Although my training as a Biochemist covered a broad spectrum of research areas, I was always most interested in understanding disease pathogenesis from a molecular point of view.
- How did you become interested in translational gastroenterology?
Although my training as a Biochemist covered a broad spectrum of research areas, I was always most interested in understanding disease pathogenesis from a molecular point of view. This naturally included my interest in improving therapies and diagnostics, with the detailed knowledge of how a disease develops representing the key that allows researchers to do so. By the end of my studies, I developed a particular interest in the intestinal tract, due its pivotal role for maintaining essential body functions but also for it being one of the body’s the largest immune organs. This coincided with several individuals in my personal environment being diagnosed with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), which then sparked my interest to focus my research on IBD.
2. What are you currently working on and what importance does your work hold for current patients with gastrointestinal issues?
I am looking into ways to improve the response rates of patients with IBD to current medications. These rates are typically poor, and in my opinion a more personalised approach to how we prescribe these medicines could help to tackle this unmet need. During my time as Postdoctoral Researcher in Fiona Powrie’s lab at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, we published findings that showed one reason for the low response rates to current medications is that each individual can present with a specific inflammatory process driving disease – and not all of these processes can be blocked by just one medicine, but rather will require the right therapy at the right time, to find out more see the article in nature medicine, IL-1-driven stromal-neutrophil interactions define a subset of patients with inflammatory bowel disease that does not respond to therapies.
I am now very pleased to be hosted by Professor Paul Klenerman and the TGU to build on these findings and to continue on the path to translate research into benefit for patients and health carers.
In one project supported by the Lee Placito Medical Fund, we are testing how the information found on microscopic images of samples collected during routine endoscopy of patients with UC can help to precision target biologic medications. In a second Crohn’s and Colitis UK-funded project, we will soon assess the suitability and feasibility of a complementary approach, the molecular phenotyping of patients. For all these projects, we are working closely with charities, the public and individuals affected by these conditions from the very start of the research. Please see Crohn's & Colitis UK
3. What do you enjoy most about scientific research?
What is most remarkable to me about scientific research is being exposed to an incredible breadth of perspectives on a wide range of unsolved problems. This comes with the benefit of being able to interact with diverse personalities, an exchange that challenges oneself in the most positive sense on a daily basis. I also do believe that scientific research still offers some space for idealism which we might be lacking in some other parts of society.
4. What’s the best part of being an Oxford University TGU member?
As well as all of the above reasons, I enjoy scientific research in the TGU, where researchers, patients, health care staff and clinical practice uniquely combine in the same unit. I think this is what makes the TGU one of the few unique places worldwide for conducting truly translational research.