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2020 NIHR ACF PES Oxford Platform Science and Bioinformatics



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: Cardiology or Endocrinology and Diabetes Mellitus or Gastroenterology

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 multitude of diseases. These techniques include those for mapping out genes, analysing how genes are expressed (i.e. how 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 relevant to the study of heart disease (Cardiology), patients with bowel and liver problems (Gastroenterology) and those with hormone imbalances (Endocrinology and Diabetes Mellitus), capitalising on internationally recognised expertise in these areas. Each of these specialisms already hosts doctors doing work that combines academic/research and clinical training. We maximise chances to progress to a PhD fellowship through or, if applicable, post-doctoral research funding, 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 Cardiology very sophisticated techniques to image the heart and its blood flow are being linked to genetic information in large numbers of people, including Biobank volunteers, those with heart disease, and members of families known to be genetically prone to heart disease. Previous work from Oxford led to the introduction of the first NHS genetic diagnostic service for inherited cardiac conditions.

• Work in Gastroenterology aims to understand diseases in which inflammation of the intestine not only causes acute pain and diarrhoea but can also pre-dispose to scarring and ultimately cancer. The aim is to classify diseases more accurately, understand the different ways in which they occur at the level of individual cells, how patients do or do not respond to particular treatments, and so identify new and more effective treatments for the different sub-types of disease.

• A similar approach is being used in diabetes linking ways in which the disease behaves with treatments and markers of disease sub-type, and/or severity. Other projects study cancers of the pituitary gland in the brain which can cause too few or too many hormones to be made, triggering problems throughout the body.
In each case the results of research will ultimately be applied to patient care through links with industry and the NHS.