£1m in BRC capital funding for research groups

The BRC has awarded over £1million in capital funding to teams across UCLH and UCL to drive forward research that will translate into improvements in patient care.

8 awards of between £111,000 and £200,000 have been announced to support new infrastructure across the BRC research themes including cancer, neurological diseases and inflammation, immunity and immunotherapeutics.

£120,000 was awarded to the UCLH clinical research informatics unit (CRIU), led by Dr Folkert Asselbergs working closely with Dr Wai Keong Wong, UCLH’s Chief Research Information Officer, to expand a digital platform that clinicians can use to find trials that their patients may be suitable for. Dr Wong originally developed the first iteration of this platform.

The Keytrials platform, currently only used in relation to blood cancer trials, will give patients and doctors ‘one click’ access to all clinical trials taking place at UCLH, with the aim of improving awareness of clinical trials and trial recruitment.

The CRIU team will also link the platform up to UCLH’s electronic healthcare record system (EHRS), the new patient record system being rolled out in 2019. This will be the first time in the UK a ‘trials discovery platform’ is linked up to patient records. Once linked up, the platform will be able to help clinicians find trials that their patients may be suitable for.

In a separate award, researchers led by UCL’s Professor Richard Jenner and Professor Michael Ehrenstein will develop a ‘single cell analysis platform’ to predict which patients – across multiple disease areas – will respond to which therapies, in a bid to provide targeted treatment.

A major problem in treating some conditions is the complex mix of cells present in disease. Cancer or autoimmune treatments will fail if a subset of cells are present which are resistant to therapy. But traditional methods of cell analysis only provide a general picture from a cell population and do not identify individual cells. Thus, cells present at low frequencies, which may cause disease, or are critical to combat the disease, are lost in the noise of the larger population.

The single cell analysis population will reveal the DNA sequences, active genes and proteins present in each and every cell within a population. This will allow investigators to identify the individual cells and molecular mechanisms the underlie response to therapy disease reoccurrence after treatment.

The full list of capital award winners is as follows.

Other capital award winners are:

·         Dr Parashkev Nachev, super computing to enable the development of artificial intelligence methods at UCLH.

·         Dr Michael Watts, liquid nitrogen storage and backup vessels for experimental cell and gene therapy clinical trials.

·         Dr Bart Vanhaesebroeck, a spinning disk confocal to visualise and measure the mechanism of tumour initiation and evolution, and protection from cell death.

·         Dr Claire Roddie, equipment for the automated manufacture of CAR T-cells, for use in CAR T-cell therapy, a revolutionary new approach to treating cancer.

·         Dr Henry Houlden, a long-read sequencing tool for neurogenetics research.

·         Dr Henrik Zetterberg, Single Molecule Counting (SMC™) Erenna® Instrument.