Life Sciences

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Research impact

Life sciences research has an impact on a variety of areas of human health, including improved health and medical treatment for individuals and populations, on clinical practice, on public policy and on the environment in which we live.


This page includes examples of:

QMUL life sciences researchers engage with government policy makers, non-governmental organisations, industry, the NHS and patients.

Through funding from the National Institute for Health Research and Department of Health, in particular, we have built a strong portfolio of studies that are researching questions emerging from clinical practice, the results of which have immediate and direct application to local patients.

The research also sheds light on how we can find ways to help colleagues in secondary and tertiary care to improve service delivery and organisation for patients. Examples include improving services for disadvantaged and/or ethnic minority groups with HIV, viral hepatitis and asthma, mental health problems and cardiovascular conditions.

How our research has made a difference

Recent examples of QMUL research projects that have had an impact include:

  • Research by Professor Peter Hajek and his team has changed clinical practice in relation to smoking therapies, leading to the NHS smoking cessation programme that treats over 800,000 smokers a year.
  • Research by Professor Karim Brohi and his team into early Acute Traumatic Coagulopathy, a syndrome of abnormal clotting after trauma, led to a new understanding of why patients bleed to death after severe injury and a fundamental change to resuscitation strategies, which has seen a 250-300% improved survival rate. The British army in Iraq and Afghanistan was an early adopter of the new techniques.
  • X-Ray microtomography of bone repair within a bone graft substitute
    X-Ray microtomography of bone repair within a bone graft substitute
    Pioneering biomaterials research at QMUL and the technological transfer of these, via the QMUL spin-out company ApaTech™, has led to the development of a range of clinically available, cost-effective synthetic bone graft (SBG) products, which safely and effectively stimulate rapid bone healing through a combination of having an open, interconnected porous structure similar to that of natural, spongy bone (known as “cancellous” bone) and a precise control of the graft chemistry. These synthetic bone grafts impact positively on health and welfare by reducing the need for autograft - bone usually taken from the patient’s own pelvis - so reducing complications associated with the donor site, such as pain, morbidity and greater infection risks, in addition to improving recovery rates in highly challenging applications such as posterior lumbar fusion spinal surgery.
    To date, ApaTech™ products have been used to treat 500,000 patients in over 30 countries. In 2010, ApaTech™ had 4% of the US SBG market, a $20 million annual turnover, employed 160 people in nine countries, and was sold to Baxter International for £220 million. By 2012, ApaTech™ products had attained a 10% share of the global SBG market estimated to be worth around $510 million.
    This research was initially led by Professor William Bonfield and Professor Serena Best (both at QMUL until 1999) then subsequently by Dr Karin Hing, who pioneered a way to control the porous structure of SBGs to more closely mimic the multi-level pore structure (which ranges from pores that can be measured in millimetres to thousandths of millimetres) found in natural, cancellous bone. Recent work by Dr Hing and colleagues has led to the development of SBG materials that encourage stem cells to differentiate into bone forming cells facilitating faster, more reliable bone regeneration, particularly important in the treatment of patients with impaired bone biology, multi-level spinal fusions or complicated trauma injuries. This research resulted in the recent UK launch of Inductigraft™ by Baxter International in 2013, the first commercially available SBG with proven ability to induce bone cell development from stem cells.
  • Dr Michael Cattell and his team have developed Lumineers®: low-wear, high-strength glass ceramic tooth veneers. With over three million tooth restorations in 46 countries, they are the most patient-requested thin veneers in dentistry.
  • Professor Alan Hildrew and his group have carried out research that supports and informs the UK Acid Water Monitoring Network, which was established by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)  to provide information about the effects of changes in emissions policy on freshwater ecosystems.

These and many other initiatives have placed QMUL among the world’s leading institutions for research that has the potential to improve people’s lives.

Research we expect to make an impact in the future

The Life Sciences Initiative is capitalising on our existing research and future projects will continue to transform the health agenda. Examples of research that we expect to make an impact in the future include:

  • Kamrul Islam, a research assistant with the East London Genes and Health study
    Kamrul Islam, a research assistant with the East London Genes and Health study
    East London Genes & Health: this is one of the world’s largest community-based genetics studies, aiming to improve health among people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage in East London by analysing the genes and health of 100,000 local people. Funded by the Wellcome Trust and MRC and led by QMUL's Professor Richard Trembath, Vice-Principal for Health, and Professor David van Heel, Professor of Genetics, the project will be investigating the interaction between genes and environmental factors and the role this plays in causing disease. The findings will contribute to improving prevention and treatment of a number of medical conditions particularly affecting the local communities, such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • Mental health: our Unit for Social and Community Psychiatry is the only World Health Organisation (WHO) centre in the world dedicated to improving and developing mental health services. As Director of the Centre, Professor Stefan Priebe has contributed to the WHO European Mental Health Action Plan, and we expect the Unit to play a key role in the future development of mental health care, in the local area and internationally.
  • Public health: Professor Peter Congdon’s research in quantitative geography and health statistics includes the investigation of population health, primary care provision and health inequality in north-east London. This research is carried out in collaboration with local public health departments and is using information on a variety of health indicators such as death rates, hospital admission rates and population prevalence to help policy makers assess the health needs of the local population. The School of Geography’s other priorities include work with Homerton University Hospital and GP practices to raise awareness of breast cancer and work with the Living Wage Foundation. Researchers from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Charterhouse Square are collaborating with colleagues at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on the ORiEL Project, which is investigating the effects of the regeneration surrounding the 2012 Olympic Games on the health and well-being of young people and their parents in East London. By conducting questionnaire surveys with young people and in-depth interviews with parents and families over a period of three years, the researchers hope to understand the impact of urban regeneration on the social determinants of health, health behaviours, and health outcomes.
  • Dentistry: we are developing new dental porcelains, and trialling a new toothpaste and mouthwash for treating hypersensitivity and repairing decay, which is on sale in Boots and various supermarkets. In anticipation of future commercially viable products, GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson have recently taken out licencing options on fluoride containing bioactive glasses, which, when they come into contact with saliva and water, release protective calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions faster than similar bioglasses.
  • Biological psychology: Dr Caroline Brennan is developing zebrafish as a model organism for understanding the neurogenetics of behaviour, especially the propensity to drug addiction. This work is in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer and we expect biological psychology to play a pivotal role in driving public policy on decision-making and health and well-being in the modern, urban environment. Dr Magda Osman is examining the decision-making capabilities of the elderly and clinical patients, for example those with Parkinson’s disease. This research aligns with the Government initiative for innovative, practical approaches towards a more integrated health and care system, aiming to provide a set of simple assessment tools to be used by carers to better evaluate and coordinate with support services.
  • Chemistry: our computational chemists are modelling drug-target interactions and exploiting collaborations with structural biologists from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (SBCS). Professor Marina Resmini and her team have multiple funding from the European Commission to develop nanoparticles for efficient and safe drug delivery. They have a strong collaboration with Professor David Kelsell to develop nanoparticles for dermal drug delivery, and a number of active collaborations with industrial partners, such as GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi. In addition, they are collaborating with Dr Brennan to use zebrafish as model organisms in which to test the pharmacological toxicity of novel nanomaterials that could have clinical applications in the future.
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