Our translational portfolio provides the framework to develop trainees’ translational skills through immersive training.
The translational portfolio motivates technical development with pertinent clinical challenges and provides the context, infrastructure and patient cohorts, to construct compelling proofs-of-concept and to support translation of the most promising ideas.
The portfolio consists of a wideranging set of themes chosen for UCL’s outstanding track record in these areas and for their close alignment with the major focuses of the three BRC’s with which we partner (UCLH, Moorfields and GOSH BRCs). UCL’s strength in these areas ensure that trainees will be guided by world-leading clinicians and tackle clinical challenges at the cutting edge.
The breadth of the portfolio provides exciting opportunities for cross-fertilisation, translating mature technologies in one clinical area into another.
- Cancer imaging
Imaging is central to the management of cancer patients. UCL is active in developing cutting-edge novel imaging techniques to facilitate early diagnosis, provide improved disease staging, select personalized treatment plans, provide more sensitive and therapy specific methods to assess treatment response, and reduce the overall diagnostic radiation burden. This is delivered through multi-disciplinary teams of oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, histopathologists, physicists and radiographers together with basic scientists and image computing researchers. These teams through UCL Partners have access to a patient population of >6 million together with multiple advanced pre-clinical and clinical scanners, including the first clinical whole-body PET-MRI installation in the UK. AI and big data present major opportunities to advance early diagnosis and enable precision medicine in cancer.
Cancer imaging lead: Dr Andrew Plumb. Dr Plumb is a radiologist with expertise in translation and clinical trials of novel imaging.
- Infection and Inflammation Imaging
Imaging plays a key role in the understanding of the pathophysiology and treatment of diseases characterised by inflammation, infection or abnormal immunology. UCL is pioneering development of imaging in this field and has in place a robust infrastructure linking pre-clinical and clinical research for extensive collaborative opportunities. AI for assessing large imaging data sets are a recent focus, aiming to interrogate pathophysiology of disease, and automate image analysis for disease diagnosis and therapeutic monitoring. Examples include the development of methods for imaging, quantifying and displaying bowel motion and associated inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease, and the investigation of quantitative MRI in inflammatory disease of bone, for disease monitoring and investigation of models of pathological drivers of inflammatory arthritis. Further novel imaging research is focused on inflammation in obesity and diabetes, and chronic liver and lung disease.
Infection and inflammation imaging lead: Prof Margaret Hall-Craggs. Prof Hall-Craggs is a radiologist with an international reputation for MRI research in bone disease, gynaecological disorders and breast MR, with >250 publications (>5600 citations and H-index 40).
UCLH & UCL lead the field of neuroimaging: the DoH-funded RAND-Europe survey places UCLH top with 30% of the total high-quality publications in neuroimaging. Leading UCL & UCLH centres include the Multiple Sclerosis NMR Research Unit, Dementia Research Centre, Epilepsy Research Group, Huntington’s Disease Research Centre, Neuroradiological Academic Unit, WCHN, MRC Centre for Neuromuscular diseases, Birkbeck-UCL Centre for Neuroimaging. Combined, these groups have access to an unparalleled number of MR scanners (1x7T, 7×3T, 3×1.5T, interventional 1.5T, and 9.4T). Research focuses on: 1) insights into key pathogenetic mechanisms common to multiple neurological and neuromuscular diseases, stratified to provide benefit to individual patients; 2) developing and testing imaging biomarkers that will serve as outcome measures to clinical trials in MS, AD, epilepsy, cerebrovascular, neurooncology, and neuromuscular diseases. These areas provide unique opportunities for engineers to make a clinical impact.
Neuroimaging lead: Prof Olga Ciccarelli. Prof Ciccarelli is internationally renowned for applying novel imaging to study the pathogenesis of MS, with >140 papers (>17000 citations and H-index 53).
- Ophthalmology Imaging
Imaging plays a major role in the delivery of care in Ophthalmology. The Moorfields and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology BRC is pioneering imaging development with emphasis on clinical translation and has in place a robust infrastructure linking pre-clinical and clinical research. Examples include novel imaging techniques, such as Adaptive Optics, prototype validation, and image analysis tools to automate processing of complex imaging data. Key areas in urgent need of innovation include Intermediate and atrophic, as well as Neovascular, Age-related Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy, Glaucoma and Inherited Eye Disease. Major opportunities lie in analytic tools to extract relevant information from novel imaging systems, deep learning for image classification, association with genomic and phenomic data and ‘big data’ analysis of routine image databases.
Ophthalmology imaging lead: Dr Konstantinos Balaskas. Dr Balaskas leads Moorfields’BRC Ophthalmic Imaging Reading Centre that develops image grading protocols, image analysis tools, big data and deep learning analytics of imaging databases, with £1.6m active grants as PI.
- Paediatric Imaging
Imaging is central to the diagnostic pathway of children throughout their hospital stay. UCL GOSH is an internationally recognised leader in paediatric imaging for improved diagnosis and patient outcome, and the largest children’s’ health research facility in Europe. The complex needs of our unique patient population from infant to adolescent support high impact clinical research through multi-disciplinary teams including clinicians, biophysical engineering and modelling, computer scientists and basic lab research, with a clear pathway to the clinic. Examples include pre-surgical evaluation of children with temporal lobe epilepsy with MR tractography, and personalised mock operations with imaging-based 3D printed models. Current challenges are the evaluation of common imaging problems across large clinically correlated genetics, imaging and laboratory datasets, which will require AI and big data analytics to address.
Paediatric imaging lead: Dr Owen Arthurs. Dr Arthurs, an NIHR Career Development Fellow, leads Research & Innovation at GOSH, with £3.1m funding and >90 papers (>1900 citations and H-index 19).
- Perinatal Imaging
This theme represents a significant collaboration of scientists and clinicians with a unifying aim to improve outcomes for pregnant women and their babies through improved diagnosis and treatment. UCL’s 30-year track record in perinatal imaging, has pioneered many therapies now in common practices such as fetoscopic and ultrasound guided fetal injection and neonatal MR and near infra-red spectroscopy to assess hypoxic ischaemic injury. Unmet clinical needs arise from the complication of two patients: mother and fetus, and the attendant ethical considerations. Translation of fetal surgery and in utero stem cell treatment of congenital disease requires improved imaging for intrauterine issues such as cloudy amniotic fluids and fragile amniotic membranes prone to rupture after intervention. Miniaturized tools are needed to deliver new therapies. Imaging during labour and obstetric surgery has stalled since the 1970s when cardiotocograph monitoring and Ventouse suction cups were developed, but must improve for better neonatal and maternal outcomes.
Perinatal imaging lead: Prof Anna David. Prof David directs UCL Institute of Women’s Health, as a leader in maternal fetal medicine with interest in novel imaging for fetal surgery and diagnosis.
- Cardiovascular Imaging
UCL is at the forefront of developing and translating new imaging technologies to improve diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases. Examples include the development of novel real-time MR sequences to provide fast MR scans in small children without the need for general anaesthetic; new biomarkers to measure myocardial extracellular volume to provide in-vivo assessment of diffuse myocardial fibrosis and cardiac amyloid; imaging and biomedical engineering modelling techniques to predict patient specific selection of optimal device treatment. Main challenges will be improved rapid data acquisition and processing, as well as better use of the large datasets produced. Achieving this will require imaging scientists trained not only in traditional areas but also in new areas such as machine learning for big data analysis and image reconstruction.
Cardiovascular imaging lead: Prof Vivek Muthurangu. Prof Muthurangu heads UCL centre for translational cardiovascular imaging, with >£1m active grants as PI and H-index of 32.