Physios and scientists lead the way in Charity-funded research

Four members of staff have successfully been awarded funding from the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity to conduct research.

The competition, now in its second year, funds non-medical health professionals to undertake up to 12 months of research in order to develop their research skills, produce data and apply for further funding.

The four successful candidates were selected by a panel of clinical experts and lay advisors who looked at several factors including, patient benefit, scientific advancement and training plans.  

Gill Raikes, the Charity’s chief executive, was part of the judging panel and said: 

“This is the second year the Charity has funded these fellowships and it is a great pleasure to be part of this programme which enables colleagues to discover and develop their ambitions.  I am the most lay of all the lay people on the panel to choose who will receive these fellowships. It is terribly hard as all the proposals are such a high standard and all sound so good, the Charity would have loved to have funded them all.  

“I wish the people who will take forward the fellowships all the very best of luck with the study and the outcomes and I look forward to hearing more about how they have progressed.”

Read more about each of the successful candidates below.

Charlotte Wells, physiotherapist

Charlotte’s research project will look at new and different ways of providing physiotherapy services for children with asthma, with the aim to make it an engaging, enjoyable and effective service for all patients. 

Physiotherapy is an important element of the specialist asthma multi-disciplinary team service offered at the Trust, where patients are offered help to manage issues such as breathing pattern disorders, symptoms on exercise and airway clearance. 

However, children living in poverty, or in lower economic groups, have both worse health outcomes with asthma and are most affected by times of austerity which is why it’s important that when new services are developed, they are effective for all children regardless of ethnicity, economics, learning difficulties and home life. 

On completing her fellowship Charlotte hopes to submit a HEE/NIHR PhD application and try to take the work further by looking at the effectiveness of these new service innovations. 

Charlotte said; “I feel so excited about starting this work and really honoured to be given this grant and opportunity.  I am so grateful for this fellowship.”

Thomas Burgoyne, senior paediatric scientist

Thomas’ research will be looking at the latest machine learning (artificial intelligence) to help diagnose Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD), a disease where the tiny hairs (cilia) that line the airways don’t work properly, leading to a build-up of mucus and increased risks of infection. 

Thomas’ research will be looking to use a powerful electron microscope to look for abnormalities in the cilia, with the aim to improve diagnose of PCD by developing computer systems that can image cilia and detect abnormalities automatically. This way the cost and time to make a diagnosis can be reduced, allowing diagnostic specialists to spend more time focussed on other aspects of PCD diagnosis.

After the fellowship Thomas hopes to distribute the automated system to other specialist diagnostic centres to assist in the diagnosis of PCD and publish the results. He also plans to apply for further funding to continue the development of the machine learning systems in the diagnosis of PCD as well as other chronic inflammatory lung diseases.  

Upon receiving the award, Thomas said; “I am delighted to have got this award, as it provides an excellent opportunity to progress my independent researcher career and to pursue my passion in developing improved methods to diagnose PCD and other chronic inflammatory lung diseases.”

Timothy Jenkins, specialist physiotherapist

Timothy’s project will try to understand the impact of muscle wasting in patients in intensive care and its links to respiratory muscle strength and function. Patients who spend extended periods in intensive care receive mechanical support for their breathing. As a result, they often experience severe muscle weakness which can significantly affect their recovery. 

Although there have been frequent reports of muscle wasting during mechanical ventilation, there is currently no published evidence investigating if this is linked to muscle strength and function. Timothy hopes that a better understanding of muscle wasting in these patients could help to develop more robust, evidence-based interventions that could improve outcomes for patients.

This is Timothy’s first significant step into research, and he hopes the fellowship will enable him to gain the necessary skills and experience to apply for additional funding for further research. He also aims to support other members of the physiotherapy team to become involved in research.

Timothy said; “I feel extremely privileged to receive the charity fellowship grant, and excited about my first step into research.”

Ali Nuh, senior biomedical scientist

Ali’s project aims to detect Aspergillus mould antigens in sputum to diagnose aspergillosis, a mould infection that mainly affect the lung and leads to weakened lung function and breathing difficulties.  

Currently, detection of the fungal antigen, known as galactomannan, is done using a bronchioalveolar lavage (BAL) sample, which has very good diagnostic significance. However, BAL samples are obtained through an invasive procedure (bronchoscopy) and is not suitable for severely sick patients and those with bleeding disorders.  

Ali’s research aims to determine whether a sputum sample, which is easier for patients to provide, would be as reliable at detecting the galactomannan antigen. This could improve patient experience and become a better alternative to using BAL samples. 

After the fellowship Ali aims to apply for more funding and continue his research into fungal diseases and to contribute to the care of patients.  

Ali feels the fellowship has already boosted his confidence in his research work and said: “I am delighted with this award and feel more confident about my career and potential in research.”

Click here to find out more about the funding opportunities available or contact us to join the research mailing list.