Blog posts

CSM steal the show at Mass Spec conference in Salzburg

Congratulations to CSM Senior Research Technician Anna Mroz who won best poster at the Mass Spectrometry: Applications to the Clinical Lab Conference, which looks at accelerating the adoption and application of mass spectrometry in the clinical lab, that took place last month in Salzburg, Austria.

A team from CSM attended the conference, at which Professor Ian Wilson was selected to give the plenary lecture.

Read Anna’s winning poster entitled Metabolic Phenotyping of Cirrhotic Liver Samples by Desorption Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry Imaging (DESI-MSI).

 

 

New Division for the Department of Surgery and Cancer

Following consultation with Professor Elaine Holmes, Professor Mark Thursz and other senior colleagues in the Faculty of Medicine, Surgery and Cancer will be forming a new “Division of Integrative Systems Medicine and Digestive Disease” by merging the Divisions of Computational and Systems Medicine and Digestive Diseases.

To parallel similar structures that are being implemented in the Division of Cancer, Professor Elaine Holmes will be the Head of Division and Science Director and Professor Mark Thursz will be the Clinical Director of the new Division.

As with the other Divisions in the Department, the new organisation will have both a science and a clinical core of activities. The drivers for this are both strategic and to do with administrative efficiency. The new Division will offer a more stable research environment, increased critical mass and enhanced opportunity for cross-talk between research groups. It also increases the possibilities of longer-term alignments and collaborations more widely across the Faculty.   From an operational point of view there will be few changes in the short term and current activities will be maintained.

The merge will take place commencing in October 2017.

Prize for Pioneering New Technique in Neuro-monitoring During Surgery

Congratulations to Dr Pav Sarai (PhD student in Paul Strutton’s Lab) who won first prize for his talk on developing magnetic brain stimulation for neuro-monitoring during vascular surgery, at the recent Vascular Anaesthesia Society of Great Britain and Ireland. This pilot work (part of an MRes in Experimental Neuroscience by student Charlotte Luff) on healthy subjects, paves the way for exploration of this technique during complex aortic aneurysm surgery, where there is a risk of paralysis.

What have S&C people been getting up to this summer

Thanks to all who entered the Surgery and Cancer competition to find out what people have been getting up to over the summer:

Ash Salem (National Phenome Centre)
Celebrating Brighton and Hove Pride 2017 with my best mate and glorious sunshine.


Karen Kerr (Division of Surgery)
Day 1 of 5 kite surfing lessons in Tarifa, Spain, officially one of the windiest places I have visited. Who’d have thought you have to learn to fly the kite first before they let you loose in the water. Fair to say I am now an expert ‘body-dragger’ and at ‘supermanning’…..may not ever need to get on the board, it’s so much fun without, albeit extreme!


 


Rose Tolson (CSM)
I entered a karate comp in May, where I won silver in kata in the female senior grade division. I enter my next competition in November and am hoping for gold!


Kelly Gleason (CRUK Senior Research Nurse)
I went into a local school on two occasions this summer with a PhD student Neil Slaven and a chemo therapy nurse to talk to the children about what scientists and nurses do and how research informs care. Both the scientist and the nurse presented and then we extracted DNA from strawberries. The children then drew pictures and sent messages to our patients undergoing cancer treatment and 9 of those drawings will be framed on the wall on the ward.


Marc Dumas (CSM)
I took part in one of the biggest offshore racing competitions (the Fastnet race: non-stop from Cowes to Plymouth via the Fastnet lighthouse, a rock which is just south-west of Ireland, with over 360 boats) earlier this month. It’s every other year and I haven’t missed one since I got back to the UK. Lots of similarities in terms of team building between crews and research groups, leadership on the water and in the lab, or running computer models for medicine and weather forecast…


Kathryn Johnson (Departmental)
I spent a week volunteering on Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire where I spent my days narrowly escaping getting attacked by gulls, having to stick my arms down Manx Shearwater burrows to pull out and weigh the chick’s and spent a great deal of my time as a lollypop lady for puffins.

Breast Cancer Research as Art

PhD student Ylenia Perone won third prize in the Research as Art competition for the Luca Magnani’s lab entry entitled “Drug driven tumour evolution” at this year’s Graduate School PhD Summer Showcase event, which celebrates the research being carried out by the College’s PhD students. The lab’s entry illustrates the different cellular response to the different drugs in artistic form and comes out of the lab’s new research, published in Nature Genetics this January. Below Ylenia describes the research behind the image.

“The hands represent different patients; one has no amplification of the aromatase gene (drawings on the right hand) and one has been offered a type of drug (white pill) that is different from the one (orange pill) being given to the patient that created more copies of the gene (intensified branched drawings on the left hand). With our research, we demonstrate that the choice of therapy has a fundamental influence on the genetic landscape of relapsed tumours. This is why we need to find a way to identify an increase in aromatase gene, early enough that women can be switched to a different drug therapy program before their cancer returns.”

Find out more about the breast cancer research happening in Dr Luca Magnami’s Lab.

 

Learning the Art of Communication

Jerusa presenting her abstract next to Professor Waljit Dhillo from Imperial College

On 12th – 14th July PhD student Jerusa Brignardello attended the 8th National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Infrastructure Doctoral Research Training Camp titled the Art of Communication. The specific aim of the event was to equip delegates with the skills and ability to successfully defend and communicate their research effectively with a range of people including fellow scientists, research funders, the media, patients and the public. Jerusa talks about her experiences of the training and why communication is so important.

“I believe that communication skills are essential to disseminate and communicate our research to different audiences, to make it accessible and understandable for everyone, also previous fellows who’d attended strongly encouraged me to participate. I learnt more communication skills, about how to deal with different types of media in different communication scenarios like TV, radio, simulated NIHR interview panels.”

“I’m working with samples from an NIHR project of one my supervisors Dr Isabel Garcia-Perez so was eligible to apply and after submitting my abstract to the Clinical Academic Training Office (CATO) I got a place to represent Imperial. I was selected to give an oral presentation at the event for which I received a Highly Commended MPHrp Presentation Award for my abstract called “The effect of dietary patterns on short chains fatty acids (SCFA) concentrations: A targeted approach.”

Jerusa receiving her diploma next to Dr Tony Soteriou, Head of Research Faculty Infrastructure and Growth, Science, Research and Evidence, Department of Health- NIHR and Dr Lisa Cotterill, Director, NIHR Trainees Coordinating Centre

“In my PhD thesis, I’m studying how the consumption of different dietary patterns as healthy, unhealthy, vegan and omnivores are influencing the production and metabolism of diverse metabolites in the human body. I presented my preliminary data about short chains fatty acids (SCFA), which are the end products of microbial fermentation that play a key role in health and disease. My preliminary results have shown that these compounds can be modulated by diet and their production varied during the day.”

Why is communicating your research so important?

“Science communication is fundamental in all research fields and researchers are more exposed to media than before. This means that it is imperative to be trained properly to communicate effectively and make our work accessible to the public. Scientific experiments provide one small part of a puzzle that may help to explain one scientific problem. However, it is common to see scary headlines or panacea solutions for health problems in the tabloids or on TV. This is a serious issue, research distortion is a threat that can affect our scientific credibility generating a vicious circle of controversies and sneers between researchers and public.”

“In my field, nutrition is a topic commonly misused to engage susceptible people to believe in bogus diets without any scientific evidence behind it. For example, the case of the alkaline diet for the treatment of cancer. Science communication can solve and prevent this type of myths, providing an understanding of science that has to be extended to the society. Later on, science communication can help to bridge the gap between.”

 

Cutting edge research on the future training of orthopaedic surgeons

Mr Rahul Bhattacharyya and Mr Chinmay Gupte.

Chinmay Gupte (Clinical Senior Lecturer) and Rahul Bhattacharyya (Clinical Research Fellow) both presented papers at the 8th Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics Conference, to over 4500 delegates from around the world at this high impact meeting, which took place in Los Angeles earlier this month,

They presented a paper on a Generic Cognitive Task Analysis (GCTA) wizard – A tool to train orthopaedic trauma surgeons of the future which allows experts to impart complex cognitive knowledge to trainees in a simple, structured manner, utilising written and audio-visual stimuli simultaneously to teach surgical steps.

The other paper focused on Training safer knee arthroscopists – A randomised controlled trial demonstrating the benefits of the Imperial Knee Arthroscopy Cognitive Task Analysis (IKACTA) tool in high-fidelity phantom limb simulation, which has demonstrated significant benefits in training in diagnostic knee arthroscopy.

Find out more about the 2017 Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics Conference.

Success at the Royal Society of Medicine Venous Forum Annual Meeting

The Vascular Team had a very successful day at the Royal Society of Medicine Venous Forum Annual Meeting, which took place on the 11-12th July 2017. The meeting aims to promote healthcare in the field of venous disease, provide information for the public and healthcare professionals on the management of venous disease, encourage research into new technologies with the aim of improving care of patients with venous disease and to define and continually improve standards for the delivery of healthcare in the field of venous disease.

1st prize went to Roshan Bootun for: Randomised controlled trial of compression therapy following endothermal ablation (COMETA trial).

2nd prize went to Sarah Onida for: Metabolic phenotyping of chronic venous disease by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

The prize winners presented their work with two BSc students: Matthew Kia Tan and Lara Rose Manley.

Find out more about the Venous Forum annual meeting 2017.

Entry into the School of Pain

Congratulations to Dr Harriet Kemp (Clinical Research Fellow) who this year was selected to attend the second North American Pain School, a fully funded partnership between the International Association for the Study of Pain and the Quebec Pain Research Network, which took place in Montebello Canada over 5 days this June.

The Pain School aims to bring together 30 selected graduate and post-doc pain researchers (basic and clinical research) from around the world to participate in a specialised lecture series, workshops and patient engagement activities, as well as perform in a series of debates.

There is a unique link with the Pain Research Forum which allows school attendees to learn about the importance of science communication by interviewing faculty and producing blog posts and twitter stories.

You can find out more about what Dr Kemp got up to at the Pain School via her Twitter @DrHarrietKemp.

 

How patient involvement groups are influencing research

Congratulations to Mr Oliver Boughton (Clinical Research Fellow and Specialist Registrar in Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery) who won the prize for patient and public involvement in research at the Imperial Clinical Academic Trainees Annual Research Symposium earlier this month, after he co-founded the Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) Research Group in the MSk Lab with Matthew Ryan.

The PPI research group works with members of the public with pre-operative and post-operative orthopaedic conditions, to help shape the future of orthopaedic research into more effective methods of surgery and care. The first PPI group took place in July 2016 and since then there have been two further meetings.

Mr Oliver Boughton speaks further on the importance of involving patients with his research:

The involvement helps our lab by focussing our research on that which benefits patients, either directly through improving surgical techniques and devices, or indirectly by researching the science behind how bones behave under loading and how our joints move.

Patients have very much enjoyed being shown the lab and the research going on and have asked us great questions. This led to one patient asking an important question that has not been answered yet sufficiently in the literature and I am currently writing a systematic review to answer this question and am inviting the patient to be a co-author on the paper.

Find out more about the Patient Involvement Group on the MSk Lab website.

Positive Outcome for Prostate Cancer Research Collaboration

Further funding has been secured for the London Movember Centre of Excellence in Prostate Cancer Research; a joint research programme between Imperial (Prof Charlotte Bevan), The Institute for Cancer Research (Prof Johann de Bono) and UCL (Prof Mark Emberton).

The Centre is funded by a 5-year grant and following a mid-term review, earlier this year has now received confirmation of a successful outcome to fund the final 2 years for the current programme.

Congratulations on the impressive progress achieved through the Centre of Excellence to date, we look forward to continue working with you over the coming years. Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research, Prostate Cancer UK

You can find out more about the Movember Centre of Excellence and all the work taking place around prostate cancer in the Department of Surgery and Cancer.

Breast Cancer Research Wins Prize

Congratulations to Mr Edward St John (Clinical Research Fellow in Surgery), who won the British Journal of Surgery (BJS) Prize for best research presentation, after presenting his research entitled “Rapid Evaporative Ionisation Mass Spectrometry of Surgical Vapours Towards an Intelligent Knife for Precision Breast Surgery” at the annual Association of Breast Surgeons Conference 2017, held in Belfast.

Mr St John said he was honoured to have won this prestigious prize and is passionate about innovations in surgery and hopes his research will contribute to the field of intraoperative margin assessment techniques for breast cancer patients. Through his work as a breast surgeon, he strives for advances that might lead to better outcomes for breast cancer patients.

Find out more about Mr St John’s research through his latest publication in the leading breast cancer journal Breast Cancer Research.

Media highlight: Medical emergencies in space

Mr Matthieu Komorowski, Clinical Research Fellow in Intensive Care and PhD student in Surgery and Cancer, spoke at the Euroanaesthesia Annual Conference about the unusual and challenging problem of how to perform emergency medical procedures during space missions.

You can find out more about this fascinating research through the following media coverage:

 

Professor Nadey Hakim to become President’s new Envoy

The President of Imperial has invited Professor Nadey Hakim to become a President’s Envoy, initially for the period 1st June 2017 until 31st May 2019.

This is in recognition of his considerable knowledge and valuable expertise used on behalf of the College and he will work with the President with the aim of enhancing Imperial’s approach to scientific discovery and application for the benefit of society.

The honorary role of President’s Envoy is in addition to Professor Hakim’s Adjunct Professorship with the Department.

Baby Bubbles and the Great Pipette Challenge

The Women’s Health Research Centre facilitated a ‘Discover and Do’ table on the schools day of Imperial Festival, Friday May 5th.  Showcasing the combined fields of clinical research and clinical midwifery practice, we offered Year 5 students several hands-on activities which they took on with inspiring enthusiasm.  That May 5th also celebrated International Day of the Midwife was an added bonus.

The ‘Baby Bubbles’ activity at our stand invited students to explore the mysteries of the womb by using their so-called ‘midwife detective skills’ of sight and touch.   Research Midwives Rachel Akers and Malko Adan facilitated gentle probing hands over miniature amniotic water balloon sacs each with a singleton, twin or triplet jelly baby pregnancy.   Like a midwife using her core skill of abdominal palpation, students practised “seeing with their hands”.  The amniotic sac water balloons provoked much intrigue and discussion as young midwives of the future discovered the excitement of a multiple pregnancy.  Amazingly, despite the tactile appeal of the ‘baby bubbles’, we had only one rupture of membranes on the day!

Meanwhile at the other end of the table classmates paired off to have a go in the ‘Great Pipette Challenge’.  Lab technicians Ramona Mannino and Maria Arianoglou challenged participants to a laboratory skills race transferring tiny volumes of different fluids to a beaker. Some of the girls decked in full lab coat, goggles and gloves mused about the possibility of their future careers in laboratory science.   Our Lady of Victories Primary School won overall on the day and was sent a prize-winning lab coat for their class.

The nine and ten year old students additionally had the opportunity to explore a life-sized pregnancy torso and the uterine environment with Research Midwife Tina Prendeville.  One precocious student queried, “…Miss, you mentioned that the umbilical cord transfers nutrients from the mother to the baby.  Does that mean the mother isn’t left with enough?”  We were floored by their knowledge and delighted by their unabashed enthusiasm.  Finally, before each group moved to the next stand, pupils were invited to use further fine motor skills tasked with grabbing a single jelly bean from a large pot using only a pair of lab tweezers.  No small task without fingers!  One dexterous tweezer-handler declared it was “…his lucky day!”  There’s no doubt it was a great day for us too!

Alison Perry – Research Midwife at the Women’s Health Research Centre

PhD student wins hackathon

Current STRATiGRAD PhD student Sam Cooper was on the winning team at this weekend’s Pistoia Alliance deep learning hackathon, which aimed to put together deep/machine learning researchers with scientists working in the pharmaceutical industry to promote collaborations between the fields.

At the event, a series of challenges and datasets were put forward by companies in the Pistoia Alliance. Teams were then tasked with developing innovative machine learning solutions to these challenges. Sam speaks below about his experience.

What problem were you trying to solve? 

We worked on a challenge put forward by Janssen in which we had to predict the activity of a drug across 7 different biological assays given its activity in thousands of other assays. However, drugs were very rarely active and as such the data was very sparse. Such data represents a real challenge to machine learning algorithms.

What was your winning solution?

To solve this challenge we developed a neural network using functions specifically designed for very sparse data, which enabled us to predict the results of the assay more accurately than everyone else. This was helped by the fact we specially configured a cloud computing server provided by Microsoft Azure for the event to train the network using graphics cards, which can train neural networks thousands of times faster rate than the processors used on standard servers and desktop computers.

What do you plan to do with the prize money?

Have a nice relaxing weekend away that doesn’t involve programming!


Find out more about Sam’s work in a recent article giving a new insight on how cancer cells replicate following a publication in Nature Communications this month.