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2020 NIHR ACF PES Oxford Platform Science and Bioinformatics 2



2020 NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship in Priority Research Themes

HEE Local Office: Thames Valley
Medical School: University of Oxford
Research Theme: Platform Science and Bioinformatics
Specialty Options: Haematology or Obstetrics and Gynaecology or Paediatrics

Plain English Summary

Medical research in Oxford benefits from a very strong infrastructure. University Departments in modern laboratories provide state-of-the-art techniques to help understand a variety of diseases. These techniques include those for mapping out genes, analysing how genes are expressed (i.e. how the information stored in our chromosomes leads to production of the body's molecules), analysing the nature and amounts of these molecules, and investigating the clinical consequences of differences. In addition to studying individual patients with specific diseases, we have set up Biobanks. These contain information and samples that volunteers, both healthy and with specific diseases, have provided so scientists can follow their health over time and uncover associations between genes and health/disease.

A particular strength in Oxford is the ability to analyse these streams of information by integrating them together using skills developed by mathematicians, statisticians, engineers and computer scientists. The research techniques and analysis of results are complicated so the doctor who is appointed will be trained in the necessary skills through established courses within the University.

Many of these approaches are widely applicable but in this post we focus on those most relevant to the study of blood cancers (Haematology), diseases of the womb/uterus or relating to pregnancy (Obstetrics & Gynaecology) and studying the immune system in children (Paediatrics), capitalising on internationally recognised expertise in these areas. Each of these specialisms already hosts doctors doing work that combines academic/research and clinical training, typically concentrating on research for blocks of at least 3 months between periods of clinical training. We maximise chances to progress to a PhD fellowship or, if applicable, post-doctoral research funding, through our mentorship programme which includes input from peers, colleagues and senior academics.

There are a wide range of research projects to choose from. Examples include:

  • In Haematology to try to improve cancer free survival rates they are using sophisticated techniques at the level of individual cells to study why blood cancers return. Work is also taking place to create very detailed genetic profiles of patients with blood diseases to identify markers of disease and new targets for drug and other therapies
  • Similar approaches are being used in Obstetrics & Gynaecology to investigate cancers of the uterus or ovaries and endometriosis, a painful disease of tissue arising from the lining of the uterus. Other research aims to better predict and treat pre-eclampsia, a dangerous complication in pregnant women characterized by high blood pressure and damage to other organs such as the liver and kidneys.
  • In Paediatrics there is a large research programme that works on vaccine development and uses large scale genetic and molecule-level approaches to understand and predict how our immune system responds to immunisation. Also similar genetic approaches are being used in studies of children with inflammation of the intestine which is a very distressing problem that can continue into adulthood.
    In each case the results of research will ultimately be applied to patient care through links with industry and the NHS.