Wellcome Consortium Grant Win

Posted: 25 June 2009

As well as building on research already taking place within the MRC Centre for Transplantation and the BRC funded Transplant theme, Professor Lord’s new grant will develop a UK-wide consortium bringing together NHS Blood and Transplant, the British Transplantation Society and most of the transplant centres in the UK. The consortium will allow research on a study population of around 12,000 renal transplant donor-recipient pairs. It is hoped that the research will lead to the design of rational therapeutic, diagnostic and preventative strategies to improve the management of patients with transplant dysfunction, as well as help to understand the biological mechanisms that underlie chronic and acute transplant dysfunction.

Kidney Patients Association Open Day

Posted: 30 March 2009

On Saturday 28th February the MRC Centre opened its doors to members of the local Kidney Patient’s Association along with their families and friends. The day was an opportunity to thank the KPA who have generously supported the research efforts being carried out and also to highlight some of the new initiatives being pursued at the Centre.

Having fuelled up on tea and coffee the visitors were treated to a tour of some of the laboratories where local lab staff explained the current research work and showed off their skills. The day was a great success with visitors enthusing about the information they had received and the lab staff appreciating the opportunity to meet patients who it is hoped in the future will benefit directly from this work. The event continued long into the afternoon fuelled by some excellent cakes.

The KPA and the Centre hope to repeat this event annual and are also aiming to organise a larger scale fundraising event this summer.

Centre PI promoted to Reader

Posted: 30 March 2009

Dr Zhou currently leads a research team to investigate the functional regulation of immune cells (i.e. dendritic cell, NK cell, T cell) and mesenchymal stem cells by inflammatory mediators, such as complement effector molecules. As those cells play an important role in renal disease, ischemia/reperfusion injury, transplant rejection and tissue remodeling, her work to understanding the functional regulation of these cells would lead to the pharmaceutical approaches to modulate the cell function, ultimately developing cell based therapy for treatment of tissue injury and preventing graft rejection.

Dr Zhou's new role will take effect this September.

Centre Away Day gives food for thought

Posted: 17 February 2009

Friday 13th February proved lucky for those attending the MRC Centre’s first away day at Prospero House. The day was launched by Mr Geoff Koffman, renal surgeon at Guy’s, and was a resounding success.

Over 70 delegates from across the Centre and beyond enjoyed a full programme of events including presentations from Dr Varuna Aluvihare and Professor Steven Sacks; a series of talks on current areas of clinical translational research and a lively debate on some of the major issues facing the Centre. Issues discussed included defining priority areas for clinical/academic research and the Centre's promotion of clinical engagement. Professor Andrew Bradley from Cambridge University delivered some provocative insights in his keynote speech, outlining possible future challenges to the Centre.

That the away day attracted such a diverse audience only added to its success. Some excellent ideas emerged at the event, such as developing supported mentorship for staff and creating opportunities for clinicians to shadow lab staff and vice versa.

We will be organising a further event in 2010 to build on this success and a date will be circulated shortly. Thank you once again to all the speakers who took part in the meeting for their contributions and to everyone who attended for making the day so productive.

Ethics workshop develops new collaborations

Posted: 26 February 2009

On the Possibility of Translation

Last month the MRC Centre for Transplantation held its first ethics workshop entitled ‘on the possibility of translation’. The workshop was attended by ethicists, lawyers, scientists, social scientists and clinicians. At the outset of the workshop there was a clear consensus that in order for innovation in translational biomedicine to be realised the circumstances in which basic scientific enquiry can legitimately become part of clinical healthcare delivery need to be understood. Achieving this will inevitably require collaboration with inter-disciplinary colleagues working together towards a shared aim of maximum benefit for patients.

The purpose of the workshop was to identify, in the first instance, the ways in which ethical, legal and social science research could meaningfully contribute to the process of translation in general and more specifically in relation to the Centre’s ‘biomarker study’.

Ethical and Legal Enquiry

Prof. Richard Ashcroft, professor of Bioethics at Queen Mary, University of London, identified three areas of opportunity for ethical and legal enquiry. They were research in relation to regulatory frameworks, risk assessment and consent.

Regulatory Framework

Current regulatory guidelines and declarations (eg. Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and The Declaration of Helsinki provide important models for research in the context of novel drug treatments and innovative techniques used for instance by surgeons. However, they do not capture or adequately account for the innovation that translational research (for instance the biomarker study) presents. As such this provides an opportunity to give meaning and definition to the language of translation and how we might legitimately facilitate it within an ethical framework.

Assessment of risk

Assessment of risk will include understanding when a study is scientifically feasible, regulatorily possible and ethically appropriate. However conceiving of these components individually and separately without due consideration of the clinical context is insufficient. It is important to identify and communicate with patients and to be able to adequately account for ‘therapeutic misconceptions’ (eg. new treatment is better treatment) and misconceptions that may be inversely proportional (eg. research participation guinea pig). It will also be necessary to understand how the risk benefit ratio competes with genuine scientific/clinical uncertainty in this context.


The traditional notion has been that ‘more’ information is required in order for consent to be valid in the context of research. However it is not clear that the same applies in the context of innovative research. What for instance are the necessary conditions for a patient to take part in this novel research approach? This merits further consideration.

Social Science Research

Prof. Clare Williams, director of the Centre for Biomedicine and Society at King’s College, London, outlined how sociological research methods, including qualitative and observational work may be usefully employed in order to help understand the interface between scientific research and clinical treatment. These methods are particularly useful in understanding the interpretation of safety and risk; the relationship between personal beliefs and professional demands/responsibilities and the place of cultural values and belief systems in patient choice.

At the end of a fruitful discussion the group made two proposals. First, that a one day seminar be held to address the problem of nomenclature and regulatory processes in the context of translational research. This seminar, entitled ‘the nomenclature and regulation of translation,’ is in preparation. Second, that a Health Services Research Fellow (a post doctoral social scientist) be appointed to address generally how innovative research methods are conceived by patients, clinicians, scientific researchers, and organ donors, and to address more specifically issues relating to biomarker studies and clinical transplantation. This appointment is now underway.

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