Shutterstock

The Biomedical Informatics Hub provides support for pilot research across the University.

Biomedical Informatics Hub

Academics and projects from across the University have furthered their research with funding and services from the Biomedical Informatics Hub.

The Wellcome Trust ISSF funded Hub is a group of highly talented research scientists who provide free support for pilot research  within the University and have helped a number of academics develop an idea and gather data to strengthen their applications for larger grants and publications.

Dr Mike Weedon’s research is looking at determining the genetic causes of young-onset diabetes. Mike and colleagues recent work, supported by the Hub, has shown that mutations in a non-protein-coding part of the genome can cause children to be born without a pancreas.

Funding from the Hub has enabled him to generate preliminary data for a grant application to apply similar techniques to a type of diabetes known as Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY). This has resulted in the submission of a Medical Research Council grant application to further his work.

Mike said: “The funding was useful because it helped us generate preliminary data to support a larger grant where we are hoping to study the whole genomes of more than 100 patients with a genetic form of early-onset diabetes.

“Most work in the genetics of rare diseases is focused on the fraction of the genome that codes for protein, with recent advances in technology we can now start looking at the 99 per cent which is non-coding. This project, if funded, should provide insights into the non-coding genome, diabetes and improve patient care.”

ISSF seedcorn funding also supported a project by Dr Barney Dunn looking at whether some people are more susceptible to mood disorders and unhealthy lifestyle behaviours like smoking because they are less able to enjoy every day pleasurable activities.

He said: “The ISFF funding was great because it helped strengthen my case for a NIHR Career Development Fellowship application I submitted in January.”

Dr Natalia Lawrence has submitted a grant application to the BBSRC to further her work into brain training to reduce over eating. She will also be presenting her ISSF-supported study at this year's British Feeding and Drinking Group conference.

She said: “The ISSF funding enabled me to run a pilot trial of a novel computerised 'brain training' intervention to reduce snacking. We had evidence that this training worked in the lab but thanks to the ISSF funding we have been able to try it out in the real world.

“I was also able to employ a part-time Research Assistant to run the pilot trial in the local community, whilst the technical support provided by Mahmood Javaid from the Bioinformatics Hub helped us get our computerised intervention online, so that participants could access it from home and work.

“It has been really exciting to translate our research from the lab to the real world and we are looking forward to finishing the study and analysing the results.”

Funding from the Biomedical Informatics Hub has also lead to the formation of a number of projects encouraging the public to become involved with research at the University of Exeter. These projects received match funding from the University’s public engagement catalyst project.

In one project a group of public volunteers are providing feedback to the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health on the presentation of results aimed at lay audiences and plans for new research.

The group, who named themselves, The Health and Environment Public Engagement group have already had input into four different research projects and consultation with the members has now become part of the research process at the Centre.

Another project looked at how sexual health and education exhibition Intimate Worlds, which is due to come to the RAMM in April, can be used by organisations to engage their service users, clients and students. The project resulted in the short documentary below:

 

The Biomedical Informatics Hub can provide support to projects that require:

  • Big data analytical support
  • Statistical analysis
  • Bioinformatics support
  • Study design for clinical trials
  • Image analysis and feature tracking
  • Mathematical or computational modelling
  • Electron microscopy/tomography
  • Hardware/software interfacing

The fourth call for applications to the University’s Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) Seed Corn Fund is now open.

The funding is open to all university research staff, across all discipline areas, but in particular to:

  • Outstanding postdoctoral researchers allowing them to generate preliminary data to support independent Fellowship applications.
  • Early career academics, enabling them to generate preliminary data in support of research grant applications. And
  • Newly recruited research staff seeking pump priming support for a new activity that will lead to a Wellcome Trust application, with first time applicants to the Trust particularly encouraged.

Each award will be in the region of £10,000 to £20,000 for a maximum of 12 months.

If you are a University of Exeter academic and think you could be eligible for support or want some more information please visit the Biomedical Informatics Hub website.

Or to find out more about the services on offer come along to the Bioinformatics Hub networking event on Tuesday 18 February from 2pm to 4pm in Streatham Court 0.28.

To register to attend please contact Susan Boulton.