UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


UCL Neuroscience rated top by research strength in the REF2014

18 December 2014

UCL Institute of Neurology (IoN) are delighted to announce our extremely positive performance in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) within Unit of Assessment (UoA) 4, Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, which encompasses our research activity. UCL came top overall in both the standard power measure and combined 4* and 3* work in this UoA.

Overall, 83 per cent of the submission was rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (4*/3*), with 74% of research outputs given 4* or 3* ratings. The research environment was given a 100% world-leading rating and the impact was judged to be over 97% world leading or internationally excellent. The Institute submitted 163 staff, of whom 17 were early career researchers.   Over 92% of eligible staff were submitted to this UoA. This continues our record of exceptional achievement in previous Research Assessment Exercises.

I am delighted that the hard work of all the excellent staff at IoN has contributed to this outstanding performance in REF 14. The results confirm that the IoN is the UKs leading neurological disease research institute producing outstanding research outputs and delivering important impacts for patients. This independent external validation of the world leading quality of the work IoN staff deliver is very important. It encourages all of us to continue with our mission to undertake the best discovery and clinical science in order to understand and develop treatments for devastating neurological diseases facing society. I want to personally congratulate all IoN staff on this important success which bodes well for 2015 and beyond. Professor Michael Hanna, Director of UCL Institute of Neurology

IoN aims to be the best translational neuroscience centre in the world advancing discovery and delivering real impact for the health and wealth of the nation; developing new treatments for patients with devastating, globally important, neurological diseases.

There was a new element in this assessment exercise demonstrating the impact of our research on the health, economy, society, culture, public policy, services or environment.

The IoN submitted twelve successful case studies which demonstrate impact for patients with neurological diseases:

  • Delivering rapid and reliable diagnostics for rare but disabling muscle conditions, establishing both a new national reference laboratory and the only UK NHS centre for diagnosis and management of these diseases.
  • Licensing of natalizumab, a potent treatment for highly active relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. By 2013, over 115,000 patients had received natalizumab, which has been shown to reduce relapse rate by two-thirds and relapse-related disability by 50%.
  • A new method of assessing atrophy progression in Alzheimer’s disease, changing the way pharmaceutical trials in Alzheimer’s disease are conducted.
  • Advances in brain scanning underpinning major improvements in the surgical treatment of epilepsy, reducing the risk of loss of sight, language or control of limbs.
  • Influencing national and international guidelines on the prevention of stroke resulting from carotid artery narrowing, leading to an increase in the proportion of patients treated by carotid endarterectomy compared to stenting.
  • Supporting the production of new scales for the identification and quantification of non-motor symptoms and signs in Parkinson’s disease. These have been incorporated as end points in international clinical trials and introduced by specialist societies and NHS commissioners as a standard of care for Parkinson’s patients.
  • Improvements in the operative technique of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) leading to an ever-growing number of referrals and allowing DBS trials for other disabling conditions.
  • Playing a key role in addressing public health issues through developing a blood test to screen donated blood and organs for transplantation to allow diagnosis of vCJD.

Our research environment was classified at 100 per cent world leading (4*).  

We attribute this to our multidisciplinary scientific environment which is enriched by collaborative research programmes with the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, and the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour.   World leading specialist units and facilities such as the MRC Centre for Neuromuscular Disease, Sara Koe PSP Centre, Dementia Research Centre, MRC Prion Unit, and the Queen Square MS Centre add to this success. 

Since RAE2008 we have undertaken major strategic initiatives to increase the translational impact of our research, including the opening of the Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre (LWENC).

The LWENC is specifically designed to undertake experimental medicine studies and early phase clinical trials which aim to identify potential disease modifying therapies in the field of Neurology and Neurodegeneration, including Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke and Prion disease.

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