Clinical Research Training Fellowships

Clinical Research Training Fellowships


Finding time to think about an academic research career when continuing with the busy clinical schedule is challenging. The NIHR Biomedical Research Centre has committed funds to supporting one-year fellowships to provide
opportunities for trainees to generate data and prepare a competitive research
fellowship application for external funding. This funding includes one year of
salary as well as funding for laboratory or research consumables and travel to
conferences. Joining me today are two of our BRC clinical training fellows, Lucy
Durham and Natasha Hezelgrave. Lucy, you’re a Cambridge undergad, you did some clinical training at UCL and then did you core medical training. What attracted you to this programme here at the BRC? Well I’ve always been interested in combining clinical work with research but haven’t had any first-hand experience in the lab
so I thought that this fellowship would be the opportunity to have a year of lab research which would help me decide if I’m any good at it and also enjoy it and
hopefully generate some data so I can have the perspective to apply for PhD
fellowship in the future. And I understand that you were still
undecided about clinical specialties so there was an interest I think in
dermatology and also rheumatology, so tell us a little bit about the the theme
of your project. So my project is looking at psoriatic arthritis. which is a disease that affects the skin and joints. So it was a good way of combining both
of my potential clinical interests in one project. And how did you find out more
about the project before you started? I emailed Leone who is my supervisor in
the lab and arranged to meet her for a discussion about the project and she
answered all my questions and took me on a tour of the lab and gave me the opportunity to
meet other members in the lab so I could have an informal chat about how it was to work
in that particular department. And the the laboratory skills that you picked up since you started? Quite a lot, this time last year I hadn’t even held a pipette I don’t think. So it was a steep learning curve. The main focus of my project is
isolating immune cells from the skin..from sorry the joint, and also the blood from
patients and healthy volunteers. and then we culture cells and then see what proteins they make. And we do that using analysers and also flow cytometry. And the idea specifically used to try and define what about psoriatic arthritis Well there’s been a lot of research interest currently at the role of IL 17 which is
a protein that your immune cells make and its role in psoriatic arthritis and there are some new drugs available that block out IL 17 that are currently undergoing clinical
trial and the results are looking very promising. And the aim of my projects to understand which cells of the immune system are responsive to the main source of IL17 in this particular disease. So what aspect of the fellowship do you think puts you in a good position to apply for funding in the future? I’ve generated some preliminary data and I’ve also got a much better perspective of what we research involves and what, how to structure a project and design experiments to answer specific questions. I’ve also had the opportunity to write two reviews over the course of this
year and am currently, with my colleagues, generating some data hopefully to go forward into a paper so this makes me more competitive I think when I go through
the application. Thank you. So Natasha, you’re a few steps ahead. Tell us about how the clinical training fellowship helped you get to where you are now. So I was an academic clinical fellow when I first started my obstetrics training so I had a small amount of time each
year to be devoted to research and while that was really useful it allowed me
to see lots of different projects to decide what I want to do and find out
about different methods of research whether I even liked lab work, whether
I wanted to do more epidemiological work, but by the end of it I wasn’t quite in a
position to apply for a fellowship PhD funding and so the BRC fellowship gave
me a years devoted time including not only my salary but consumables in order
to pursue the premature birth project which I’m now doing and so I generated
pilot data I was able to work on the fellowship application and hone my lab
skills and my statistical skills during that year to put me in a really
strong position to apply for the NIHR doctoral research fellowship which I was
lucky enough to receive. And I think you got some support and interview practice beforehand didn’t you? Absolutely. So the BRC were incredibly supportive of my future fellowship funding so had a number of practice interviews, was able to talk
through career pathways with them and have access to some of their facilities to be able to pursue what we were doing . So tell us a little bit about the research project. So my interest is premature birth and why women go into premature labour and whether we can predict it and indeed prevent it. And there’s quite a body of evidence that’s implicating the innate immune system into why women give birth
early and we’re looking at a particular marker and natural antimicrobial peptide
which we believe is, is raised in the vagina fluid women who are destined to
give birth early, and so we are recruiting a large cohort of women
at risk of preterm birth, by virtue of their previous history, and we have
created a biobank of vaginal samples as well as blood samples and microbiology
samples to be able to examine them and not only look to see if this marker is
predictive in preterm birth but look at the mechanisms behind it. Now you’re stimulating research environment has allowed you to get involved in some other studies too. Tell us very briefly about those. My other interested public
health and in particular women’s global public health and so when I
started the department I was lucky to get involved in a project looking at why
women in low-resource countries died from pre-eclampsia and also from
bleeding and we’ve actually developed a low-cost blood pressure monitor which
the Gates have kindly given us funding to pilot in a number of Sub-Saharan African
countries and we’ve actually moved that on now so, we’ve developed a device, we’re piloting the device and the MRC have just given us a million pounds to take that out as a randomised control trial. So I’m lucky enough to be part of that as well alongside my PhD. So you’re gaining a lot of different types of experience in the industry of research environment. Well Lucy, Natasha, thank you very much for telling us about your CTF projects. Thank you. So two really good examples where the Biomedical Research Centre provides the research environment, the mentoring and support to allow
aspiring young clinical academics to achieve their long-term goals.

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