Spotlight on a QUOD Colleague – Prof Colin Wilson

For this issue of the QUOD newsletter, we caught up with Colin Wilson, Professor of Transplantation and Hepato–Pancreato–Biliary (HPB) Surgery at Newcastle University, NHS-employed Consultant Surgeon, and QUOD Principal Investigator for Newcastle. We spoke to Colin about his academic and clinical roles in transplantation as well as his role within the QUOD programme, including how QUOD is supporting the development of a novel artificial intelligence (AI)-informed assessment of organ quality.

In his role as QUOD Principal Investigator for Newcastle, Colin coordinates specimen collection and onward transport to Oxford. He works with various teams within the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals Trust; the HPB team delivers the QUOD boxes to Oxford and the organ retrieval team underpins this. Colin actively supports the professional development of his team members and encourages their involvement with QUOD.

Colin leads a team at the NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit in Organ Donation and Transplantation, which is a collaboration between Newcastle and Cambridge Universities. The programme involves clinical work and registry analyses to look at ways to improve organ utilisation and provide a scientific basis to develop policies in clinical practice around organ utilisation. The programme delivers work packages, protocols, projects, and trials. One such trial is OrQA (Organ Quality Assessment), which, in collaboration with QUOD, is developing a tool that uses AI-driven analysis of photographic images of organs (taken using devices such as smartphones) to predict their suitability for transplantation by assessing factors such as perfusion quality or percentage steatosis (in liver). Colin recalled his experiences as a child using his first camera, the rigmarole of taking the film to be developed, and the wait to receive the prints, whereas nowadays we all have very high-resolution cameras on our phones that could be applied to transform our approach to medicine. His enthusiasm for the use of technology to advance transplantation outcomes is clear and is just one of his visions for the future of transplantation.

Looking ahead, Colin is keen to support medical students aspiring to become transplant surgeons and is actively involved with the North East Surgical Training Academy (NESTAC) training and mentorship programme, which connects students and trainees with mentors. He considers himself to be extremely lucky to be able to support some of the very talented medical students who are interested in careers in transplant surgery. The pathway to becoming a consultant transplant surgeon begins with a one-year laboratory-based MRes project that is written up in a thesis and presented as oral and poster presentations, which may go on to be presented at conferences and meetings, followed by progression to academic foundation doctor (core training level), academic clinical fellow, and finally clinical lecturer. The programme takes around 10 years from start to finish and Colin is very much looking forward to seeing the first person “come off the conveyor belt”, who he first met as a medical student keen to become a consultant transplant surgeon. He has mentored and supported him throughout his career development and says “it is going to be a really big moment that I’m looking forward to”.

Colin’s own journey to become a transplant surgeon began in 1999, when he was working as a Senior House Officer on a gastroenterology ward with Oliver James, Professor of Hepatology, at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle. It was here that he realised that liver transplantation was key to the successful treatment of many patients with liver ailments. In 2001, he began his PhD, supervised by Prof. David Talbot, on non-heart-beating kidney transplantation, which was novel and challenging work at the time. He then went on to complete his training as a Surgical Registrar from 2006–2012.

While transplant surgery can present challenges, Colin describes his job as rewarding and he is very much future-focused. He is driven by research, developing technology, and building strong teams, and most enjoys creating and delivering novel solutions to overcome (or work around) the hurdles and obstacles facing transplantation. His research aims to identify how to make the best use of the resources available, such as finding ways to overcome non-use of organs from deceased donors and achieve good long-term outcomes for patients, while prioritising safety. He is passionate about supporting the next generation of UK transplant surgeons, who will also face issues for patients with organ failure but may consider newer approaches such as the use of stem cells, AI, or xenotransplantation, which has been approved in the USA but is not currently implemented in the UK.

Colin is unquestionably proud of his hugely dedicated and committed team, comprising particularly talented members, all with broad-ranging areas of expertise and who have won numerous esteemed prizes for their work in transplantation, published cutting-edge research, and are developing “staggering” novel AI work. He mentors his team academically and it is hugely important to him to provide them with an environment in which they can flourish.

Colin describes the QUOD programme as “engaging and outward-looking”, and really values the focus it brings to transplant research. Of particular importance to him are the governance structures in place, in addition to the core biorepository work, as well as the fellowship among like-minded individuals who can build projects on top of the infrastructure that QUOD brings. “It’s not just what QUOD is, but what QUOD has allowed to build around it and the connections that has made it such a valuable resource for UK transplantation.” He believes that the UK is world-leading in many areas of transplantation and QUOD is at the core of that.

In addition to his work in Newcastle, Colin’s job sees him travelling to and presenting at national and international meetings. He will be co-chairing the ESOT Congress 2025 in London, which will focus on sustainability, not just in terms of climate emergency but also workforce and the issues and challenges facing the NHS and European healthcare systems that are struggling to deliver doctors, nurses, and specialists in transplantation.

While his work has taken him to various countries over the years, outside of his busy full-time clinical and academic roles, Colin cherishes time with his family, enjoying activities such as table tennis and travelling together, and is looking forward to a family holiday in the next few weeks.

Interviewed by Jenny Collins.

New QUOD Colleague Questionnaire – Dr Jenny Collins

Dr Jenny Collins – Tissue Handling Technician & Communications Officer

What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD? 

I had two part-time jobs before I started with the QUOD team. I worked in publishing, as a Managing Editor of an endocrinology journal and as a copy editor, and I also worked in a secondary school as a Science Technician.  

What interested you about working with QUOD? 
As well as my background in publishing, I previously worked at the University of Oxford in research. This role appealed as it gives me the opportunity to bring together my lab skills and publishing experience in an organ transplantation setting, which is hugely interesting and will have an enormous positive impact on people’s lives.  

What does your role involve? 

I receive biopsy samples from various tissues (heart, kidney, liver, and ureter) and process them for histology. The formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples are then stored in the QUOD Biobank until they are requested for research. When the samples are required for research, I then cut sections and prepare slides for histological analysis.
I will also be involved in public engagement and communications to help to increase awareness and visibility of QUOD and the incredible impact the biobank can have on transplant research.

Lightning round time: 

If you were stuck on an island what three things would you bring? 

 A radio, a knife, and a great book.

Where’s your favourite place? 
It has to be the Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill in Edinburgh. I grew up in Edinburgh and have a lot of great memories of family walks here, including rolling eggs down Blackford Hill at Easter, which has also become a family tradition with my own children.

Finally, what kinds of enquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you? 

Any questions about tissue processing or communications can be sent to me via email:

Mr Mohamed Elzawahry, Clinical Research Fellow from the Oxford Transplant Centre at the University of Oxford, attended the BTS congress to present his work

The British Transplantation Society (BTS) annual congress was held in Harrogate, UK from 6th to 8th March 2024. Additionally, on Tuesday 5th March, before the official start of the congress, there was a post-graduate masterclass that featured a set of very interesting talks around sustainability and organ offering for transplantation. The congress was focused on sustainability and resource management in transplantation, this was emphasized by the choice of plenary discussions and talks showcased throughout the 3 days.

Our group submitted a number of abstracts on our work using QUOD samples, which investigate multiple transplant related questions, and we were delighted to be invited to present in multiple oral sessions. Dr Sarah Cross presented an update on QUOD and highlighted some of the research studies that the biobank has supported in the Basic Science session ‘Combatting Ageing’ which was co-moderated by Dr Maria Kaisar. Later in the congress, Dr Ioannis Michelakis presented “Donor Cystatin-C association with posttransplant graft function” in the main auditorium in the ‘Clinical Oral Presentations’ session. Dr Sarah Fawaz presented “Circulating TNFα, TNFR1 and TNFR2 Levels in deceased donors negatively associate with posttransplant kidney function” in the ‘Basic & Translational Science Oral Presentations’ session. All of which stimulated very engaging and interesting discussions.

I was honoured to have my abstract, “Oxygenated hypothermic machine perfusion (HMPO2) of the pancreas; comparing a ‘continuous’ and an ‘end-ischaemic’ approach in a porcine circulatory death model,” invited to be presented at the prestigious ‘7 of the best’ session. This was the result of a challenging set of experiments which have now paved the way to ongoing work supported by the QUOD whole organ research initiative.

The congress hosted a delightful drinks reception at the end of the first day and later on a vibrant themed gala dinner celebrating World Book Day. Throughout the event, networking was easy and engaging around the many industry and partner booths, including the QUOD booth staffed by Dr Sarah Cross and Philippa Wren. Overall, the congress was a great success, with excellent talks covering a wide range of multi-disciplinary interesting topics under the guise of transplantation.

QUOD’s British Transplantation Society (BTS) 2024 Overview

QUOD attended the BTS Congress in Harrogate from 6-8 March. The annual congress brought together over 500 attendees and from our exhibition stand we were able to meet and connect with researchers, nurses, surgeons and clinicians, as well as charity and industry representatives and NHSBT staff in a wide variety of roles. Having the opportunity to talk to so many people involved in the QUOD programme from across the UK, as well as researchers who have previously or are currently using QUOD samples was so valuable. We were also able to raise awareness of the bioresource and highlight its value to potential future users.

QUOD had a large presence throughout the congress. In the ‘Diversity in Transplantation’ session, QUOD Steering Committee members Colin Wilson and Isabel Quiroga debated for and against ‘Women in Transplant: There are barriers to progressing in transplant surgery’. In the same session Menna Clatworthy, whose group at the University of Cambridge have received QUOD samples for a few research projects, participated in the panel discussion on ‘Socioeconomic, gender and ethnic diversity’. In the Basic Science session on ‘Combating aging’, QUOD National Operational Coordinator Sarah Cross presented an update on QUOD activity and highlighted some exciting work from several QUOD supported research projects in the area of organ aging.

Research using QUOD samples was presented in a number of presentations during the congress. In the prestigious Medawar Medal session, Stephanie Chong from UCL presented her work ‘Composition of the neutralising antibody response predicts risk of BK virus viraemia in renal transplant recipients’. QUOD has supplied Stephanie with donor serum and spleen samples to help facilitate this project and it was terrific to see the results being showcased in this notable session. Two biomarker studies in kidney transplantation which used QUOD donor plasma samples were presented by researchers from the University of Oxford. In the ‘Clinical Oral presentations’ session Ioannis Michelakis talked about his study ‘Donor Cystatin-C association with post-transplant graft function’. In the ‘Basic and Translational Science Oral presentations’ session Sarah Fawaz presented her work ‘Circulating TNFα, TNFR1 and TNFR2 Levels in deceased donors negatively associate with posttransplant kidney function’. In the ‘Calne Williams Medal presentations’ session, the latest developments from the OrQA project, of which QUOD is a collaborative partner, were presented by Georgious Kourounis from Newcastle University ‘Organ Quality Assessment for Livers (OrQA-L): Real-time visual assessment of steatosis during retrieval using machine learning models’.

As is BTS tradition, the gala dinner for this year’s congress had a theme, and due to it falling on World Book Day, delegates arrived dressed up as fictional characters ranging from Moby Dick, Gandalf and the Hobbit and Red Riding Hood, to a swarm of Where’s Wallys! It was a hugely enjoyable evening that ended with us dancing the night away on a packed dance floor to a particularly good live band.

We would like to thank BTS for its continued support and look forward to the 2025 congress where we can showcase more of our scientific collaborations and impact.