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REF2014 Results – UoA5: Biological Sciences

King’s is at the forefront of basic and applied research in Biological Sciences and we are pleased with the recognition of our achievements in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), published today (18 December 2014).

Biological Sciences spans three key centres for biomedical and life sciences research at King’s across two faculties, the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience.

A total of 80 members of staff were entered into this Unit of Assessment for REF, including 15 early career staff recruited since the last Research Assessment Exercise in 2008. 

Thirty per cent of our research in this area was deemed world-leading (4*) with 52% rated as internationally excellent (3*).  Of the impact case studies submitted to REF, 85% were rated at 4-3*.  

Overall, this submission was ranked 10th out of 44 submissions in terms of power ranking.  

The Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases, established in 2004 and directed by Professor Pat Doherty, aims to help develop treatments for a number of age-related problems that greatly impact on individuals and society including neurodegenerative diseases, loss of hearing and pain.

The MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology, funded by a partnership of the Medical Research Council and King's College London, was launched in 2000 to promote research in this rapidly expanding area of neuroscience. The centre is directed by Professor Oscar Marin.

The Randall Division of Cell & Molecular Biophysics continues the King’s tradition of biophysics established by Sir John Randall which produced the famous studies of the structure of DNA by Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins. Headed by Professor Malcolm Irving, the division works at the interface between the physical and biomedical sciences to develop new biophysical techniques, especially in molecular structure and cellular imaging, and apply them to biology and medicine.

A new element of the REF was the requirement for higher education institutions to demonstrate the impact their research was having on the economy, society, culture, public policy, services, health or environment, beyond academia. Two examples from the impact case studies submitted to the Biological Sciences component of the REF demonstrate our strengths in this discipline.

King’s researchers have had a major widespread impact on medical care for people with dementia, by demonstrating the limited benefit and considerable harm done by the use of antipsychotics to treat dementia patients. Campaigning and policy work brought this major health issue to the forefront of the political agenda and led the King’s team to work with the Department of Health to create a best practice guide, now widely used nationally and internationally. The combined impact of this work has helped bring about a 60% reduction in the use of antipsychotic drugs to treat people with dementia in the UK.

Scientists at King’s also identified nerve growth factor (NGF) as an important mediator of persistent pain and potential therapeutic target, by demonstrating the beneficial effects of neutralising its activity in animal models. The King’s team collaborated closely with the scientists at Genentech who went on to develop a neutralising antibody to NGF for the treatment of pain. This drug has been found to exhibit unprecedented efficacy in phase III trials in man and is currently being considered for registration. Their discovery has also led to several other major pharmaceutical companies initiating drug discovery programs in this area.

More information on these and other examples of our impact can be found on our Research in Action pages.

Chris Mottershead, Vice-Principal for Research and Innovation at King’s, says: “Our success in Biological Sciences stems from our ability to draw from a wide pool of experts in fundamental and applied health research to drive improvements in the treatment of major health conditions, benefiting dementia and chronic pain sufferers along with many other patient groups.”

Definitions

The Grade Point Average (GPA) represents an average score (out of four) for the submission to a unit of assessment and is derived by multiplying the percentage of the submission at each of the levels (4*, 3*, 2*, 1*) by the number of the star ranking and dividing by 100.

The Quality Index is similar to the GPA but gives an additional weighting to the proportion of research at the higher star level. The index that the university has used is % 4* x 9, % 3* x 3, divided by 9. Different league tables may use different proportions for this.

The ‘power’ ranking uses the quality index to derive a score relative to the other submissions. The quality index is multiplied by the full-time equivalent (FTE) submitted and is then divided by the FTE of the largest submission.

Read the summary of results for the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine.