GW4 Biosensor Network

Initiator Fund

Project period: February – May 2016

GW4 Community Leads
University of Bath: Dr Pedro Estrela
University of Bristol: Professor Mervyn Miles
Cardiff University:
Dr Niklaas Buurma
University of Exeter: Professor Peter Winlove

Project overview

The GW4 Biosensor Network will bring together researchers from different disciplines with an interest on biosensors. Biosensors measure chemical or biological molecules in complex samples (e.g. blood, water, air) for a wide range of applications including medical diagnosis, monitoring of therapies, personalised medicine, drug discovery and water quality control.

Inherently, biosensor research is highly interdisciplinary with integration of knowledge between engineers, physical scientists, life scientists, clinicians and other end users to accelerate innovations that are informed and fit for purpose.

We aim to push forward biosensor research with biomedical, pharmaceutical, environmental monitoring and defence applications. Through collaboration, cooperation and integration there is an opportunity to make improvements in our level of commercial and clinical interaction, the quality of published outputs, and funding success rates.

The Incentives for Conflict and Cooperation

Initiator Fund

Project period: February – May 2016

GW4 Community Leads
University of Bath: Dr Peter Postl
University of Bristol: Dr Francesco Giovannoni
Cardiff University:
Professor Indrajit Ray
University of Exeter: Professor Rajiv Sarin

Project overview

Game theory is the ideal tool for the analysis of the underlying incentives for conflict or cooperation. It has a vast number of applications, from understanding the issues of adoption and diffusion of green technologies, to the structure of international coalitions, to the political constraints underlying economic inequality, to development economics. Our GW4 community aims to tackle both the methodological challenges in bringing game theory to bear on these issues and applying the lessons learned to relevant policy debates.

Developing a Novel Biological Imaging Technology for Biomedical Applications

Initiator Fund

Project period: February – May 2016

GW4 Community Leads
University of Bath: Christopher R Pudney, Ventsi Valev
University of Bristol: Dafydd Jones
University of Exeter: Christian Soeller

Project overview

We aim to tackle the most fundamental challenge in modern protein science by developing a way to see changes in protein structure and flexibility inside cells.

It is now common to be able to determine the structure of proteins. However, proteins are highly dynamic and flexible. This flexibility defines much of what they can do and is important for disease states.

There has been some progress in understanding protein flexibility, but these studies are made on the lab bench rather than on proteins inside cells. There is evidence that the environment inside cells influences the structure and flexibility of proteins. This means that the biomedical relevance of such lab bench studies are questionable as they likely do not represent the natural situation in the body.

We want to be able to see changes in protein flexibility and structure inside cells. To do this we will build on recently developed microscopy approaches and advances in optical physics to deliver a truly unique technology.

Once we have demonstrated the technology we will be able to use it to identify new drug targets and to develop more effective pharmaceuticals.

GW4 Consortium: Analysis of Intensively Collected Health Data

Initiator Fund

Project period: September 2015 – January 2016

GW4 community leads
University of Bath:
Dr Nicole Augustin
University of Bristol: Professor Kate Tilling
Cardiff University: Professor Kerry Hood
University of Exeter: Professor William Henley

Project overview

Intensive data collection is made increasingly possible by technological innovation, including ‘apps’ on smartphones. However, the amount of data collected is far outstripping the ability of researchers to analyse such data. Intensively-collected data could help people to better manage their own health, and allow us to really move into the era of personalised medicine.

We will build a GW4 community of statisticians, mathematicians, data scientists and epidemiologists who are developing and applying methods for analysing intensively collected data. This innovative collaboration will bring together methodologists with those developing health sensors, and end users of the complex data, both within and beyond healthcare.

By building a community across institutions and including diverse areas of application, we will enable development and dissemination of new methods, implementation of best practice and sharing of datasets.

GW4 Centre of Excellence in the Built Environment

Initiator Fund

Project period: September 2015 – January 2016

GW4 community leads
University of Bath:
Dr Mike Lawrence, Professor Pete Walker
University of Bristol: Dr Wendel Sebastian
Cardiff University: Professor Chris Tweed, Professor Yacine Rezgui
University of Exeter:
Dr Matthew Eames

Project overview

The overarching need to reduce global carbon emissions was recognised by the Kyoto Protocol. This is an EU-Wide priority as expressed in its action on climate targets for 2030 (40% reduction in emissions) and 2050 (80-95% reduction in emissions). Construction is responsible for nearly 50% of UK Carbon emissions (BIS 2010) and research in this area therefore has the potential to make significant contribution to these targets.

We will focus on embodied carbon, predicted to account for more than 95% of total construction related emissions by the 2020s. CO2 emissions are generated at all stages of a building’s life cycle. The materials and energy involved in the construction of a building is embodied in it for the duration of its life. Energy is consumed in using the building, and more energy and materials are expended in refurbishment or demolition. Much research has concentrated on reducing in use emissions but less work has been done on embodied carbon.

The University of Bath’s Building Research Park (BRP) and the EPSRC-funded HIVE have been conceived as the host and platform for world leading research into low carbon construction materials and systems at full scale. The facilities on offer include:

  • 16 experimental buildings at the BRP.
  • Up to 8 single storey and 4 double storey building envelope panels.
  • Infrastructure to research the impact of flood and wind on building envelopes.
  • Remote access to data.
  • Full technical and administrative support to allow ‘plug and play’ research programmes to take place.

We aim to establish a GW4 Centre of Excellence in the Built Environment at the HIVE which will act as an incubator for research innovation projects drawing in both academics and industrialists.

Through the series of proposed activities, we aim to address this grand challenge in a holistic manner. We will bring together expertise in novel materials, digital technology, thermal modelling, composite structural performance and retrofit. This will create the potential for building envelopes and retrofit solutions that can make dramatic changes to the embodied carbon of both existing and new build. The synergy of the expertise will be realised in products which will be field tested at full scale at the Building Research Park – dramatically reducing the time taken to bring them to market.

BeDMaSH: Behavioural and Decision Making Sciences in Healthcare GW4 Network

Initiator Fund

Project period: September 2015 – January 2016

GW4 community leads
University of Bath:
Dr Christos Vasilakis
University of Bristol: Professor Iain Gilchrist
Cardiff University: Professor Paul Harper
University of Exeter:
Professor Martin Pitt

Project outcomes

Health and social care systems across the world are faced with increasing demand and complexity in heath needs within constrained budgets. Designing and delivering prudent healthcare services and public health policy, to ensure resources are used to maximum effect, is a challenging yet vital task.

Healthcare systems are stochastic in nature; that is they typically operate in an environment of uncertainty and variability, both at scale and within highly complex and connected systems. Robust and evidenced-based decision-making is critical, as is the emerging research challenge to better understand and predict human behaviours and how these might be captured within healthcare decision support tools.

In the context of strategic and operational decision-making, systems modelling and simulation has been shown to play a key role. To date, however, modelling approaches often fail to do justice to the behavioural aspects of social systems central to public health and health service interventions. This entails understanding complex interactions and emergent properties rather than just linear cause/effect relationships. For example: peer influence and social networks affect public health policy; staff and patient behaviours and their complex dynamics affect health service policy and effective delivery.

Interactions and relations within a socially complex system thus determine many of the important outcomes. New methods are therefore required to understand these dynamics in order to better inform the design of more effective interventions and optimal health service configurations, as well as explore the cost-effectiveness of psychological versus physiological interventions.

This multidisciplinary network addresses these research challenges and has the potential to be globally at the forefront of research developments in this emerging interdisciplinary field by harnessing the existing complementary, internationally recognized research within GW4. A step-change in scholarly activity is anticipated by bringing together expertise from across Operational Research, Decision Sciences, Mathematics, Psychology, Sociology, Implementation Science, Organisational Studies and Public Health.

The Initiator Award funded three workshops:

1] Network launch. 62 delegates attended representing academia, NHS, Public Health and Government Interests. A series of lightning talks were followed by round-table discussions on emerging themes.

Outputs:

  • A database of BeDMaSH network members
  • A BeDMaSH website: http://www.profpaulharper.com/bedmash
  • A YouTube playlist for the BeDMaSH lightning talks: https://goo.gl/xfPCw4
  • Outputs from the graphics facilitator: https://goo.gl/ZGJ5Go
  • Outputs from the round-table discussions: https://goo.gl/f8rERX
  • Candidates for the Stage 2 residential sandpit
  • Agreed grand challenges to discuss at the sandpit

2] Residential Sandpit. 19 delegates attended with representation from all 4 GW4 partners.

Outputs:

  • Methodology – Identification of a need for a methods framework driven by the notion that individuals do not make decisions in isolation from other individuals and the environment; so a pivotal research question is how do the decisions made by individuals impact other individuals and, in turn, feed back into their own decisions? This will require the novel integration of agent-based simulation models and accumulator models into a single conceptual framework.
  • Implementation – Identification of a need to better understand how behavioural factors affect the conduct of, and interaction with, model-based processes that support problem solving and decision making.

3] Way Forward Event. Enabled the team to start work on plans for sustaining the work of this GW4 community.

Outputs:

  • Substantial external grant proposal being written for submission in the Autumn
  • Accelerator proposal being written
  • An additional collaborative proposal has been outlined for external funding concerning implementation of modelling approaches and behavioural decision-making processes.

GW4 Musculoskeletal Research Consortium

Initiator Fund

Project period: May to August 2015

GW4 community leads

University of Bath: Richie Gill
University of Bristol: Ashley Blom, Jon Tarlton
Cardiff University: Bruce Caterson
University of Exeter: Andrew Toms

Project overview

Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions are the second most common disability globally, and are by far the most common cause of disability in the over 50 age group. Due to an ageing population, with a 32% increase in the over 50s by 2030, MSK is projected to be the leading global cause of disability within the next decade.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is second only to back pain as the leading MSK cause of disability and is increasing at twice the rate of any other cause. 8.7 million people in the UK, and one third of the over 55 age group, suffer from OA. This debilitating condition represents an enormous cost to the UK health service, with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs costing £45 million. With no effective therapy, advanced disease often requires joint replacement, with total annual costs to the NHS of around £1 billion.

Key objectives of the consortium include identifying areas of commonality and complementarity, exploring potential shared research infrastructure and facilities, recognising strengths and gaps in our combined research portfolio and exploring potential programmes of research.

 

 

GW4 Bio-X

Initiator Fund

Project period: May to August 2015

GW4 community leads

University of Bath: Christopher R Pudney
University of Bristol: Adrian Mulholland
Cardiff University: Rudolf Allemann
University of Exeter: Christian Soeller

Project overview

There are ‘big’ biological questions that we are not able to answer with current technology, approaches, methods or theory. Answering these fundamental, molecular level questions are what drive bottom-up innovation in health and biotechnology. As a group, we recognise that in the 21st century breakthrough advances in understanding how the molecules of life interact, react and are controlled can only come from innovations from the physical sciences.

GW4 Bio-X exists to identify, frame and address the ‘unanswerable’ biological questions using ‘breaking’ and ‘in development’ methods, models and tools from the physical sciences. Our community is in place to make GW4 the national powerhouse in innovative, molecular bioscience and to develop novel capacity and capability.

Harnessing Technology to Develop New Models of Alzheimer’s Disease

Accelerator Fund

This project has been developed from the Initiator funded the GW4 Aging and Dementia (GW4AD) Consortium community.

GW4 community leads

University of Bath: Vasanta Subramanian
University of Bristol: James Hodge, Caroline Relton
Cardiff University: Nick Allen
University of Exeter: Katie Lunnon, Jonathan Mill, Jonathan Brown

Project overview

Nearly 1 million people in the UK suffer from dementia, with care costs of over £23billion per year. There is no cure at present and the treatments available only improve the symptoms, but do not treat or reverse the underlying disease. This means we need to gain knowledge of the underlying causes of the disease in order to develop new and more effective drugs that treat the disease early.

As a team we have identified some early changes that occur to control how genes are regulated in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. We will investigate how these gene changes might lead to Alzheimer’s disease. This is very important as it may help to find new drug treatments in the future.

In order to achieve these goals we are going to apply an exciting new technology that allows us to directly edit the specific changes in genes we saw in Alzheimer’s disease. We will do this in human nerve cells grown in dishes, in fruit flies and in mice. Ultimately, this will allow us to intervene in these processes with new medications and allows the efficient and rapid screening of new drugs in the future.

We expect two major outcomes; the first is the development of novel epigenetic editing techniques, which we believe will be of interest to the wider GW4 community. The second is the application for grant funding to continue the proof of principle work.

Building a GW4 Clinical Academic Training Community

Initiator Fund

Project period: May to August 2015

GW4 community leads

University of Bath: Professor Stephen Ward
University of Bristol: Professor Jeremy Tavaré
Cardiff University: Professor Paul Morgan
University of Exeter: Professor Angela Shore

Project overview

By creating a vibrant cohort of young talented clinical academics across GW4 we will significantly enhance our collective abilities to translate our basic biomedical and population health research into an impact on patient care. We will become increasingly attractive as a UK region for clinical academic training, placing ourselves in a powerful position to bid for major research funding for clinical academic training programmes and stand-alone clinical training fellowships, through the major funders.

The GW4 partners can boast a number of internationally-leading research challenge areas which underpin a compelling case to build a coordinated GW4 Clinical Academic Training programme. These challenge areas include cancer, cardiovascular science, infection and immunity and many more.

These challenge areas will provide a broad range of opportunities to clinical trainees, who will benefit from a comprehensive pan-GW4 clinical training programme that offers outstanding mentorship, and follow-through support towards intermediate and senior clinical fellowships, and then academic clinical lectureships.