the nucleus of the cell so as to disrupt the function of the DNA. Both Professor Donaldson and Professor Stone continue to receive support from the Foundation.

In 1997 the Trustees agreed a grant towards the establishment of the ELEGI Colt Laboratory by Professor Ken Donaldson and Professor Bill MacNee. ELEGI (Edinburgh Lung and the Environment Group Initiative) brings together the expertise of the University of Edinburgh, Napier University, and the Institute of Occupational Medicine, working on lung disease. Work continues there on fine particles, ultrafine particles and now nanoparticles.

Professor Ken Donaldson was appointed a Colt Professorial Fellow at the University of Edinburgh in 2002, and led the study of the potential of nanoparticles, both for good and ill, for a number of years until his retirement.

A Colt Foundation former PhD student, Dr Rodger Duffin, had been working in Düsseldorf at the Institut für umweltmedizinische Forschung (IUF), and in January 2005 returned to the UK to join the team in the ELEGI Colt Laboratories at the University of Edinburgh with a new Foundation grant to study mechanisms of nanparticle and nanotube-induced pulmonary toxicity. The collaboration with Dr Roel Schins in Düsseldorf continued through this project, together with collaboration with Professor Vicki Stone at Napier University (known as Edinburgh Napier University from 2009), and Dr Lang Tran at the Institute of Occupational Medicine. Rodger currently holds two Colt Foundation grants at the University of Edinburgh, with the most recent being awarded in late 2014 for a three-year project on the fate of nanoparticle translocation from the lungs to the vasculature.

Another Colt Foundation PhD student, Dr Craig Poland, who completed his studies in the summer of 2009, also worked on nanotoxicology with Ken Donaldson and Rodger Duffin at the University of Edinburgh, and Craig was awarded a one-year grant from August 2009 for work on the mesothelial genotoxicity of carbon nanotues in vivo. Craig now leads the toxicology team at the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh.

Nanotoxicology 2010

Edinburgh Napier University, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and the Institute of Occupational Medicine, hosted the Nanotoxicology 2010 conference in Edinburgh from June 2nd - June 4th 2010. The conference addressed various aspects of nanotechnology including exposure assessment and characterisation of nanomaterials, human toxicology, ecotoxicology and risk assessment. The Trustees agreed to provide a number of bursaries to enable students to attend this meeting, and also offered a prize to be awarded to the best poster or oral presentation in human toxicology. The organising committee selected 14 students to whom bursaries were offered, and the Colt Foundation Prize for the Best Poster in Human Toxicology was awarded to Ms Micol Massimiani from the University of Rome Tor Vergata for her poster entitled "Evaluation of SWCNTs (single wall carbon nanotubes) embryotoxicity using an in vitro model: the EST (Embryonic Stem Cell Test)". Details of the meeting can be found on