IGHI’s monthly NCD Forum provides an opportunity for interdisciplinary discussions of NCDs in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs). Apart from its intrinsic interest, we hope that it will foster inter-Faculty research initiatives and leverage the immense strengths of Imperial to resolve one of the largest problems facing the world in the early 21st Century.
All members of the College from all Faculties are welcome including students at all levels. The Forum meets normally on the third Thursday of each month between 3:00-5:00pm. If you are interested in hosting a future forum, contact Jo Seed with your proposed topic at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out the write up of April’s NCD Forum which focused on eHealth in the LMICs.
Join us for our Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics, 20th-23rd June 2015, Royal Geographical Society
On 30th January 2015, the breakout space at the Wolfson Education Centre at Imperial’s Hammersmith campus was buzzing with more than 100 dates between 40 Imperial academics from different faculties, and representatives from 7 major Pharma companies.
The first Pharma speed dating @ ICL event was part of the launch program for the Imperial Confidence in Concept funding scheme, and was organized by the Corporate Partnerships team. Jonathan Weber, Vice-Dean of Research and Imperial College AHSC Director said
“The Pharma speed dating event fits with our strategy to strengthen Imperial relationship with the Pharmaceutical industry and to provide young PIs an opportunity to have their first industrial interactions”.
Academics had only 20 minutes to pitch their ideas to company representatives and discuss common interest for collaborations.
Both academics and company representatives enjoyed a day of interesting and open scientific discussions.
Silvia Santos, a starting group leader at the Imperial MRC-Clinical Science Centre said:
“It was very informative to understand what a therapeutic target is to Pharma companies and the path to get into having a potential interesting target. But perhaps even more exciting was realising how complementary our approaches in the lab are with some of the companies and start discussions for potential collaborations.”
Following on from the event, the Corporate Partnerships team is busy following up with several companies who have opened opportunities for collaboration with the College.
The Corporate Partnerships team is expecting to run this event again next year. If your company is interested in participating in the next speed dating @ ICL event, please get in touch with us at email@example.com.
The CSC has appointed its first Head of Public Engagement and Communications. Susan Watts will lead the next stage in the centre’s plans to tell wider audiences the ground-breaking research of its scientists.
Susan is an award-winning science journalist with a 30-year career as a broadcaster, writer and speaker. She was Science Editor of the BBC’s Newsnight programme until September 2013, when the post was closed.
“We’re delighted to welcome Susan,” said Amanda Fisher, Director of the institute and professor in cell biology at Imperial College. “Progress in the biomedical arena is gathering pace and Susan will help us showcase the amazing discoveries driven by CSC and Imperial research teams”.
Susan said: “I am hugely excited to begin working with the institute’s talented scientists, so that people can find out more about what their promising research might mean for them.”
Imperial inspires scientists of the future
Over 100 pupils aged between 7 and 11 years old enjoyed hands-on microscopy workshops at the CSC in March.
Local pupils from Glebe Primary School and Old Oak Primary School travelled to the Imperial teaching laboratories in the Commonwealth Building where they peered down light microscopes to examine beating heart cells, neurons, cancer cells, fly maggots and more.
To help the children make the most of the day, CSC scientists were on hand to demonstrate how to use the equipment and answer any questions. Demonstrator Hamlata Dewchand says, “Working with the children is always great fun and it is important to pass on our knowledge.”
Nitric oxide inhibitors protect against chronic kidney disease
Chronic kidney disease affects approximately one in ten people but there are few effective treatments. Now researchers at the Clinical Sciences Centre have shown that inhibiting nitric oxide can protect against chronic kidney disease.
The researchers used ADMA – an inhibitor which typically raises blood pressure and impairs kidney function – to inhibit nitric oxide within the proximal tubes of the kidneys of transplant patients.
“This finding is completely novel and goes against the dogma that loss of nitric oxide is always bad for you,” says James Leiper, leader of the CSC’s Nitric Oxide Signalling Group.
“This paper demonstrates the strength of combining the very strong basic science from the CSC together with clinical medicine from Imperial College and ICL NHS Trust, and may have significant implications on the management of patients with chronic kidney disease.”
Dr Nathalie MacDermott presented the Good Friday meditation on BBC Radio 4 . Nathalie has been to Liberia several times to work with Ebola patients. Nathalie is currently an Honorary Clinical Research Fellow but has just been awarded a Wellcome Trust ISSF award to further her work on Ebola in Sierra Leone.
With the launch of ITMAT the NIHR Imperial BRC is pleased to announce an inaugural call for experimental medicine proposals to exploit ITMAT’s core platform technologies. It aims to promote and encourage the ‘pull-through’ of discovery science from the Faculties of Medicine, Engineering and Natural Sciences within Imperial College London into potential clinical applications.
The intention of this call is to provide seed funding support to pilot experimental medicine projects that are based on a workable hypothesis and can demonstrate reasonable promise of success. Our aim is to provide a boost to these promising projects, to provide the additional data and evidence that will support Imperial researchers to apply for larger, follow-on grants from other funders within a period of 12-15 months.
The Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics (ITMAT) at NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) is virtual institute built upon core facilities across the College and Trust. Its aim is to support the acceleration of fundamental discoveries into improvements in human health and economic benefit.
ITMAT includes platforms in genomic (and metagenomic), metabonomic and imaging technologies and health informatics, as well as the NIHR Wellcome Trust Imperial Clinical Research Facility (ICRF) and one of the largest tissue collections in Europe. ITMAT offers BRC co-funding for proof-of-concept studies across the translational divide, and postgraduate programmes at the interface of basic and clinical sciences. The Institute particularly promotes multidisciplinary research, pulling through biomedical applications from engineering and physical sciences discovery science, and strategic commercial partnerships.
A study lead by Dr Sonia Saxena showed fewer complications and readmissions at specialist centres compared with District General hospitals for children having appendectomy: Annals of Surgery. Listen to Sonia talk about this research on the Imperial Podcast.
Liz Koshy has published a paper in BMJ open showing that tonsillectomy operations for children who have not had recurrent throat infections provide very little benefit: BMJ Open
We published a paper in that showed a halving in 5 year perianal surgery rates among patients with Crohns Disease who had sustained treatment (over 18 months) with immunosuppressant drugs: Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.
The St. Mary’s FACS Core Facility is housed on the 3rd floor in the Medical School building. The facility is open to everyone and provides access to high-end FACS analysers, teaching and training, performs a dedicated Cat2 cell sorting service, and houses a MSD and a Luminex200 cytokine and protein analysis platform.
The cell sorting service usually operates during weekdays but we try to accommodate a certain flexibility in terms of start and end time. Your science matters to us and we’ll live up to this claim. Access to all of our analyser platforms can be organised on a 24/7 basis with college security.
As part of our service, the facility provides all necessary reagents (except antibodies and functional dyes) and consumables required to run your samples on perfectly maintained instruments.
Training is performed in the facility on our own analysers to enable users to operate the systems independently with high confidence. Training is free and we only charge the hourly cost rate of the analyser.
We help you with Panel design using our experience in colour choices in order to get you on track faster and economically more efficient.
Seminars on FACS analysis and sorting can be requested for small groups or departments.
CAT2 Cell sorting is performed in our facility as a full service using our AriaIIIu sorter housed in a CAT2 hood; usually Monday-Friday, but we try to be accommodating if out-of-hours/weekends are necessary.
We offer help on experimental design and data interpretation in order to help you reach your research goals more effectively.
Available cytometers: £25/h recharge
LSRII: 405/488/633nm excitation suite coupled with 6/6/3 detector emission bench
Fortessa A: 355/405/488/561/640nm excitation suite coupled with 2/6/6/4/3 detector emission bench
Fortessa B: 405/488/561/640nm excitation suite coupled with 6/6/4/3 detector emission bench
FlowJo: We provide access to FlowJo on a Mac and a PC for everybody using our cytometers for free as part of general facility usage
Cell sorter: £67/h recharge
AriaIIIu in a Cat2 safety hood: 375 or 405/ 488/561/640nm excitation suite coupled with 2or6/2/4/3 detector emission bench. Sorting onto slides, dishes, multi-well plates (max 384well), Eppendorfs, FACS and Falcon tubes. Nozzles sizes 70, 85, and 100um to enable all kind of cell sorts.
Cytokine and Protein analysis platforms: £30/plate recharge
A new study carried out by Peter Sarkies (Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance & Evolution) in collaboration with Eric Miska (Gurdon Institute, Cambridge) reveals astonishing insights into the evolution of transposon-silencing mechanisms in nematode worms. Transposons are “selfish” DNA pieces that insert themselves into the genome. Like a computer virus, they copy themselves and proliferate, which can disrupt essential gene functions. Because transposons are so disruptive, there is huge selective pressure on organisms to silence them and stop them spreading. Organisms have evolved ingenious ways to suppress transposon activity, especially in the reproductive cells, where a transposition event affects subsequent generations. The front line of defence against transposons in most animals, from nematode worms to humans, are tiny sequences of RNA, known as Piwi interacting small RNAs (piRNAs). These piRNAs patrol the genome, seeking out and controlling transposons.
The phylum-wide study, published this week in PLOS Biology, sheds light on a highly dynamic evolutionary history, which was completely unexpected, whereby this broadly conserved transposon-silencing system has been lost in nematodes on several occasions. The study shows that piRNAs have been completely lost in four of the five nematode groups, or clades. Only Clade V, to which the lab model Caenorhabditis elegans belongs, use the piRNA pathway. In the absence of piRNAs, nematodes use a diversity of other mechanisms to control transposons. The authors suggest that the piRNA pathway was present in the most ancestral ur-nematode, but then independently lost in other nematode lineages.
However, nematodes without this piRNA pathway are not riddled with transposons, but have evolved two other pathways that control transposons in nematodes. One is a novel transposon-silencing pathway known as 22G-RNAs. This was found in three clades (Clades III, IV and V). The other is an ancient pathway, dependent on RNA-directed DNA methylation, which is found in the oldest nematode clades (Clades I and II). It is also found in plants and fungi, but has been lost in most animals. This finding begs the intriguing question: Might this be the ancestral mechanism of transposon silencing in animals?
“It’s completely unprecedented and shocking to see so many independent losses of the piRNA pathway across a single phylum. There are no other examples of that in the animal kingdom that we know of,” says Peter Sarkies from the CSC’s Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance and Evolution Group. If we can understand the selective forces that led to piRNAs being lost, says Sarkies, we might be able to get some insight into why transposable element proliferation is something that occurs more frequently in cancer. In addition, we might be able to design new treatment against parasitic nematodes, such as filarial nematodesresponsible for elephantiasis and river blindness, he adds.
The work was carried out in collaboration with, among others, Eric Miska from the University of Cambridge, and Murray Selkirk from Imperial College London.
Peter Sarkies, Murray E. Selkirk, John T. Jones, Vivian Blok, Thomas Boothby, Bob Goldstein, Ben Hanelt, Alex Ardila-Garcia, Naomi M. Fast, Phillip M. Schiffer, Christopher Kraus, Mark J. Taylor, Georgios Koutsovoulos, Mark L. Blaxter, Eric A. Miska: Ancient and Novel Small RNA Pathways Compensate for the Loss of piRNAs in Multiple Independent Nematode Lineages, PLOS Biology, February 10, 2015, DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002061
Institute of Clinical Science
Faculty of Medicine
The annual Young Scientist Day 2015 took place on Wednesday 4March in the Wolfson Education Centre. The event was a great success, attracting a large number of PhD students and also a handful of MSc and MRes students; one of whom was inspired to run a similar event in his own cohort.
The morning was dedicated to poster presentations, with participants enjoying a wide range of posters from all 5 Divisions. Our three winners were:
Natalie Johnston: Optical interrogation of glucose-regulated beta cell connectivity
Luke Moore: Surveillance to stewardship: bridging the gap for antimicrobial resistance
Ryan Mitchell: Reciprocal changes in glucose tolerance after pancreatic beta cell-selective over-expression or deletion of Slc30a8/ZnT8 in mice
The afternoon saw an impressive suite of ‘3-minute thesis’ presentations, with one PhD student from each Section Cohort challenged to communicate their research effectively in just 3 minutes. The overall prize was awarded to Nisha Ranganathan for her presentation ‘Why killing 99% of bacteria isn’t enough’, with a runner-up of Jonathan Underwood, who spoke about ‘How antiretrovirals affect the brain’. Nisha and Jonathan will progress to the 3-minute thesis competition at the College-wide Graduate School Summer Symposium in June.
We also enjoyed stimulating talks from three Department of Medicine Postdocs, which was a new feature for 2015. They provided some useful and good-humoured advice about PhDs, Postdocs and careers and PhD students enjoyed the opportunity to network during the drinks which rounded off the day.
Another new feature was a visit by 11 secondary school students from the Misbourne School, Buckinghamshire. Dr. Pascal Durrenberger, a Research Associate within Brain Sciences, has been leading an outreach project with the school’s STEM club, and the students enjoyed a varied day presenting their poster about brain waves, using microscopes and touring the Imanova Imaging Centre. Academics and PhD students made a real effort to engage the students.
The event would not have been possible without the generous support of the Graduate School, who provided funding for refreshments and also for the prizes. Young Scientist Day is a perfect example of the ‘cohort-building’ activity that the Graduate School seeks to support. We are also grateful to Dr. Kevin Murphy, Dr. Jane Saffell and to a number of other academics and Postdocs who gave up their time to act as judges for the poster and presentation sessions.
We look forward to planning Young Scientist Day 2016!
Philippa Griffin Department of Medicine Operations Trainee
The work describes the design, fabrication and validation of the first non-protein nucleating agent made specifically for robotic crystallisation experiments. This research builds upon prior demonstration of the suitability of molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs; known as ‘smart materials’) for inducing protein crystal growth (PNAS 2011 108, 11081-11086). These semi-liquid MIPs are dispensed using commercially available robots and their application bypasses the concerns associated with seeding and solid heterogeneous nucleants. MIPs have been shown to be effective in both screening (greater number and variety of hits) and optimization (better crystals in MIP presence) trials. MIP-containing trials yielded crystallization conditions for proteins that had not produced useful crystals to date in screening (using commercial screens). No leads were obtained in the absence of MIPs or in the presence of traditional nucleants, meaning that without MIPs these important conditions would have been missed. Furthermore, better crystals could be obtained in the presence of MIPs at the optimization stage. Examples of these proteins include the human macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) and an antibody to CCR5 receptor complex since publication.
The research has paved the way to commercialization by Imperial Innovations – leading to a patented product that can be employed for the automated screening and optimization of any biomacromolecule. The application of these materials is simple and 20 nanolitres is sufficient for each trial, thus this will provide a potent tool for scientists in academia and industry.
The links between the WHO Collaborating Centre for Public Health Education and Training at Imperial College London and the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, Iraq have been growing strong for some time. The connection has now been sealed with the Face-to-face meeting on Tuesday 2o January 2015. Representatives of the WHO Collaborating Centre (Director: Professor Salman Rawaf, Dr Sondus Hassounah and Ms Ela Augustyniak) had a privilege to meet Minister of Higher Education and Research, Iraq, His Excellency Professor Hussein Al-Shahristani in person over lunch at South Kensington Campus, Imperial College London, 58 Prince’s Gardens. His Excellency was accompanied by the Iraqi Cultural Attache Professor Musa Almosawe.
Professor Al-Shahristani is a graduate from Imperial College London Chemical Engineering, and we are delighted that the Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, Professor Andrew Livingston joined the group alongside Mrs Clare Turner, representative of the International Office at Imperial College London.
It is not surprising that the discussion had a reminiscing part where HE concluded building of the Chemical Engineering Department was very much as he remembered it from 50 years ago, but obviously familiar faces are missing. Education remained at the core of the conversation; and although the development of the technologies seem to imply the inevitable turn towards online education sessions more and more, the party reached an agreement on the irreplaceability of the face-to-face interaction and its unquestionable value in the education process. “It is not the equations and theories we remember from our studies, it is the people and personalities and their impact”, was the commonly agreed conclusion. His Excellency is very keen to strengthen the links with WHO Collaborating Centre in supporting the development and strengthening Iraqi universities and in particular the new Medical University under development in Baghdad. He welcomed the training of many Iraqi academia over the last few years and he emphasised the importance of the continuation of such collaborative work between Iraq and I-C-L.
Dr Al-Shahristani was accopmapnied by Dr Mosa Almosawie, the Cultural Attaché: a well know academic and the immediate past president of University of Baghdad, the largest university in Iraq.
The 7th Advanced Academic Training Course for Medical and Health Professional
Imperial College London, through its WHO Collaborating Centre for Education and Training, ran its 7th Advanced Academic Training Course from 24 November until 19 December 2014. The course was established in 2011, following the collaboration between the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Research and Imperial College London. The aim of the Advanced Academic Training Course is to introduce the new methods of teaching and research to medical and health professionals who work in academia worldwide.
The course covers various aspects of skills-development disciplines, including communication skills, students’ assessment, Masters and PhDs examinations and small-group learning. Modern teaching and research skills development is achieved through interactive learning and hands-on experience through highly advanced skill labs, attending undergraduate students’ clinical teachings in primary care, community and hospital settings.
WHO CC at the RESCAP-MED 2nd Regional Symposium on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) – Beirut, Lebanon (3 -4 Dec 2014)
Our WHO CC volunteer for the period between July and September 2014, Dr Jara Valtueña (ImFine Research Group/ Department of Health and Human Performance-Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain), has been accepted to present a poster on the “Impact of the 2010 popular uprising: Ramification on morbidity, mortality and social determinants of health in four countries from the MENA region” at the RESCAP-MED 2nd Regional Symposium on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) entitled “Socio-political Challenges in the Mediterranean Region: Implications for NCD Prevention and Control” which took place in Beirut, Lebanon from the 3rd -4th December 2014 . This Symposium aims to bring together researchers and public health actors to present, document and debate prospects for action in NCD surveillance, management, control and prevention, within the context of recent geo-political developments in the region.
Her poster reflects the work she conducted with the research team at WHO CC, which she and the team are currently preparing for publication.
Dr Alex Chen, new PhD student, presenting at the UK parliament on unethical organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China. London, UK (25 Nov 2014)
On Tuesday, 25 November, Dr Julian Huppert MP hosted a forum in UK Parliament addressing unethical organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China and how this pertains to residents in the UK. Guest speakers included David Matas and Hon. David Kilgour who were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their investigative work on organ harvesting in China; award-winning research journalist, Ethan Gutmann, who’s book on this topic “The Slaughter” was published in September; and Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting EU representative, and our most recent PhD student, Dr. Alex Chen.
Dr Chen presented on unethical organ harvesting from Chinese prisoners, and discussed the global responses from the international community in terms of legislation and the far sounding-impact on organ transplantation around the world.
Medical and Health Research course
From 8 to 19 December 2014, the WHO Collaborating Centre hosted its first Health and Medical Research course for health professionals. For two weeks, 20 participants attended lectures by key researchers from the Department of Primary Care and Public Health on topics ranging from qualitative and quantitative research methodologies to setting international and national priorities for health and medical research. Participants were extremely pleased with the high quality of the course and the sessions and expressed their intention to implement what they have learnt in their own research institutes.
Update from WHO CC Fellows
In the last few months, WHO CC welcomed three new fellows: Dr Saad Al Saad, Dr Zahea Alnoumasi, and Dr Thamer AlOhali, all from Saudi Arabia. We trust their time with the Centre will be fruitful and satisfying , and will broaden their career perspectives fort he future.
One of the numerous impacts of the Ebola Crisis in West Africa is the damage that it has caused to already fragile agricultural economies. Restrictions on public gatherings and the closure of international borders have forced numerous agricultural markets to shut up shop. The impact that this has had on smallholder farmer livelihoods has been catastrophic.
However in light of the welcome news that the Ebola epidemic is slowing down, the Partnership for Child Development’s Samrat Singh looks at what innovative steps governments and their development partners can take to enable these shattered agricultural markets to bounce back from the Ebola crisis. Samrat’s article, written in collaboration with long time Defra adviser Helen Roberts, looks at how government-led programmes such as Home Grown School Feeding can provide stable markets for local smallholder farmers which can in turn support struggling agricultural economies.
IGHI’s New Non-Communicable Disease Forum The Institute of Global Health Innovation’s new NCD Forum provides an opportunity for interdisciplinary discussions of NCDs in low-and-middle-income countries. The first one will take place on 19th February.
ERC Starting Grant awarded to Jean-Baptiste Vannier– Jean-Baptiste Vannier was awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant of €1.5 million for five years. He was selected from 3,273 applicants (9 % success rate). ERC Starting Grants support up-and-coming scientists who are about to establish a new research team and start conducting independent research. Jean-Baptiste, who joined the CSC in the autumn from CRUK, will investigate the role of telomeres in DNA replication. When telomeres fail to fold into these structures, the genome becomes unstable, which is a hallmark of every cancer.
Synergy: Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant awarded to CSC and Imperial College Researchers – Vahid Shahrezaei from the Mathematics department at Imperial College and Sam Marguerat from the CSC’s Quantitative Gene Expression Group will be leading the £250,173 award to investigate noise in gene expression using single cells. The collaboration will unite Marguerat’s experimental skills with Shahrezaei’s theoretical knowledge in order to gain insight into the process of stochastic gene expression and protein noise, which describes the fluctuating number of molecules inside cells that causes seemingly identical cells to behave differently.
Link between COX-2 inhibitors and cardiovascular risk explained– Research news article on why COX-2 inhibitors, a class of widely prescribed anti-inflammatories, may lead to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes (published in Circulation by James Leiper/Jane Mitchell, Imperial/NHLI; reference: Blerina Ahmetaj-Shala, Nicholas S. Kirkby et al. ‘Evidence That Links Loss Of Cyclo-oxygenase-1 2 With Increased Asymmetric Dimethylarginine: Novel Explanation of Cardiovascular Side Effects Associated With Anti-inflammatory Drugs.’ Circulation, 9 December 2014. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.114.011591).
Institute of Clinical Science
Faculty of Medicine
PCD Receives Grant for Global Health & Development
PCD has been recently awarded by Grand Challenges Explorations an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a project focused on improving market information among stakeholders of Kenya’s school feeding programme. The programme is a government-led intervention which procures food used in school meals locally from smallholder farmers and has been described as a ‘win-win’ for both children and farmers alike; with well-fed children more likely to attend and stay in school and farmers more secured of a livelihood. Specifically, the project will develop a software platform using everyday items such as mobile phones, to improve the tendering process between the programme’s stakeholders, namely, the schools (buyers), traders (buyers and sellers) and farmer groups (sellers).
School-Based Deworming: A Clear Role for the European Commission
Periodic drug treatment for children in schools – known as school-based deworming – represents a highly strategic approach to tackling soil-transmitted helminths (STH) and schistosomiasis. Integrated programmes that deliver deworming, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health education and other key interventions lead to even greater long-term impact.
A new paper called ‘School-Based Deworming’ (PDF download 2.8mb), from Imperial College London’s Partnership for Child Development argues that the European Commission (EC) is on the margins of the growing global movement against NTDs and with its financial resources, technical capacity and global network, the EC can and should be at the forefront of efforts to tackle the diseases, in particular schistosomiasis and STH. In order to rise to this task, the EC requires a clear policy direction, and must ensure that the control and elimination of schistosomiasis and STH are integrated into its education, nutrition and WASH strategies and programmes.
Apart from being medical and surgical procedures, they are nowadays important topics of interest in biomedical modelling and simulation research. Earlier this year I had a paper accepted at the 6th International Symposium on Biomedical Simulation (ISBMS) and a month ago, in October, I went to Strasbourg to present it. I was looking forward to hearing some Alsatian being spoken, although given my basic French skills I didn’t actually notice a difference. ISBMS was organised by the SiMMS group at Imperial College London and by the SHACRA team at INRIA. The event was hosted at IRCAD (Research Institute against Digestive Cancer) in a high-tech room that resemble those at the UN where important topics are also discussed. I found the symposium a great opportunity to discuss new approaches and challenges in the area among experts in the field.
Researchers presented results about physics-based modelling of both soft tissue (organs, vasculature, skin, muscles) and bone structures related to training systems and haptics (enabling the sense of touch in virtual systems), vascular modelling, deformation during image acquisition, surgical planning, and analysis, characterisation and validation studies. I presented a haptics and deformation modelling approach to simulating Digital Rectal Examinations (DRE) using patient-specific models captured via MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). The results from this paper will allow junior doctors to gain the necessary skills to perform DRE more efficiently compared to existing teaching methods.
Keynote speakers included Prof Mathias Brieu (Biomechanical Lab, Ecole Centrale Lille) who signalled the importance of modelling patient-specific data and the need for parameters that allow modelling differences in patients. Francisco Chinesta (Ecole Centrale Nantes) and Elias Cueto (I3A, Zaragoza) presented a computational vademecum (where all solutions are pre-computed) to model organ deformation by the parameterisation and further decomposition of relevant variables that are present during simulation.
I was captivated by the tranquillity of the city and it was interesting to learn how Strasbourg, now home to the European Parliament and Council of Europe, has been inhabited for 600,000 years. The city was occupied by the Romans (Argentoratum, 12BC) and was controlled later on by Alemanni, Huns and Franks (Strazburg, 5th century). The revolution of 1332 heralded 300 years of Strasbourg as a republic, before it was annexed by Louis XIV of France (1681), by the German Empire (1871) and finally by France (1919) following the Treaty of Versailles. Strasbourg Cathedral, III river and the area called Petite-France were beautiful, and this beauty extends to the city’s cuisine…Choucroute, Tarte FlambéeAlsacienne and La Terrine de Canard were exquisite.
The MRC Clinical Sciences Centre’s Chain-Florey Fellows met at the annual workshop last Thursday (13 November) to present the researchthey have been working on at the CSC, and take part in the lively discussions that followed.
The CSC’s Chain-Florey Clinical Research Fellowships offer medical graduates the opportunity to complete PhDs in basic science at the CSC. Clinically trained Fellows develop a unique appreciation of the practical application of treatments and bring a valuable perspective to science research. Since the scheme’s inception in 2009, 17 Fellowships have been awarded and graduates have emerged ready to tackle clinical research questions with scientific precision. The scheme is jointly funded by the MRC and NIHR through the Imperial BRC.
Every year, the most senior fellows showcase their research in front of an audience of medical experts. This year, Dr Allifia Abbas Newsholme, Dr Philip Webster and Dr Andrew Innes gave fascinating talks that reflected the high quality of training in basic science that they received on the three-year fellowship.
Allifia Abbas Newsholme, who is now close to completing the fellowship with Amanda Fisher’s Lymphocyte Development Group, kicked off the Chain-Florey presentations with a talk on ‘Non-invasive imaging of imprinted gene expression’. She is working to devise a system to image changes in the expression of the CDKNIC gene. Mutations in this gene cause Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, which is characterised by an increased risk of tumour formation. Originally from Dubai, Allifia embarked on the fellowship with an undergraduate degree from the University of Leeds, an intercalated BSc in immunology at the Royal Free in London, and two years of training in her specialty of Nephrology at the London Deanery.
Philip Webster, who has completed his PhD with Anthony Uren’s Cancer Genomics Group, presented his research on the genetics and kinetics of BCL2 driven lymphoid malignancies. BCL2 is a gene involved in preventing programmed cell death, known as apoptosis. If the gene is overexpressed it prevents apoptosis. Cells remain alive for too long, leading to cancers and autoimmune diseases. By identifying genes that are commonly mutated with BCL2, Phil altered their expression in lymphoma cells to investigate the role they play in the development of lymphoma – a cancer of white blood cells. Phil trained at Nottingham University Medical School and has worked across the UK and Australia. In 2007, he came to London and later began his specialist training as nephrologist. Having returned to his specialty training in renal medicine, he intends to pursue an academic career path. He is currently renal registrar at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
“The Chain-Florey Fellowship is an excellent opportunity to acquire solid, basic science training for any doctor intending to have a career in academia. I wanted to gain knowledge, experience and learn new techniques within the genomics of the immune system and then apply this to my interest in autoimmune diseases,” he says.
Andrew Innes’s talk was titled, ‘Investigating senescence regulation: a telomere damage model.’ Andrew, who has almost completed the fellowship with Jesús Gil’s Cell Proliferation Group, looked into the genes that control senescence in the natural ageing process. “Senescence is well known for its role in controlling cancers, but its role in fibrotic disorders is less well understood,” he says. “I’m interested in post-transplant fibrotic disease, specifically Graft Versus Host Disease (DVHD). There’s a lot of evidence that this mimics autoimmune disease, but there is also evidence that could link it to senescence.” Andrew approached the bench with a firmer grounding in basic research than many other Chain-Florey Fellows because he had finished a nine-month Academic Clinical Fellowship at Imperial College with Francesco Dazzi. After training in Dundee, Glasgow and Manchester, Andrew moved to London in 2008 to specialize in Haematology.
Their talks were followed by a riveting panel discussion on the future of personalized medicine. The panelists grappling with this divisive topic were:
Dr Peter Campbell – Head of Cancer Genetics and Genomics at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and joint head of the Cancer Genome Project.
Professor Irene Roberts – Head of the Developmental and Stem Cell Biology Group at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine.
Dr Anne-Marie Coriat – Director of Capacity Skills and Infrastructure at the MRC.
Dr Sohaila Rastan – President and Chief Executive Officer at Ceros Limited and Chief Scientific Advisor of the RNID.
Professor Jonathan Weber – Director of Research at Imperial NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.
Dr Jeremy Griggs – Biology Leader and Biologist in the Discovery Partnerships with Academia team at GlaxoSmithKline.
The afternoon ended with a keynote speech from Dr Peter Campbell. He discussed ‘the vast somatic mutational landscape of cancers’, with particular reference to the molecular pathology of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).
To read more about the CSC Chain-Florey scheme, its sponsors and advocates, current and previous Fellows, please visit the CSC website.
Institute of Clinical Science
Faculty of Medicine
Symplectic is not retrieving my publications – Review your search settings
If the automated search performed by Symplectic elements is not retrieving your publications, there are a few things you can do to address this.
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Reduce the number of keywords to broaden the search (having too many keywords will further restrict the search)
Adding a publication via the ID number
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Within the search settings, scroll to the bottom of the page
Enter the ID number (for example, Publications on PubMed show this as “PMID”)
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When the next scheduled search takes place, it will retrieve that publication.
My publications are not appearing in the correct order on my PWP
Within Symplectic Elements, go to “Account Settings” in the top right of the screen
In the section “Update Sort for External Systems” choose an order for the desired category. For example, if your publications are not appearing in the right order, choose an order for “Publication” such as “Date (descending)” and then click “Update”
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In the section “Symplectic Elements” press the circular arrow icon. This will force Symplectic to update the information on your page based on the sort order you have chosen in Symplectic.
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94% of 535 surveyed districts in Ethiopia are endemic for either schistosomiasis and/or soil-transmitted helminths (STH) – Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) which are commonly found in school-children. This was one finding of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute who supported by Imperial College London’s PCD and SCI recently mapped NTD prevalence alongside Water, Sanitation and Hygiene infrastructure using data collected from 125,000 school-aged children across 2,700 schools. To date, the mapping surveys have informed school-based deworming programmes against STH in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara regions and integrated schistosomiasis and STH campaigns will commence in these and other regions later in the year. Eventually, these campaigns will extend to all areas where children are at risk. Click to read more
Home Grown School Feeding: Time for Donors to Deepen Engagement
A new policy paper, “Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF): Time for Donors to Deepen Engagement” from Imperial College London’s PCD finds that despite the widespread benefits of HGSF felt in low and middle income countries, donor support to the initiative is significantly lacking. The paper outlines that as substantial challenges remain in meeting the global development goals on hunger, education and poverty, focusing attention on HGSF and other such innovative approaches which link agriculture, health and education sectors is crucial. The HGSF initiative can be described as a “win-win” – ensuring that food for school meals is locally grown, so that smallholder farmers are given a fixed income, and at the same time well fed children are more likely to learn, attend school and develop into healthy adults. Click to read moreCharlotte BroydCommunications OfficerPartnership for Child Development
At 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).
Dr 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.
Details were broadcast on the One Show and on a special Horizon episode (celebrating 50 years of Horizon), after which, voting opened. The nation gets to vote on the six challenge areas, with only the most popular being tackled. The chosen theme will be announced 25 June.
Dr Claire Thorne Executive Coordinator to Professor David Gann CBE, Vice President (Development and Innovation)
Prof Eric Lam’s research group Breast Cancer Campaign’s ‘Research Team of the Year’
Professor Eric Lam and his research group have scooped Breast Cancer Campaign’s sought-after ‘Research Team of the Year’ award for their pioneering study into why women with breast cancer can become resistant to chemotherapy treatment. With Breast Cancer Campaign funding, made possible by support from Asda’s Tickled Pink campaign, Professor Eric Lam and his team were crowned winners for their pioneering research, which aims to discover what reactions happen within individual cancer cells to make tumours stop responding to chemotherapy.
Professor Eric Lam and his team were announced as the winners at Breast Cancer Campaign’s awards ceremony on Tuesday 6 May at the House of Lords.
Dr Kirsty Flower, Postdoctoral Researcher, on taking part in the Imperial Festival
For our demonstration in the Research Zones Marquee of the Imperial Festival, we wanted an interactive way to explain epigenetics to people who may never have heard of it before. On our shopping expedition to buy toy cars (to represent cellular transcription machinery), and a ramp (representing a gene), our remit quickly extended to dinosaurs too; of course a pterosaur could represent promoter methylation! Why not use a t-rex as an analogy for histone acetylation?! After finding a ramp with a loop-the-loop, our minds were set. Then we picked up a scalextric too.
The VIP launch on Thursday evening was fun and interesting, with a steady stream of intrigued visitors to see our toy cars, as well as some useful conversations with other groups from Imperial exhibiting in the same space. Friday evening and Saturday were much more exhausting than anticipated as the toys were a magnet for small children, but did allow for some conversations with the parents whilst their kids were busy with the dinosaurs. We also met people interested in collaborating in future public outreach activities, and teachers looking for new ways to engage their students in science.
Over the three days, a rotating cast of eight enthusiast members of the Epigenetics Unit (Ian Green, Angela Wilson, Adam Beech, Emma Bell, Alun Passey, Natalie Shenker, Nair Bonito and me) ensured that there were never less than two or three individuals on the stall at any time. Overall the experience was very positive, and feedback from both the organisers and members of the public was good.