Trust co-funds 10 respiratory projects

Research looking into Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) are just some of the projects that have been awarded funding via a joint funding call from Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust (ICHT).

Currently Imperial College and ICHT have a partnership in the form of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). 

Funding for the BRC is for 5 years (2017-2022) and aims to support first time trials of new discoveries, treatments and technologies in patients, to improve healthcare.

For this to work best, NIHR Imperial BRC is organised around several themes that encourage clinicians, scientists and allied health professionals to focus on specific disease themes, including cancer, gut health and cardiovascular disease. 

However, there is currently no established respiratory theme, which is where the Trust’s specialist expertise comes in. 

The Trust is well positioned as a globally leading hospital for respiratory diseases, with a unique population of patients and several internationally recognised clinicians. And with Imperial College and ICHT preparing to apply for BRC status for the 2022-2027 period, the Trust will be collaborating with them to develop a strong respiratory theme. 

The Trust already works very closely with both Imperial College and ICHT through the Imperial College Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC), but this funding call is an attempt to foster even closer working collaborations and to find new projects which focus on early detection of disease, digital health, reducing exacerbations and advanced therapies. The portion of the funding put forward by the Trust towards the call was generously funded by the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals Charity. 

Lyndon Bridgewater, associate director for research at the Trust, said, “The joint funding of these awards is an excellent first step in the development of a strong respiratory theme for the upcoming round of NIHR BRC funding. Utilising the expert knowledge across all our organisations and building on existing collaborations, our joint approach will enable the development of a lead research programme across respiratory disease.”

10 projects were selected to receive up to £25,000 in funding, all of which demonstrated clear objectives that aligned with the key priority areas for respiratory disease. 

Edwin Chilvers, professor of medicine at Imperial College said he is “delighted to see the new respiratory theme within the NIHR Imperial BRC launch. We are aligning the world-leading science conducted within the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) with some of the best hospitals in London. I hope our patients with lung disease, and especially those living locally, will reap the benefits.”

Here are examples of just 3 of the projects that will be funded:

Telomere length and IPF
Dr Deborah Morris-Rosendahl and her team will be looking the link between telomere length (part of the chromosomes that provides protection from mutation and is linked to ageing) and IPF, with the aim to determine if telomere length can be used as a tool for early diagnosis.

How exposure in infants affects respiratory health in adulthood
Dr James Allinson will be leading a project which plans to research how the environment and types of infections which infants are exposed to affects their lung health in adulthood. The study will be looking at data from the National Survey of Health and Development which has followed over 5000 individuals since their birth in March 1946. 

Wheeze in children
Dr James Harker will be leading on a study to determine if sputum samples (upper airway sample, less invasive) are comparable to BAL samples (lower airway samples, more invasive) when looking at immune cells. It also aims to determine the immune cell make up of children with pre-school wheeze versus those with asthma.  

The other projects that have received funding are listed below: 

  • Diagnosing COPD: multimodal survey of patient experience across the UK led by Dr Jennifer Quint
  • The impact of cystic fibrosis sputum on the antibiotic potentiating activity of Glatiramer acetate led by Professor Jane Davies
  • Prediction of asthma exacerbations using portable DNA sequencing of air particles led by Andre Amaral
  • Establishing the Acid injury and Repair (AIR) model in human lung tissue led by Charlotte Dean
  • Improving lentivirus-based gene therapy through the introduction of an intron led by Dr Jack Hickmott
  • A Systems Approach for Optimal Assessment of Influenza Vaccination in the Elderly led by Rhia Kundu
  • Mechanisms underlying differential responses of cystic fibrosis and wild-type respiratory epithelia to RSV infection led by Matthew Coates

Research teams are asked to keep an eye out as another funding round is due to be launched soon, with up to £50,000 funding available for individual projects. 

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