£1m for new research at UCL and partner hospital trusts
25 February 2009
Teams of health scientists from UCL and three partner hospital trusts across London are joining forces to develop research and groundbreaking treatments for patients with a range of debilitating conditions, drawing on a total of £1 million funding.
Biomedical specialists at UCL, UCL Hospitals, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and Moorfields Eye Hospital will pool their expertise to focus on five new areas of research using innovative methods, including advanced genetic screening. They aim to improve techniques for diagnosing a genetic heart condition which is a common cause of sudden death in young people,; to develop gene therapy for a currently incurable blinding disease; and to improve mortality rates for organ transplant patients who develop complications.
Funding and expertise for the projects comes from the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centres at:
- UCL/UCL Hospitals (UCL/UCLH)
- UCL Institute of Ophthalmology/Moorfields Eye Hospital (IO/MEH)
- UCL Institute of Child Health /Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (ICH/GOSH).
Each of the above centres contributed to the £1 million budget that will fund the five research projects, which were selected by a stringent internal and external peer-review process.
This initiative is an example of how increasing collaboration is driving forward the biomedical research agenda and follows from the establishment last year of UCL Partners. UCL Partners comprises UCL, UCL Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust. UCL Partners has recently applied to the Department of Health for official status as an Academic Health Science Centre. A decision is likely to be announced in March 2009.
Professor Ian Jacobs, Director UCLH/UCL Comprehensive Biomedical Centre said: "UCL Partners formally brings together researchers with specialist knowledge from across London to create a research powerhouse. This collaboration enables them to work together on exciting, high-quality research projects that will ultimately benefit patients. It is a relationship that we will develop even further in the future."
UCL will take part in all five of the research studies that will be funded by the Biomedical Research Centres. The key aims of the five studies are:
- to improve survival rates of patients who develop major complications following organ transplants. Immunosuppressive drugs used to prevent organ rejection can affect certain cell responses, leading to post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD). Current therapies are often ineffective. This study, involving GOSH, UCLH and UCL, will provide the scientific basis for clinical studies to improve survival rates for these patients.
- to investigate two distinct developmental problems, using MRI scanning, which could underlie congenital nerve palsy and eye misalignment. This study will involve UCLH, GOSH, MEH, and UCL.
- to develop further understanding of the genetic basis for individuals who develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disorder which affects one in 500 individuals and is a common cause of sudden death in young people. This study will systematically evaluate and follow an adult population using advanced genetic screening technologies, with the aim of providing a cost-effective screening programme for this and other inherited cardiovascular diseases. UCLH, GOSH and UCL will participate in this study.
- to identify new genes responsible for neurological conditions and to develop new treatments to combat these conditions drawing on the new genes. UCLH, GOSH, MEH and UCL will take part in this study.
- to develop new gene-therapy treatment for Usher Syndrome, a genetic disorder affecting the retina that can lead to blindness. The study also aims to introduce an efficient laboratory test to diagnose patients at risk of developing the disorder. GOSH, MEH and UCL will be involved in this study.
To find out more about UCL Partners, follow the link at the top of this article.
The creation of UCL Partners was announced in August 2008, when five of Britain's world-renowned medical research centres and hospitals declared their intention to come together to create Europe's leading health research powerhouse.
By pooling resources and expertise, UCL Partners, which together treat over 1.5 million patients every year, will be able to produce more world-class research in key areas, including cancer and heart disease, and deliver the benefits more rapidly to patients. The organisation will support over 3,500 scientists, senior researchers and consultants, with a combined annual turnover of around two billion. Its primary aim is to deliver real improvements in health for patients in London, and around the world.