Month: June 2014

ANDROGENS 2014: Precision Medicines Targeting Androgens in Health and Disease

September 17th-19th 2014

Imperial will be hosting an international conference entitled ANDROGENS 2014: Precision Medicines Targeting Androgens in Health and Disease, at the Royal Geographical Society.

The conference is the second Precision Medicines conference to be organised by the Division of Cancer and the 8th biennial Androgens symposium. Sessions will cover all aspects of androgen signalling, from development and reproduction to cancer, and will showcase groundbreaking research being done here at Imperial as well as around the world, with speakers from Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia. It is the first time this well-established conference has been held in London and we are delighted that the new rector, Prof Alice Gast, will be opening the event.

Registration and abstract submission are open and abstracts have the chance to be selected for oral presentation and/or student bursaries. See the programme and register at, or contact the organisers Charlotte Bevan  or Simak Ali for more details.

Dr Charlotte Bevan
Reader in Molecular Oncology
Department of Surgery and Cancer

Partnership for Child Development June Update

Innovative School Feeding Programme to Combat Extreme Poverty in Zanzibar

HGSF programme launched in ZanzibarOn 28 May the Government of Zanzibar launched a new innovative Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme in collaboration with Imperial College London’s PCD and programme donors Table for Two to feed over 5000 school children, whilst simultaneously supporting local smallholder farmers by sourcing their produce for the school meals.

“This programme is the first of its kind for Zanzibar and marks the Government’s awareness on the value of school meals for society as a whole” said PCD’s East Africa Senior Programme Manager, Iain Gardiner. He continued, “Not only will children be well fed in school but jobs will be created for farmers and other community members involved in the growing, processing and preparing of food for school meals.” Find out more


Nigeria’s Federal Ministries collaborate to extend HGSF

Nigeria high level meetingOn 19 May 2014, PCD, Imperial College London with support from the Vitol Foundation convened a special high-level convening of federal ministers, state governors and international experts in Abuja to discuss how more of Nigeria’s school children and farmers can benefit from Home Grown School Feeding programmes.

PCD’s Executive Director, Dr Lesley Drake said “The meeting is an excellent example of high level inter-ministerial collaboration at the federal and state level to design sustainable school feeding programmes which will improve the lives of children and smallholder farmers across the country.” Find out more


Promoting the Home Grown in Home Grown School Feeding

Promoting Home Grown in HGSFPCD, Imperial College London alongside Dutch development organisation, SNV are working with Kenya’s Ministries of Agriculture and Education to increase the access of coastal smallholder farmers to local markets supplying school meals in Kenya’s Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme.

In the target counties of Kilifi and Lamu, PCD together with SNV have launched the intervention to address challenges of farmer produce being sourced from large distances within Kenya and even outside of the country in neighbouring Tanzania. To ensure producers in the counties are secured of a reliable income and livelihood, so the “Home Grown” in HGSF is maximised, the project aims to achieve a more localised supply chain – to, in effect, boost the link between smallholder farmers, traders and recipient schools. Find out more


Addressing Micronutrient Deficiency in Ghanaian Children

MNPs training in Ghana60 stakeholders from Ghana’s School Feeding Programme (GSFP) programme from national, regional, district and school levels across three regions of the country were recently trained on the use of Micronutrient Powders (MNPs) to combat micronutrient deficiencies found in school-aged children in the intervention areas.

The training, carried out by Ghana’s Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the GSFP and PCD, Imperial College London taught participants how to correctly apply and store the MNPs. The sessions which followed a “training of trainer’s” approach will see participants organise step down trainings for caterers and cooks in their consecutive districts so lessons learnt are widely disseminated. Find out more

Charlotte Broyd

Website and Communications Assistant
Partnership for Child Development

Dr Mike Skinner appointed Chair of HSE’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification (Contained Use)

MIke SkinnerAt the beginning of June, Dr Mike Skinner (Section of Virology at St Mary’s) took over from Professor Janet Bainbridge as Chair of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE)’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification (Contained Use) – SACGM (CU). Dr Skinner has sat on SACGM (CU) since 2004, when it was formed to replace the former Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification (ACGM). The committee provides technical and scientific advice to HSE and other relevant authorities on all aspects of the human and environmental risks of the contained use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Its work therefore complements, and generally precedes, the work of  the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)’s Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) which covers deliberate release policy. The remit of the committee is:

• To advise on the technical issues of individual activities notified under the Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) Regulations 2000

• To provide advice on risk assessments for contained use activities involving GMOs

• To develop and update guidance on all aspects of contained use of GMOs including the Compendium of Guidance; a document that is well regarded both nationally and internationally

SACGM (CU) therefore helps HSE protect workers in industry, research and the health service (as well as the general public and wider environment) from any potential hazards attributable to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), while at the same time aiming to allow the research, production or application to progress in a safe manner. It concentrates on higher risk (Class 3 & 4) activities but also advises on the changing landscape of research, technological developments and disease threats, though in the latter case it overlaps with HSE’s Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP).

Like the other members of the committee, Mike says that the work has proved challenging but interesting and satisfying. Early in its life, it had to deal with issues concerning the industrial scale production of pre-pandemic vaccine against avian influenza virus H5N1, work which proved invaluable at the time of the unexpected emergence of the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. Indeed much of the committee’s deliberation has concerned assessment and control of recombinant influenza viruses created not just as vaccines but to help researchers understand the pathogenesis and host range of viruses emerging from animal reservoirs; the latter work has become somewhat more controversial following the publication of well-publicised ‘gain-of-function’ studies.

Within the clinical setting there are a burgeoning number of gene therapy constructs and recombinant vaccines that are entering clinical trials within hospitals and which are moving toward licensed clinical use. Data to support eventual approval for release of these vaccines through ACRE (and for licensure through the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency; MHRA) are conducted under contained use.

Mike is also looking forward to working with the those involved in the development of Synthetic Biology (a broad and rapidly developing area in research and industry, which falls under the remit of the GM regulations) and with those advising the authorities in other EU states (as EU legislation now shapes many of the relevant UK regulations).

Game focused on improving antibiotic prescribing launched

Increasing antimicrobial resistance has been identified as a global threat to health. To arrest such threat, a variety of measures have been implemented to improve the quality of antimicrobial prescribing. But whilst increasing prescriber knowledge has proven easier to achieve, maintaining adequate engagement with recommended prescribing behaviours remains harder to accomplish due to psychological and behavioural influences. In other clinical settings, the use of serious electronic games coupled with the application of game mechanics have been successfully employed to resolve similar behavioural challenges, allowing players to experience complicated clinical scenarios and gain technical skills without any negative consequences on patients. In 2013 we proposed to investigate if a serious smartphone prescribing game would be effective in supporting and encouraging the prudent use of antimicrobials in acute care.

In collaboration with a commercial game company, we developed a series of virtual patients that presented signs and symptoms of different infectious pathologies including community- and healthcare-acquired pneumonia, viral and bacterial meningitis, urinary tract infection, influenza, cellulitis and C. difficile colitis, among others. Players gradually receive clinical information for each patient to help them decide the diagnosis and management for the case, and can opt to prescribe oral antibiotics, broad- or narrow-spectrum intravenous (IV) antibiotics, request further tests or discharge the patient without any treatment. Timely and accurate diagnosis and clinical management are rewarded by the scoring algorithm, whilst too conservative or hurried decisions are penalised. Recognising the social interactions that occur during a prescribing decision and the impact of such decisions on different professional groups, we include behavioural nudges offered by professionals, patients and hospital management, depending on each player’s performance.

We used several gamification elements to focus players’ mind on desired antimicrobial prescribing behaviours and to highlight any unintended consequences. The user interface can be personalized and timers and scores, together with increasing case difficulty were introduced to sustain engagement with the game. Immediate feedback after each case and tailored messages informed players about their performance. Delayed consequences of prescribing decisions were explicit for players; for example, using IV antibiotics too frequently results in cannula-site infections which will reappear as follow-up cases, increasing players workload.

The game (which can be downloaded here) from was launched on 6th May to coincide with the international patient safety day promoted by the World Health Organization. The concept and progress were recently presented at the 16th International Conference on Infectious Diseases in Cape Town (South Africa) and the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Barcelona (Spain), attracting much interest as no other research group has developed a similar initiative.

Sustaining appropriate prescribing behaviours remains a challenge for antimicrobial stewardship initiatives worldwide. Serious games delivered on mobile devices can complement the experiential learning of prescribers. Games can be useful to reinforce desired behaviours, elicit the relationships between different professional groups involved in prescribing decision-making, and highlight any unintended consequences of antimicrobial prescribing. Serious games may be an affordable and feasible solution to address the behavioural and social influences on prescribing.

Enrique Castro Sánchez
Academic Research Nurse
National Centre for Infection Prevention and Management

Dr Wendy Harrison participates at World Health Assembly

Dr Wendy HarrisonDr Wendy Harrison, Chairperson of the UK Coalition against Neglected Tropical Diseases and Managing Director of SCI in the School of Public Health participated as a panelist at a side event at the World Health Assembly on 22nd May.

The theme of the meeting was “The Power of Integration: achieving the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases”, and in addition to Dr Harrison panelists included Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu, Minister of Health, Nigeria;  Dr Dirk Engels, Director, Dept of Control of NTDs, WHO ; Nichola Cadge, Health Adviser, DFID and Dr Ariel Pablos-Mendez, Assistant Administrator for Global Health, USAID.

Prof. Alan Fenwick O.B.E.
Professor of Tropical Parasitology
SCI – Imperial College London

Excellent Medical Education – National ASME/GMC Joint Awards – advance notification

ASME GMCThe “Excellent Medical Education” Programme is a set of national prizes being established jointly by ASME and the GMC to fund high quality medical education research, development and innovation.

This is in response to recognition of the need for further research-based evidence related to medical education and training, through supporting capacity building and increasing the volume of high quality medical education research. Applications using quantitative or qualitative, established or innovative methods will be welcome. Further information will be available from the ASME website closer to the launch at the ASME Annual Scientific Meeting in Brighton in July 2014. However, we are providing this initial summary so that interested individuals and organisations have additional time to begin to consider potential projects which they may wish to submit in one or more of the three categories.

All ASME members who are based in the UK will be eligible to apply, provided their organisation is capable of fulfilling the role of a research sponsor (e.g. an NHS organisation, academic institution). Submissions for awards will open on 17th July 2014. The online application form will be accessible via the ASME website from this date. The deadline for the first year’s applications will be 17th December 2014.

ASME and the GMC do not intend to name specific topic areas and welcome applications on a wide range of issues, across the continuum of medical education:

• Undergraduate
• Postgraduate
• Continuing Professional Development

Three prizes will be available, one linked to each of these stages of medical education. The programme is intended to support research which is related to the innovation, development, implementation and sustainability of excellent medical education which has an impact at either the individual (medical students, doctors in training, SAS doctors and consultants, and/or patients) or systems level (e.g. informing or leading to organisational change).

Applications will be assessed against the following criteria:

• Evidence that the project links directly with GMC education priorities
• Clarity as to the aims and objectives of the work
• Coherence between the aims and objectives, and the approach or methods used to measure and/or report outcomes
• Demonstrated outcomes/outputs for medical students, doctors, education and training programmes, including identification of key drivers for success/failure. Potential trajectory to patient benefit will also be considered as an outcome criterion
• Targets/outcomes, and if reached/achieved
• Evaluation of process as well as outcome(s) (i.e. why it worked as well as “it worked”)
• Evidence as to whether or not the work has maintained momentum, or details of how successful candidates would use the prize funding to further extend the project