Incubating Change

“We are trying to find out how life works” – this phrase sums up two very inspirational days for me last week. As the new Research Centre Coordinator within the Quantitative Biology and Medicine at Exeter network, I recently had the privilege of attending a two day event with 40 of our researchers and support staff.

The ‘Incubator’ event was a two-day workshop to further develop the latest nine seed corn projects that have been funded. Each project has been awarded £10,000 and will investigate ways to improve human health, applying methods such as mathematical modelling, using computational tools, laboratory testing and biomedical imaging.

The projects promote collaborations across different areas of study, and also encourage academics and clinicians to work together, combining in-depth research with practical use that will really benefit patients. In a nutshell, the current funded projects will research:

  • Stress and fertility
  • Links between physical fitness and brain health
  • Developing safer Alzheimer’s drugs
  • Microbe movement
  • Targeting nanoparticle drugs
  • Computer-aided diagnostics
  • Cell communication
  • Using multiple drugs in fungi treatment
  • Hormone profiling

Whilst some of the above topics may not have an immediately obvious link to improving human health, their intended outcomes feed into revolutionary medical advancements, including developing alternatives to antibiotics, stopping the spread of disease, more accurately fighting disease, improving wound and fracture repair, quicker patient diagnosis, reducing the toxicity of drugs i.e. side effects, and ultimately improving people’s quality of life.

The above real-life translations into how our work makes a difference hit home for me at the incubator event, as the research teams were eager to refine their project plans and share their thoughts with fellow researchers. Hearing the words, “this is a world-first” and “we want to get people excited about science” was instantly motivating – our hive of activity was raring to go and I could picture the people we were going to help.

Shadowing our Modelling Advisory Group Public Involvement and Engagement (MAGPIEs) gave further significance to the intended seed corn outcomes. The MAGPIEs are our community engagement group, made up of members of the public, some of whom have lived experience of the health conditions we focus on. The MAGPIEs attended the incubator to give a fresh perspective to the teams on how they might involve the community within their projects – either in a collaborative, consulting or informing capacity. This proved very worthwhile in developing well-rounded projects that considered the potential end-benefactors from start to finish.

From today, each project begins a 6 month life-cycle to cultivate ideas into results. As a new member of the team I am energised at the thought of this journey, and will provide further updates on the projects as they progress. The following words were voiced towards the end of the event: “Make It So”… I think that epitomises the intentions of the group (and also the fictional hero of some)!

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