As Imperial’s flagship clinical academic training programme, the Chain-Florey Fellowships and Lectureships scheme aims to train top clinicians in the biomedical sciences, to produce the next generation of world-class academic clinicians. The scheme gives medical graduates the opportunity to carry out a three-year basic research PhD in a laboratory at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Hammersmith Hospital. The future of translational medicine depends on strong communication and collaboration between clinicians and scientists. Building on the iconic collaboration between Chain, Florey and Fleming that resulted in the first antibiotic – arguably the most important drug discovery to date – this scheme reinforces the bridge between the two worlds by training clinicians to do scientific research, while maintaining their clinical skills. The scheme is jointly funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and NIHR, through the NIHR Imperial BRC.
The clinical support is a unique feature of the scheme: in addition to learning rigorous scientific techniques, the Fellows take part in a clinical mentor programme, ensuring they continue with their clinical practice during their research. For top Fellows who want to pursue a research career, Chain-Florey Lectureships provide the first step into basic science.
Since the scheme was launched in 2010, there have been 17 Fellows, eight of whom have graduated with a PhD and nine are currently in the lab working towards theirs. Research topics range from epigenetics to transplant immunology.
Dr Eleanor Sandhu, Chain-Florey Fellow (2012)
People with kidney failure should have a reduced salt intake, but they tend to have an abnormally high preference for salt. Dr Sandhu is exploring the role of dopamine neurons in salt intake to find out what’s causing the preference for salt and ultimately help these patients. By studying neurons in mice, she has shown that exciting dopamine receptors leads to a reduction in salt intake.
Lung transplant patients are vulnerable to deadly infection with the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus because of the calcineurin inhibitors they need to take to protect the new organ from the immune system. With blood samples from healthy volunteers and patients, Dr Adlakha is analysing how the drugs affect immune cells, including which genes they switch on and off.
Dr Julie Glanville, Chain-Florey Clinical Lecturer (2015)
Transplant patients are also more susceptible to viral infections post-transplant. A new approach to treating viral infections using T cells therapeutically could change the lives of thousands of transplant patients. Dr Julie Glanville is working on chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) engineering, which change the T cell and help it recognise other cells, with even more striking results.
“I think the opportunity to look at things differently, and to stop and think about the practice of medicine are some of the luxuries that the Chain-Florey programme provides.”
– Dr Julie Glanville, Chain-Florey Clinical Lecturer (2015)