News archive 2008
First translational research grants awarded24 Apr 2008, PR 75/08
King’s College London has announced the four winners of the first Translational Research Grant Awards. A total of 22 applications were sent to academic reviewers and evaluated by a panel of experts from academia, the pharmaceutical industry, and the Medical Research Council.
The awards were set up as part of a pilot scheme to identify pre-clinical biomedical research studies with potential for development into new therapies that can eventually be evaluated for clinical benefit, with the possible support of pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies.
The aim of the translational research scheme is to ‘exploit' advances being made in several research areas at King's and try to advance them to a stage where they could be of interest to pharmaceutical companies or be developed into future diagnostic or prognostic tests in the clinic.
Dr Julie Lotharius, who was appointed as the UK's first university-based Research Translator at King’s, was involved in reviewing the applications, and comments: ‘Successful completion of these studies would likely improve care for patients suffering from allergy or asthma, organ transplantation, schizophrenia, and epilepsy in the not so distant future.’
The merit of the applications was judged based on translational potential, feasibility, innovation, and unmet clinical need. Topics fell under four key translational research categories: drug discovery, diagnostics, biomarkers, and medical devices. The projects will receive immediate funding and will be conducted over the next 18 months.
Andrew Beavil, Senior Lecturer, and Brian Sutton, Professor, Division of Asthma, Allergy & Lung Biology, School of Medicine, and Randall Division of Cell & Molecular Biophysics, School of Biomedical & Health Sciences have been awarded £98,412 for their research project on ‘Drug-screening for IgE inhibitors for anti-allergy/asthma therapy’.
Currently, most therapies for allergic diseases (steroids, anti-histamines, and anti-inflammatory agents) are only directed at relieving the symptoms of asthma and allergy and their long-term use has been shown to cause detrimental side-effects. Drs Beavil and Sutton plan to develop a small-molecule inhibitor to block the interaction between IgE and its receptor 'FcεRI' They will now use computer-based in silico screening to find inhibitors of this interaction, which will later be tested in various biological assays.
Robert Vaughan, Senior Lecturer and Consultant Clinical Scientist, Clinical Transplantation Laboratory, Division of Inflammation, Infection and Immunity, School of Medicine has been awarded £39,086 for his project: ‘A new approach to the HLA system designed for solid organ transplantation.’.
Dr Vaughan's project aims to improve donor and recipient matching in organ transplantation. Currently, donor organs featuring a human leukocyte antigen (HLA) to which the patient has raised an antibody are avoided. Due to the low resolution and potential inaccuracy of such an approach, Dr Vaughan proposes to develop a new method of HLA typing. Such a scheme would lead to better resolution and therefore tissue matching between patients and donors.
Paola Dazzan, Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist, Division of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry and SLAM NHS Foundation Trust has been awarded £87,132 for the project: ‘Establising early neuroimaging biomarkers to predict treatment response in schizophrenia’.
Currently, patients with schizophrenia are treated on a trial-and-error basis with up to 33 per cent failing to show an adequate response to anti-psychotics. This not only lengthens patients’ suffering but has recently been shown to worsen clinical outcome. Dr Dazzan will be the first to use multi-modal imaging (functional and structural MRI coupled to Diffusion Tensor Imaging), to look at gray matter structure, white matter integrity, and brain function in patients first diagnosed with the disease, in relation to treatment response.
Mark Richardson, Professor, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Institute of Psychiatry has been awarded £36,154 for the project: ‘Use of a cortical excitability tracking device for the prediction and treatment of epilepsy.’
Many patients suffering from epilepsy do not respond to anti-epileptic drugs warranting an urgent need for new and effective treatments. Using single pulse electrical stimulation (SPES), Dr Richardson’s group has shown that the brain's electrical response is prolonged and abnormal in the seizure-onset region compared to other areas of the brain and predicts that there might be a detectable, sensitive and specific change in evoked response to SPES prior to seizure onset. An implanted device similar to those currently being tested in the clinic, detection of this preictal phase would allow the administration of an adequate cortical stimulation paradigm to prevent seizure onset.
Notes to editors
Funding of £750,000 for this scheme has come from the Medical Research Council (£520,000), Guy's and St Thomas' Charity (£171,000) and King's College London (£60,000).
Drs Beavil and Sutton, have together published some 50 research articles in the area of IgE and allergy over the past 15 years and are currently funded by the MRC and Asthma UK. The work will be conducted by Mary Holdom, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow previously funded by Asthma UK, who is an expert in both biochemical and crystallographic techniques. The in silico screening will be conducted by Dr Gareth Williams at the Wolfson Center for Age-Related Diseases.
Dr Vaughan has more than 30 years experience in the field of immunity and transplantation. He is currently funded by the MRC, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, European Commission, and GSTT Kidney Patient’s association. The project will employ Emma Lougee, a highly experienced state registered Clinical Scientist, to conduct this PCR-based approach.
Dr Dazzan has written or co-authored numerous peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and reviews in the field of psychiatry and psychosis-related disorders, has received multiple young investigator awards, and is currently funded by the APA, BIAL Foundation, SLAM Trust, and NARSAD. The work will involve Ms Heather Taylor who has been working part-time on the screening and recruitment of first episode psychosis subjects, and who has neuroimaging experience.
Dr Richardson was appointed Paul Getty III Professor of Epilepsy in 2007 and is Director of the Institute of Epileptology at King’s. He also works as an Honorary Consultant in Neurology at King's College Hospital and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. He is an expert in the field of epilepsy and his 64 publications in this and other neurology-related topics have been cited over 936 times.
He is currently funded by the MRC, Wellcome Trust, Epilepsy Research Foundation, and Getty Family Foundation. The work detailed in his grant will be conducted by Dr Antonio Valentin, an expert Clinical Neurophysiologist from the Epilepsy Group at the Institute of Psychiatry who has extensive experience in SPES data collection and analysis.
King's College London
King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher 2007) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has 19,300 students from more than 130 countries, and 5,000 employees. King's has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. The College is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings and has an annual income of approximately £400 million. An investment of £500 million has been made in the redevelopment of its estate.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, social sciences, the health sciences, natural sciences and engineering, and has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe and is home to five Medical Research Council Centres – more than any other university.
Kate Moore, Public Relations Officer (Health Schools)
Public Relations Department, King's College London
Email: email@example.com Tel: 020 7848 4334
Review of the King's year
King’s shows way for London Leaders
2008 RAE results
£1.5m to study symmetries of the universe
Honorary recognition for King’s
Independent league table
Minister praises King’s master class
Healthy Planet website launched
World-leading Theologian joins King’s
Dermatology and Molecular Medicine partnership
This information is provided by the Public Relations Department
Tel: 020-7848 3202 Fax: 020-7848 3739 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org