At the heart o our Strategic Plan are the veresearch challenges that will shape mucho our work over the coming decade. Eachchallenge is a theme that brings togetherthe many dierent activities o the Trust –including research in biology and medicine,the translation o research into healthcareproducts, public engagement, history o medicine and the ethics o research.For both our Strategic Awards andInvestigator Awards, we are askingapplicants to consider how their researchwill address one or more o these challenges.This is particularly important because eachchallenge comes with intent – that the workwe und should make a dierence. Forexample, ‘maximising the health benets o genetics and genomics’ makes clear that i we and our partners are to be successul,genetics research must eed through intoimportant improvements in the lives andhealth o patients and others.The last ew months have seen the launchor unding o a number o projects thataddress our challenges directly. In the eldo genetics, alongside the celebration o thehuman genome sequencing’s ten-yearanniversary in June came the launch o theambitious UK10K project. As its namesuggests, UK10K will decode the genomes o 10 000 people over the next three years andis expected to uncover many rare geneticvariants that are important in humandisease. The project will studying 4000people rom TwinsUK and the AvonLongitudinal Study o Parents and Children– two extremely ruitul studies that theTrust supports – as well as 6000 people withextreme obesity, neurodevelopmentaldisease and other conditions.In our challenge area o ‘understandingthe brain’, two projects looking at stroke– the leading cause o adult disability in theUK – aim to help us to understand andreduce the devastating eects it can have onthe lives o those aected. At the Universityo Oxord, Dr Heidi Johansen-Berg hasrecently had her Senior Research Fellowshiprenewed; she is looking at how the structureo the brain changes when we learn newskills and when the brain recovers romdamage such as stroke. Meanwhile, DrParashkev Nachev at University CollegeLondon has been unded to produce asystem that marries automated brainimaging, to capture patterns o braindamage, with computers that can iner therelationship between the damage and theoutcome in the patient. This will helpdoctors to determine the best treatment orthe patient.In our challenge on ‘combating inectiousdisease’, a Strategic Translation Award toProessor Andrew Pollard at the University o Oxord will help to take a new vaccineagainst meningitis B rom preclinical studiesto phase I clinical trials in humans.Meningitis B is the leading cause o bacterialmeningitis in the UK, causing 1500–2500cases each year, and is also a major inectiouscause o death in childhood. Meanwhile,Proessor Kaspar Althoeer at King’s CollegeLondon and colleagues are developing a wayto combat the emerging problem o countereit medicines. In low-to-middle-income countries, 10–30 per cent o medicines are ake, placing patients atextreme risk. Proessor Althoeer’s systemuses radio waves to detect signals rommedicines (or their imposters), even throughpackaging.Under our challenge on ‘investigatingdevelopment, ageing and chronic disease’we have awarded £3.8 million to a team atthe University o Bristol to develop a newpainkiller or the severe chronic painassociated with diabetes, or which there arecurrently limited eective treatments. Thenew analgesic is based on galanin, a smallprotein that is made by nerve cells and thatcan reduce neuropathic pain.Finally, in our challenge on ‘connectingenvironment, nutrition and health’, I wasvery pleased that we could announce £10mo unding, through the Insect PollinatorsInitiative, or nine projects investigating thedecline o honeybees and other pollinatinginsects in recent years. These projects will beexploring the causes and consequences o threats to these insect populations.
News | Issue 64
Sir Mark WalportDirector o the Wellcome Trust
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