NIHR | Manchester Biomedical Research Centre

Bridging the Gap – February 2022

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The best development programmes change the way people see themselves.

John Bright

Welcome to my February blog.

It has been exactly one year since I last discussed training and development across the BRC and this is the topic I would like to revisit this month. As I stressed then and still consider as vital now, pioneering research and advances in health, care and new treatments only happen through the efforts of a highly skilled faculty and staff, and supporting their development is a key pillar to achieving this.

Despite the continued challenges of the pandemic impacting face-to-face training, alongside many NHS and university staff working remotely, for the past year we have worked hard to deliver opportunities for development, and keep our commitment to invest in the next generation of researchers. As with several events during the last two years, we have embraced virtual sessions and it has been fantastic to see more than 300 attendees joining online.

Our Experimental Medicine placement schemes have also continued through a combination of remote and in-person learning, with eight participants from a range of roles, including audiologists, physiotherapists, radiography, psychology and nursing, while we also welcomed 10 students onto modules embedded on The University of Manchester Masters in Research (MRes) in Experimental Medicine programme.

Last year also saw the launch of a major new programme: our Innovator Training Scheme (ITS). Launched in May 2021 in collaboration with Translation Manchester, through regular webinars, one-to-one support, and other resources, the ITS aimed to equip and inspire researchers to explore and develop impactful research alongside industry and commercial partners. The programme was led by our Training and Industry teams, and it was very satisfying to see this develop throughout the year – with more than 200 webinar attendees and guest speakers joining us on topics; such as entrepreneurship, commercialising research, Intellectual Property, pitching, and more – with sessions available to watch back on the ITS webpage and the BRC YouTube channel. Translation Manchester’s, Alessandro Faroni, Translational Research Manager, recently shared a blog reflecting a year on since the programme’s inception.

Over the coming months, the ITS team will continue our ‘Innovator Insights’ blog series, sharing personal innovation journeys and reflections from some of our leading researchers. The first of these is from Professor Rick Body, BRC Innovation and Partnerships Lead, and Group Director of Research and Innovation for Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT). Rick shares his early steps through emergency medicine research and point of care testing for heart attacks, up to his current roles at the BRC and MFT. The team is also currently in the early stages of planning a new, condensed webinar programme for the summer. Further details on this will be announced in the coming months, but for now you can help to shape content for the next programme by taking part in our ITS survey.

During work for our BRC 2022-27 application, our Training team revisited our Education and Training Strategy. If we are successful in our bid, we hope to be able to share with you updates on our renewed vision to further develop our experimental medicine training. For now, I would encourage you to visit our recently updated training webpages on our website, which feature further information on many of the schemes and opportunities discussed here, as well as our usual rundown of upcoming events further down this blog. Our Education and Training Coordinator, Jane Crosbie, also shares a monthly bulletin of upcoming funding opportunities, training schemes and events, so please contact her via: if you would like to receive this.

News from across Manchester BRC

In wider news from across Manchester BRC, research led by Dr Suzanne Verstappen, researcher in our Musculoskeletal (MSK) Theme, has profiled the side-effects linked to methotrexate – a drug commonly used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory diseases – with the team hoping this will help better manage care for patients starting this treatment.

In our Respiratory Theme, Professor Paul Dark, Respiratory Non-fungal Infections Programme Lead, recently published findings in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), showing that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) reduces the need for invasive ventilation in patients hospitalised with COVID-19.

Friday 4 February was World Cancer Day, this year’s theme was ‘Close the care gap’ – advocating for equal access to cancer care and treatment around the world. Timed with this, the International Journal of Cancer shared a special virtual edition featuring research from several of our Cancer Prevention and Early Detection (PED) Theme researchers – led by PED Theme Lead Professor Gareth Evans – on improving breast cancer screening risk scores for non-white European women. World Cancer Day also saw the launch of On Cancer – an insightful new cancer publication from The University of Manchester (UoM) and Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC). The publication features research, expert analysis, and policy recommendations on cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment from leading Manchester researchers – with some fantastic contributions from our Cancer PED, Advanced Radiotherapy, and Informatics and Data Sciences Themes.

The NIHR Immune-Mediated Inflammatory Diseases (IMID) BioResource is a partnership between Manchester, Leeds, and Newcastle BRCs and works in conjunction with the Lead site for the NIHR BioResource in Cambridge. The IMID BioResource recruits patients across England with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, to participate in future research. Read more about how this successful collaboration of our northern BRCs – led by Manchester – recently reached the fantastic milestone of 2,000 participants recruited.

I was also delighted to see Vocal colleagues featured in a recent national NIHR Alert, on how their work on a two-day sandpit engagement event – supported by Manchester BRC and NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility (CRF) researchers – helped to bring together diverse groups to pitch ideas for future research projects. Also on the topic of addressing health inequalities, The Christabel Pankhurst Institute and the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Greater Manchester (ARC GM) have launched a new ‘Digital Health Inequities’ seminar series, which takes place on the second Wednesday each month. Their next session, ‘The many faces of inequality in a digital world,’ takes place on 9 March, 1pm to 2pm. If you would like further details or to sign up to the series, contact:

Finally, congratulations Dr Ruth Watkinson, who has been nominated under the ‘Promising Technologist of the Year’ category at the upcoming BioNow awards. Ruth used data from the GM Care Record to carry out her research, a unique research asset that is supported by our Informatics and Data Sciences researchers. Ruth was nominated for her urgent and important work understanding COVID-19 vaccine uptake and inequalities among the Greater Manchester population, particularly between different ethnicities. Good luck to Ruth ahead of the ceremony which will be held on 31 March!

Events and training

Our next Training Series event, Adherence to medication and treatment for disease prevention, takes place Tuesday 29 March. Speakers include Dr Michelle Harvie (Cancer PED Theme), Professor Chris Armitage (Hearing Health), Dr Samuel Couth (Hearing Health), and UoM’s Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine, Professor Maciej Tomaszewski. Just another reminder that our Inclusive Research eLearning module – co-developed by Vocal, patient and community leaders, Manchester CRF and the i3HS Hub – is still available to BRC Faculty looking to learn more about these approaches.

In collaboration with the Barts and Manchester CRUK Institutes, our Cancer Precision Medicine Theme Lead, Professor Caroline Dive, joins an expert panel for a special Women in Science online seminar on Monday 7 March. On Wednesday 9 March, UoM and MCRC are also hosting a Clinical Academic training workshop, designed to support clinical trainees within the field of cancer to become clinical academics.

The NIHR has several national events that may be of interest to BRC researchers, including on Neurodiversity and thinking differently together (Thursday 3 March), Authentic leadership (Wednesday 9 March), Developing feedback culture (Thursday 24 March), and Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion into research (Wednesday 30 March). A full list of their events is also available on the NIHR website.

Finally, throughout March, UoM’s Christabel Pankhurst Institute is holding a new workshop series, Medical innovation to commercialisation: How to accelerate development of early-stage medical innovations, which aims help researchers speed up innovation development through grant funding and collaborations.

Until next time, take care and look after yourselves.

Professor Ian N Bruce

Director, NIHR Manchester BRC