Dr Oliver Brain is a Consultant Gastroenterologist at Nuffield Health The Manor Hospital, Oxford and at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust. He has extensive experience in general gastroenterology and endoscopy, including diagnostic colonoscopy and therapeutic endoscopy. He has a research interest in the pathogenesis and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.
How did you become interested in translational gastroenterology ?
This is mainly through working in, and the opportunities provided by, the TGU. My first real experience of research came via my DPhil into the immunological function of NOD2 – before that I really had no idea of what research entailed and would have described myself as a ‘dyed in the wool’ clinician. At the outset of my DPhil I was based in the WIMM, and then I moved into the TGU laboratories at their inception 12 years ago. Over that time I have come to recognise and increasingly value the importance of translational research, mainly because of the potential direct impact this can have on patient care. I have great mentors and colleagues, and this makes balancing research and clinical medicine possible.
What are you currently working on and what importance does your work hold for current patients with gastrointestinal issues?
My group are mainly focussed on immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI)-colitis and its relationship to idiopathic IBD. ICI-colitis is a growing clinical problem, driven by the expanding indications for cancer immunotherapy. We have made great strides in our initial investigation and description of a key cellular driver of ICI-colitis (accepted for publication Gastroenterology June 2021, available at https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(21)03139-5/fulltext). We were pleased to be able to demonstrate a direct translational application to our basic science data, through repurposing an established UC therapy. We are now focussed on a greater understanding of the mechanisms and microbiology underpinning the risk of ICI-colitis, and delineating the different histological subtypes from an immune perspective.
What do you enjoy most about scientific research?
Working within a team towards a shared goal. The collective thrill when looking at new data, and discussing what it means. Getting our work published is also pleasing.
What’s the best part of being an Oxford University TGU member?
My colleagues and the sense of collective endeavour. It is a rare environment of likeminded clinicians, scientists, and research staff. In addition we have wonderful support from our patients, without which none of our work would be possible.