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Trust awards £270,000 in research grants

Seventeen teams of researchers in the Manchester Biomedical Research Centre are embarking on a raft of exciting new projects after receiving grants totalling £270,000 from the Trust.

The Chairman's Prize award went to Sorrell Burden for her project to improve patient care by identifying and monitoring hospital patients, especially elderly people, who may be at risk of malnutrition. A second award went to Heather Iles-Smith's study of how patients attending A&E with chest pain can be diagnosed and treated most effectively. Each won a Chairman's Research Prize, worth £10,000.

The Biomedical Research Centre is providing opportunities for researchers to put forward ideas for projects which will provide the initial data to enable the research teams to apply for major external grant funding. This scheme has been run successfully in previous years and researchers have been able to secure funding from prestigious funders for example the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council.

This year Trust research grants totalling £108,000 went to project teams led by:

Susan Huson - diagnosis and treatment of learning and behavioural problems in children with neurofibromatosis type one (NF1). This is one of the commonest inherited disorders, affecting one in three thousand people. Patients have birth marks and go on to develop benign skin tumours in their teens.

Luciano Nardo - comparing gene variations to help individualise the ovarian stimulation drug treatments given to women undergoing IVF treatment. The aim is to maximise the number of eggs produced and likelihood of having a baby, while reducing risks.

Declan de Freitas - analysing samples of kidney tissue, plasma and urine from patients to find out whether giving a drug called EPO at the time of a kidney transplant can reduce damage caused by bloodflow being stopped and restarted during transplantation.

Karen Cosgrove - developing a new simple laboratory test to discover the most appropriate of two types of surgery for newborn babies with a disease causing low blood sugar levels (congenital hyperinsulinism in infancy). Currently, the test involves a specialised scan which is only available in Germany.

Daniel Brison - analysing how human embryonic stem cells grow and divide so that the process can be repeated in a lab to create the billions of cells needed to replace damaged tissues in the body. This type of therapy could be used, for example, to treat diabetes by replacing pancreas cells which are failing to produce insulin.

Clare O'Donnell - assessing the potential benefits and long term effects of a new treatment - collagen cross-linking - for keratoconus, a disease in which the cornea weakens leading to eyesight problems.

Emma Barrow - developing a standard pre-screening test to identify patients who may benefit most from genetic analysis to find out if they have inherited a gene that can cause colorectal cancer.

Ian Hampson - evaluating possible indicators to show which cornepatients with a condition causing benign growths in the voice-box and windpipe would benefit from a drug called Cidofovir, and the potential long term safety of the treatment.

A new funding programme, the Trust Research for Patient Benefit scheme, was introduced this year and attracted 22 applicants. This programme is designed to give pump-priming money to research studies which may eventually qualify for national funding, and also to support smaller projects that will directly benefit patients within the Trust but are too small to apply for national awards.

The seven award winners who shared £142,000 were:

Jacqueline Thompson - investigating the role of advanced nurse practitioners in caring for acutely ill patients, and the impact on length of stay, survival rates and patient satisfaction.

Olu Bamgbade - monitoring overweight patients with gynaecological cancer before they have surgery to see if they have problems with inadequate breathing while they sleep. This will improve patient safety, reducing the risk of complications and the length of stay in hospital.

Nicholas Webb - investigating whether saliva tests can replace blood tests as a way of checking that children who have had kidney transplants are receiving the right levels of drugs to prevent rejection of the kidney.

Dougal Atkinson - assessing whether patients treated in intensive care would benefit from a physiotherapy-lead rehabilitation programme to improve their fitness, physical and psychological well-being

Edmond Edi-Osagie - developing a method to predict whether women with a threatened miscarriage in the first three months of pregnancy will actually continue the pregnancy and give birth, or have a complete miscarriage.

Anthony Smith - comparing two surgical techniques for treating women with stress incontinence by inserting tension free vaginal tape (TVT).

Leroy Edozien - identifying and promoting ways for fathers to have greater involvement in supporting their partners through pregnancy, childbirth and the ongoing care of the child.

"Congratulations to all the award winners, who demonstrate the tremendous diversity and innovation of the research work going on across the Trust," said Prof Phil Baker, director of the Biomedical Research Centre. "Whether in the short or longer term, all these research projects are set to make a real difference to the way we diagnose, treat and care for patients."