Category: Research

Partnership for Child Development update

Events


Bill Gates talks school feeding with Ghanaian farmers, teachers and caterers

During his first ever visit to Ghana, Bill Gates joined the Partnership for Child Development to talk with smallholder farmers, teachers and caterers to better understand the issues and opportunities presented by Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programmes. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been supporting the development of government-led, HGSF programmes since 2009. These nationally owned programmes enable schools to procure the ingredients for their school meals from local smallholder farmers. The benefits of programmes, such as Ghana’s School Feeding Programme (GSFP), are felt by the school child and farmer alike with school children getting free nutritious hot meals whilst the farmer gets access to a regular market, providing a win-win for both education and economic development.

Find out more.

 

Dubai Cares visits Ghana

PCD recently accompanied a Dubai Cares team visit to Ghana who carried out a number of field visits to monitor and evaluate aspects of the GSFP they are supporting through PCD. This support is focused on improving the nutritional quality of food in school meals and consists of three key components: community sensitization, providing advice to farmers and a deworming programme.

 

The second annual School Health and Nutrition (SHN) course in Southeast Asia

The second annual SHN course was held in Laos between 13–20 February 2013. Hosted by the Laos Ministries of Health and Education and supported by PCD, the Japan Consortium for Global School Health Research and Mahidol University, the course trained 40 participants drawn from governments, development partners and SHN organisations from 11 Asian countries in the region.

Download course information and presentations.

Programme Implementation

 

Botswana Case Study Report launch

Botswana’s National School Feeding Programme: A Case Study and Transition Report was officially launched by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development at a meeting in February. This was attended by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and PCD. Participants also agreed to a launch of the HGSF programme on 19 April 2013.

Download Botswana’s National School Feeding Programme: A Case Study.

 

Dental health and hygiene programme, Osun State, Nigeria

A total of 90 school health promoters and 966 teachers from 322 schools were trained as part of a pilot programme to improve the hygiene, dental health and nutrition practices of 90,000 children in Osun State. The programme is being implemented by the Osun State Government, in partnership with PCD and UNILEVER.

 

Nigeria’s NTD master plan launch

PCD helped to support the launch of a new five year implementation plan for the control and elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Nigeria. The plan, which targets 10 NTDs, has an approved budget of US$307 m and will treat over 60 million people annually over the next five years.

Publications

 

Worms wisdom and wealth published

Worms, wisdom, and wealth: Why deworming can make economic sense.” A joint article by PCD, World Bank and the University of Washington was published in Trends in Parasitology. The article examines the effects of deworming on child development, health and economic returns.

 

Are school food programmes in low-income settings sustainable? accepted for publication

A PCD paper, “Are school food programmes in low-income settings sustainable? Insights on the costs of school feeding compared to investments in primary education”, was recently accepted for publication by the Food and Nutrition Bulletin. The paper analyses the costs of school feeding and the cost relative to education expenditure and other measures of economic growth using data from high, low and middle countries.

 

Miss Charlotte Broyd
Website and Communications Assistant
School of Public Health

Department of Medicine Young Scientist Day 2013

The Department of Medicine held its third annual Young Scientist Day (details of the 2012 young scientist day), chaired by Professor Wendy Barclay, on 24 April 2013. The event attracted large numbers of research students, postdocs and academic staff who had the unique opportunity to hear and see the range of research being undertaken across the Department.

Over 70 posters were displayed by research students in their 2nd and 3rd years from across the Department. Two Departmental panels of judges, comprising academic staff (Dr Kevin Murphy, Professor Julian Dyson and Dr Ramesh Wigneshweraraj) and Student Reps (Nathali Grageda, Lauren Capron, William Jackson and Ming-Shih Hwang), judged the posters.

The event was formally opened at 1400 by Professor Shiranee Sriskandan. Professor Sriskandan informed everyone of recent grant successes of the Department’s PhD students and Post Docs as follows:

3 successful Junior Research Fellow (JRF) applications, 2013:

  • Christopher Rhodes
  • Kathleen McCaffrey
  • Claire Turner

2 MRC Centenary Awards, 2013:

  • Nicki Lynskey
  • Anna Simmonds

Miscellaneous Awards:

  • Paul Turner (Post Doc), Paediatrics, successful in acquiring an MRC clinician/scientist award
  • Kelsey Jones (PhD student), Paediatrics, currently in the 3rd year of his PhD research based in Kenya, obtained a Gates foundation grant. This is to institute a trial of an innovative nutritional reconstitution formula for severely malnourished children.
  • Ben Bleasdale, PhD student, Virology, won 1st prize for his scientific essay in the Royal College of Science Unions Science Challenge, 2013. He was presented with his prize at the House of Lords by Lord Winston.
  • Moira Cheung, PhD student, Molecular Endocrinology, won the 2013 International Conference on Children’s Bone Health New Investigator Award
  • Apostolos Gogakos, PhD student, Molecular Endocrinology, won the  2013 British Endocrine Societies British Thyroid Association Prize
  • John Logan, Post Doc, Molecular Endocrinology, awarded  a £10,000 Society for Endocrinology Early Career Award in 2012/2013

Professor Barclay expertly Chaired the afternoon, introducing the postdocs’ high quality scientific presentations. The floor was handed to five postdocs who had been selected to orally present their research:

  • Nicki Lynskey, Division of Infectious Diseases:
    A Molecular Basis for Group A Streptococcal Hyper-encapsulation
  • David Bernardo Ordiz, Division of Infectious Diseases:
    Immune compartmentalization in the gastrointestinal tract: differences between ascending and descending human colon
  • Ana Cehovin, Division of Infectious Diseases:
    Specific DNA   recognition mediated by type IV pilins
  • Anna Herasimtschuk, Division of Immunology:
    Therapeutic immunisation in conjunction with IL-2, GM-CSF and rhGH improves CD4 T-cell counts and reduces immune activation in cART-treated HIV-1+patients: a phase I clinical study
  • Amy Birch, Division of Brain Sciences:
    The ablation of reactive astrocytes in APP23 mice induces spatial memory decline & increases amyloid plaque load

Following the above oral presentations, Ms Katie Anders, from the Postdoc Development Centre, drew everyone’s attention to the  Postdoc Development Centre and the ongoing support and development opportunities it offers to postdocs. Dr Claire Turner, recently awarded a JRF, then joined Professor Barclay at the poster and oral presentation prize announcement as follows:

Prizes were given to all Post Docs who had been selected to give an oral presentation.

Post Docs with Dr Claire Turner

  • 1st prizes for posters were given to Ian Harrison, Katherine McCullough, Mark Reglinska and Korina Li
  • 2nd prizes for posters were given to Yuliya Nigmatullina and Catherine Ong

Prizes for posters

At the end of the afternoon, refreshments were served in the breakout space providing an opportunity for networking and poster viewing. Thanks go to everyone who supported this event. Special thanks to the Postdoc Development Centre for financially supporting the event. Plans are now underway to build on its strengths to ensure its continuing success on an annual basis.

Hayley Kendall
Education Research Manager
Department of Medicine

6m Euro funding for translational lung research

Professor Dame Julia Polak
Professor Dame Julia Polak

Almost 6 million Euros in EU funding has been secured by Professor Sakis Mantalaris (Department of Chemical Engineering) and Professor Dame Julia Polak (Honorary Fellow, Chemical Engineering  and Emeritus Professor, Faculty of Medicine), to support an international consortium of leading researchers within the EU, in conjunction with a German company, Novalung.

The group intends to create a wearable bio-artificial lung; AMBULUNG, for long term application in an outpatient setting. Their aims include miniaturisation of the existing device, cellularisation of the diffusion membrane with endothelial cells to reduce thrombus (blood clot) formation, and inclusion of peripheral lung cells to increase gas exchange.

Imperial College will receive a portion of the funding, which together with the generous support from the Rosetrees Trust, will unable to creation of a strong group of scientists doing both basic and translational research on lung regeneration.

Miss Sandra Lock
PA to Professor Dame Julia Polak
Department of Medicine

HELIX project kicks off

The HELIX project consortium (The Human Early-Life Exposome – novel tools for integrating early-life environmental exposures and child health across Europe), which officially began on 1st January 2013, have met for its official kickoff meeting at CREAL (Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology), Barcelona.  This EU FP7 project will exploit novel tools and methods, including omics and smartphone-based personal exposure monitoring, to characterise early-life exposure to a wide range of environmental hazards, and integrate these with data on major child health outcomes.

Researchers at Imperial, led by Dr Muireann Coen of the Department of Surgery and Cancer, will contribute to the metabolic profiling (metabonomics/metabolomics) in the project. This using high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and mass spectrometry (MS) analyses of biospecimens collected from multiple mother-child cohorts across Europe.

Further details can be found on the HELIX website.

Dr Toby Athersuch
Lecturer in Environmental Toxicology
School of Public Health

Blocking cells’ starvation response could help beat cancer

Degradation of intracellular material in autophagy is regulated by Armus. Armus (labelled in red) co-localises with LC3 (labelled in green) in autophagosomes destined to fuse and be degraded in lysosomes.

At home, we are all used to recycle different items, by separating them into distinct containers and sending to specialised places to be destroyed into raw materials.  Cells also do the same: they destroy unwanted material into small components that can then be recycled to obtain energy and building blocks for proteins and lipids.

A recent paper published in Developmental Cell by my group (The Braga Lab) in NHLI, investigates the mechanisms of degradation of intracellular material leading to cell survival in the absence of nutrients.

This process is called autophagy and is important in a number of pathologies, including neurodegenerative diseases (where misfolded proteins are cleared out) and survival of cancer cells inside tumours.  Stopping tumour cells from doing this would improve the effectiveness of treatments and the survival of cancer patients.   However, specific inhibitors of autophagy are still being developed that could be used in clinic.

Our lab has identified a novel regulator of autophagy named Armus.  Armus facilitates the delivery of unwanted material found in specialised packages (autophagosomes) for degradation in organelles called lysosomes.   Blocking Armus function considerably delays clearing out cellular components and autophagy progression.  Armus does so by interacting directly with LC3, a protein found at autophagosomes, which then localizes Armus at the right place and time.

Inhibiting autophagy has been shown to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy for lung and pancreatic tumours..  We found that if you stop Armus from working, the unwanted intracellular components don’t get broken down. Cells thus cannot obtain extra energy from recycling parts that helps their survival. This opens the door to developing novel drugs that targets Armus and helps conventional therapies kill cancer cells more efficiently.

Our research was funded by Cancer Research UK, the Association for International Cancer Research, the Wellcome Trust, the Brunei Government and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Dr Vania Braga
Reader in Cell-cell Adhesion Signaling, Molecular Medicine
National Heart and Lung Institute

Update from the Department of Primary Care and Public Health

Staff satisfaction at hospitals may affect the quality of patient care

The satisfaction levels among a hospital’s staff are closely linked to the quality of healthcare it provides, say a team of doctors from Imperial. In the first study of its kind, Dr Richard Pinder (School of Public Health) and colleagues found that hospitals in England with lower mortality rates were more likely to have members of staff satisfied with the quality of care they provide.  The findings suggest that staff satisfaction could be used as an early warning system to help spot more serious institutional failings, reported The Daily Telegraph. “If you want to choose between two hospitals, knowing that 98 per cent of doctors and nurses working there would recommend their hospital, compared with 60 per cent elsewhere is a useful thing to know,” said Dr Pinder.

Collaboration between ICHT and PCPH

Mark Davies (Chief Executive), Brendan Farmer (Director of Strategy) and Chris Harrison (Deputy Medical Director)

On 10 April, Academic GPs from the Department of Primary Care & Public Health met with senior staff from the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust (ICHT), including Mark Davies (Chief Executive), Brendan Farmer (Director of Strategy) and Chris Harrison (Deputy Medical Director).

The aim of the meeting was to discuss closer working between the department and ICHT in areas such as primary care service redevelopment, specialist GP training, continuing professional development for established GPs in NW London, GP liaison, and primary care research.

Prepared by Jenna Mollaney, Department of Primary Care and Public Health

Sixth The Union Europe Region Conference on TB and Lung Diseases – event report

Lord Boateng encourages The Union Europe Region to unite in partnerships in its response to the challenges of TB and public health

Load Boateng speaking at The Union Europe Conference
Load Boateng speaking at The Union Europe Conference

The European Region was energised by Lord Boateng, former Chief Secretary to the UK Treasury and High Commissioner to South Africa, who spoke of the best practices in working with governments to harness political will and resources to respond to the challenges of TB and Public Health at The Union Europe Conference held at Imperial College in London on 4-6 July 2012. Lord Boateng said about The Union in his speech “your mission is a great one. You bring huge knowledge, experience and wisdom to the fight”. He encouraged The Union to “go back to its origins” and continue to “develop a response based on the principle of partnership” and engage locally to reach “the movers and shakers on the ground” to achieve successful health interventions.

Lord Boateng was joined by an exceptional panel of plenary speakers in Professors Ajit Lalvani from Imperial College, Christopher Dye from World Health Organisation and Dr David Heymann from the Health Protection Agency and more than 40 speakers from across Europe and beyond.  Nearly 450 delegates from sixty-one countries participated in a productive 3 day conference in London, which was host to almost one hundred attendees from Eastern Europe.

Subjects for symposia included TB in big cities, TB and Migration, Drug resistant TB, TB in the elderly and in Children, TB immunology and vaccines, Latent TB infection, HIV and mycobacterial diseases, Tobacco control, nursing, advocacy and civil society, New drug development in TB, hot topics in lower respiratory tract infection, COPD in Europe and tackling TB in poorly resourced but high burden settings. Poster sessions which were held on two of the three days added to the sharing of experiences and provided an avenue for informative discussion and debate, as well as post-graduate sessions held on the first day.

Group discussing issues during poster session
Group discussing issues during poster session

Professor Peter Davies, the newly serving President of The Union Europe Region was extremely pleased with the outcomes of the conference. Professor Davies commented “all symposia and post-graduate sessions were excellent and stimulated many questions and healthy debate from the highly participatory audience. We hope participants will be able to build upon new ideas, partnerships and networks formed from their attendance”.  The conference was supported by a number of sponsors and exhibitors without whom the conference would not have taken place, especially the host joint-organisers Health Protection Agency and The Union Europe Office.

A feature of the conference was the simultaneous translation offered in Russian in the main conference hall, which allowed further engagement and interaction by a large delegation from countries including Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

The Organising Committee hope that all who attended felt it was a highly successful conference and looks forward to continuing to advance partnerships across the European region and beyond.

Prepared by the Organising Committee of The Union Europe Conference

Microscopy videos appear in film “Into Paradiso”

Into ParadisoDr Graeme Birdsey, a Research Fellow in the Vascular Science Group at National Heart & Lung Institute, recently had work used in a Italian film ‘Into Paradiso’. Graeme explains how this collaboration came about and the work he and his team undertake within the Faculty of Medicine.

“I work within the laboratory of Dr Anna Randi (Reader in Cardiovascular Medicine) in the NHLI Vascular Science section. One of the focuses of our work is on the role of the transcription factor Erg in regulating gene expression in the endothelial cells that form the lining of blood vessels. We have previously shown that Erg plays a key role in directing the formation of new blood vessels, in a process called angiogenesis. We found that Erg was important in allowing endothelial cells to communicate with one another by promoting cell-cell contacts and that disruption of these contacts resulted in cell death. More recently, our work has focused on a role for Erg in regulating one of the key steps during angiogenesis – namely cell migration. In order for new blood vessels to form, specialised endothelial “tip” cells sprout from a pre-existing vessel and lead the outgrowth of the vessel sprout by migrating towards specific chemical cues. I used a number of techniques in the laboratory, including time-lapse video microscopy of endothelial cells grown in culture, to demonstrate that Erg was required for endothelial cell migration. This work was recently published in the journal Blood (Birdsey et al. (2012) Blood 119(3):894-903).

The idea of including the transcription factor Erg and videos of migrating cells in the film “Into Paradiso” came from conversations between Dr Randi and her sister Paola, a film director in Rome. Dr Randi was explaining our work on cells to her sister, in particular the fact that we study how cells communicate (via cell-cell contact pathways) in order to co-ordinate their basic responses, such as survival, proliferation, and migration. She used the analogy between cells and people in society, who also communicate in order to survive and modulate their behaviour. Her sister Paola was struck by this analogy and decided to use it in her film “Into Paradiso”, a comedy on multiculturalism. In the film, a scientist in Naples gets caught in a web of mafia and corrupted politicians, and uses the analogy between cell communication and society to persuade the “bad guys” that they will die (or “apoptose” like cells do) if they pursue their criminal activities. So Paola Randi used the videos of migrating cells, generated by myself in the laboratory, as a background to various scenes in the film and in the running titles.

time-lapse microscopy videos

The reason why the transcription factor Erg got mentioned in the film is because, by pure coincidence, in Italy (where the film is set) “ERG” is a very well known brand of petrol for cars. This is therefore used as an ice-breaker between the main character, the scientist, and his love interest, a Sri Lankan therapist.”

Dept of Medicine Young Scientist Day 2012

The Department of Medicine held its annual Young Scientist Day on 23 April 2012. The event attracted large numbers of research students, postdocs and academic staff who had the unique opportunity to hear and see the range of research being undertaken across the Department.

Over 100 posters were displayed by research students from across the Department. A Departmental panel judged the posters and awarded first, second and third prizes respectively to:

  • 1st Mika Falck-Hansen, Kennedy Institute
  • 2nd M S Cheung, Investigative Medicine
  • 3rd Richard Lawrenson, Infectious Diseases and Immunity
  • 3rd Chris Grice, Microbiology

The event was formally opened at 2pm by Professor Gavin Screaton who welcomed everyone and presented the Department’s annual teaching award to Professor Jackie de Belleroche in recognition of her extensive teaching commitments in both undergraduate and postgraduate Neuroscience.

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New FoM/FoE kick-start initiative supports 11 innovative collaborations

I am pleased to announce that the Faculties of Medicine and Engineering have funded 11 projects under the new ‘kick-start’ initiative.

These awards, and the collaborations they are nurturing, have been borne out of a programme launched back in November with our FoM/FoE networking event.

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Reorganisation of the Joint Research Office

In March 2011 the Faculty of Medicine undertook a review of the operational activities of the Joint Research Office (JRO).  The Project Board established 10 work-streams populated with College and Trust staff with relevant expertise and JRO staff members.

The review consulted widely within the Faculty and NHS to establish the expectations there were of JRO service and ideas for the optimum structure for service-delivery.

A final report was issued towards the end of 2011 and as a result of the recommendations from the Project Board a new structure was implemented in January 2012.

The key recommendations were:

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Virtual learning in medicine

Dave Taylor, Programme Lead, Virtual Worlds and Medical Media, and Robin Winter, 3D Interactive Designer, recently won the “design our avatar” competition.

You both work in the Medical Media and Design Laboratory (MMDL) at St Mary’s, within the Department of Surgery and Cancer. What work goes on within your lab?

The lab provides consultancy and development services, and helps to support the Department’s research in use of virtual worlds for healthcare. Our applications range from hospital and service design planning, to major incident simulations for assessing communication and leadership skills. We work with other researchers in our Department, to make use of the latest research in behavioural science and the provision of information for patients in the NHS. Our most recent work focuses on the ability to walk through and test the design of a clinic and its services before it is even built. And we are beginning to work with specific patient communities, and researching more effective ways to help people lead healthier lives. There is an overview of some of our work in the Imperial Media library: http://www2.imperial.ac.uk/imedia/content/view/2084/new-media-and-healthcare-avatars-virtual-worlds-and-apps and in a BBC programme about our major incident simulations: http://www.rockhopper.tv/programmes/619/

Picture: a photo of the Virtual Imperial Surgical Innovation Centre, based on the Paterson Centre in South Wharf Road on a misty day.

How is Second Life contributing towards student learning?

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L-Block visit

Members from the Faculty of Medicine visited the recently completed L-Block at the Hammersmith campus.

The new building will be a flagship facility for Imperial’s Academic Health Science Centre, integrating patient centred research with translational science activity.

Researchers in the new facilities will carry out clinical trials of new treatments and help to advance understanding of a wide range of health problems, such as heart and circulatory disease – the UKs biggest killer.

The building is due to be occupied in Q1 2012.

Photos from the visit

Visit to the Francis Crick institute

My colleagues and I took a trip to the site of the Francis Crick institute (18 November). Currently it is a very large hole in the ground next to King’s cross station. But, with a bit of imagination – and a trip round the visitor’s centre – you can picture what will be the world-leading biomedical research institute when it opens in 2015. We learnt more about the ambitious project and the innovative community projects associated with the development.

The Institute will be a unique partnership with a unique vision. The College and its partners – the MRC, Cancer Research UK, Wellcome Trust, UCL and King’s College London, will combine knowledge, expertise and resources to further our understanding  of the causes of disease and accelerate discoveries into the clinic. The Institute is an exciting opportunity for the UK; not only providing scientific breakthroughs but also boosting the UK economy.

If you want to take a trip to the site, you can arrange this at http://www2.imperial.ac.uk/blog/announcements/2011/10/28/visits-to-the-francis-crick-institute/

Dr Sarah Perkins
Research Strategy Manager

Photos from the visit