What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD? I was living in Brussels where I worked as a Programme and Project Manager at a health insurance company. This mainly involved working on organisational, development projects and programmes.
What interested you about working with QUOD? I have always looked for roles in impactful organisations. When I found the QUOD job posting, I was immediately convinced: supporting research to improve transplantations and help more patients is a magnificent goal to participate in.
What does your role in QUOD involve? My main focus is to have an overview of all projects and make sure that they run within time, budget and scope. Also, I will be helping our scientists to set up new, impactful projects and commercial partnerships.
Lightning round time:
If you were stuck on an island what three things would you bring?
A survival kit: there is no fun on an island if you are not able to survive.
Seeds to plant: growing vegetables and fruit will provide food and is also a good way to spend time.
A pair of good hiking boots: to explore the island.
Where’s your favourite place? At home in my little vineyard back in Belgium, where I am learning to grow grapes and make my own wine.
Finally, what kinds of enquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you?
For this edition of the QUOD newsletter, the spotlight shone on Professor Lorna Marson. I was delighted to speak with the new Associate Medical Director for Research and Development at NHSBT about her distinguished career.
Lorna started her medical career as an undergraduate student at St Thomas’ Hospital, London which was then a much smaller medical school with an annual intake of only 90 students. Although she enjoyed all aspects of her studies, it was during her time in London when there were very few female surgeons, that her interest in surgery piqued. Unfazed, she was even more determined to pursue a career in surgery, training in local district general hospitals and thriving. She spoke fondly of the sense of community she felt during her time working with the wider team, including a year of training in Dumfries.
However, it was working in the national transplant centres in London and Edinburgh that afforded more opportunities for Lorna to be involved in transplant research and train as an academic. When asked what pearls of wisdom she would pass on to early career researchers, she advised to be open to new opportunities outside your comfort zone and try not to have tunnel-vision in view of where you expect your career to go.
Although at first, a self-proclaimed “reluctant researcher”, Lorna enjoyed taking time out of her clinical work to pursue her research interests. She remarked how she had wanted to dedicate time to aligning with scientists to establish a high-quality and unique research programme, at the same time as being an excellent clinician for the benefit of her patients. Lorna spoke highly of the mentorship, welcome and guidance she was given by Professor Sir John Savill, Professor Jeremy Hughes, and Professor Sir Peter Morris, from learning about technically challenging renal transplant models to the role of macrophages in early kidney injury. We discussed their impact and support during the formative and later stages of her research career, and the honour she felt in collaborating with them.
In addition to her own research commitments, Lorna has been intrinsically involved with QUOD, working closely with Professor Rutger Ploeg. She spoke of the very challenging but immensely rewarding experience of being involved in the early development of the biobank in Scotland, and that the next stage is to optimise its benefits, promote accessibility and ensure that the governance remains robust. The aim is to set the precedence of the UK as an exciting place to undertake research in transplantation for industry and academia, aligning the transplant timeline with recipient data to get a more complete picture of what happens from donation onwards. Lorna views her new role as an exciting prospect, including managing the relationship between QUOD and NHSBT, providing an academic oversight for the OTDT clinical trials unit, as well as reviewing and meeting the OTDT 2030 strategy. This includes addressing health inequalities in organ donation and transplantation and ensuring that there are effective and relevant patient outcome and experience measures in place.
Aside from her clinical and academic roles, Lorna is the College Dean of Admissions for Edinburgh Medical School. As a result, she plays an integral role in shaping undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral experiences at the University. As the school’s lead for Diversity and Respect, Lorna hopes to broaden the socio-economic and ethnic landscape of the student population in this historic institution. She spoke earnestly about the need for the medical workforce to reflect the community they serve, to providing an open atmosphere where students facing financial hardship or challenging times can ask for help, and that there is a support network in place to assist. It is critical to support parents of young children in the profession, having received such support when her own children were very young: “By providing this support for a small number of years, they will then deliver”. Looking to the future, Lorna wishes to address the urgent disparity in gender within surgery, and provide support to ensure that students succeed and flourish in their career endeavours.
To add to her accolades, Lorna was elected as the first female President of the British Transplantation Society (BTS) in 2017, which she said was a huge honour. The society celebrated its 50th anniversary at the 2021 congress which Lorna attended in Belfast. She spoke warmly of the experience, returning to face-to-face interactions, stating that it was a “brilliant reminder of why we work as hard as we do to transform transplantation”. She also spoke of her delight that students and trainees had a platform to present and share their research, with some contending for medals. Lorna hoped going forward that more scientists will be encouraged to attend the society conferences and continue to enrich the discussions and collective sharing of ideas between researchers and clinicians, all ultimately to benefit patients in the future. Furthermore, Lorna remarked that the 50th anniversary was a time of reflection and an opportunity to look forward optimistically about the future of transplantation, in the hands of the next generation of scientists and clinicians: “[We need to] make sure that they are involved in the strategic progression of the field and nurture the future leaders of the profession”.
A keen open water swimmer and cyclist, Lorna can also often be found running with her 18-month-old Labrador in tow around the rural outskirts of Edinburgh. Her passion for the outdoors and exercise in general, she says, is essential for her mental health and wellbeing. A budding triathlete, Lorna looks forward to her next challenge…an even bigger triathlon!
Professor Lorna Marson was interviewed by Hannah McGivern
We are excited to announce that the annual QUOD Symposium is back and will be held on Wednesday 9th November 2022 at Jesmond Dene House in-person, in Newcastle.
We look forward to having the opportunity to meet with the extended QUOD family based at regional centres and donor hospitals across the UK, as well as with researchers from academia and industry, and our NHSBT colleagues. Please see below for our save the date poster and latest programme.
If you are interested in joining us, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
After a year of virtual meetings and conferences, this year the British Transplantation Society (BTS) congress was again held in person at the ICC Belfast. The conference provided a great opportunity for clinicians and researchers to meet up and share the latest about their research and developments on their projects. Over the 3 days of the conference including 31 sessions, more than 100 talks were presented.
Our team from the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) actively participated in the conference with a total 3 presentations and 1 poster. Dr Mohamed Elzawahry and Dr Letizia Lo Faro presented their research work on “Safety and feasibility of oxygenated hypothermic machine perfusion in the preservation of donor organs for pancreas transplantation” and “Normothermic machine perfusion of the liver supports protein translation and mitochondrial function while reducing protein degradation and metabolic imbalance: a proteomics study” in the “Dragon’s Den” and “Medawar medal presentations” sessions, respectively. The poster titled “Evaluation of kidney injury after treatment with CC-4066 during cold storage and assessment during normothermic reperfusion in a porcine ischemia reperfusion injury model” by Ms. Pommelien Meertens (as part of her Research Internship at NDS) was presented during the conference as well. I also had the opportunity to present my own research on “Investigation into the effect of Alpha-1 antitrypsin delivered via different preservation methods on ischemia-reperfusion injury in pig kidneys” as part of the “Science oral presentations” session. I received very interesting feedback on my project and had the great fortune to discuss details and plans with the audience and other attendees.
In addition to the scientific part of the conference, we also had the opportunity to enjoy and come together to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the BTS. Over the course of the Gala Dinner themed “the 70s”, members shared good laughter and created wonderful memories. The conference also provided the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the lifetime of research work of several members of the BTS, including Professor Peter Friend from within our own department. Overall, this year’s BTS congress was a major success and a great sign that in person, scientific gatherings are back again for the better.
What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD? Before joining QUOD, I was a genetics data analyst working at a public body following previous experience as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford.
What interested you about working with QUOD? I have always liked working with data, databases and statistics. Being a data manager and having the opportunity to do research at the same time sounded like a good combination. QUOD’s position is also attractive because here we are working in an important area – organ transplantation. What we do really matters for patients.
What does your role in QUOD involve? My main duties include managing databases for QUOD and OTB (Oxford Transplant Biobank) and their web applications, working with researchers on sample selection and data analysis. I also attend various meetings to provide statistics and advice related to databases and research.
Lightning round time:
If you were stuck on an island what three things would you bring?
a sharp knife for hunting and cooking;
a box of matches to make fire;
a tent to live in.
Where’s your favourite place? Port Meadow, Oxford which is huge, a good place for running or just wandering.
Finally, what kinds of enquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you?
Please contact me if you would like to know more about the samples we have in QUOD and how they could be used for your research. The best way to reach me is by my email email@example.com.
For this edition of the QUOD newsletter, the spotlight shone on Dr Bill Scott who is the Scientific Director of Transplantation and Regenerative Medicine at Newcastle University, liaising with colleagues in all transplant specialities, orchestrating the daily running of the labs with a focus on moving basic and translational research into clinical practice. Bill is a key member of the QUOD hub in Newcastle, formed during the MRC funded expansion of QUOD to include whole organs made available for research. This important steppingstone will form the basis of many more research projects and enable access to bespoke samples to help answer burgeoning questions posed by the wider transplant community.
Bill has spoken of his interest in improving access to tissue for research purposes, which has led to his collaboration with QUOD. He commented on how QUOD is uniquely positioned to address fundamental questions by facilitating access to blood, urine and tissue samples which are intrinsically linked to details of the donor. When asked what he thought was the biggest hurdle facing sample accessibility, he highlighted the importance of effective communication between all parties concerning consent and regulation at the start of the retrieval process. “As we leverage new techniques” he said, “we need to consider how we communicate this [information] to a lay audience”.
Bill has many more strings to his bow, which I was delighted to discuss with him. Originally hailing from the United States, Bill recalls his aptitude for maths at an early age, entering maths competitions when at school. He later undertook an undergraduate course in engineering at Ivy League University, Cornell, which also included core biology modules in addition to maths and engineering. These early studies underpinned his combined interest in medicine and engineering; after all, an engineer is adept at problem-solving, and throughout his postgraduate and doctoral training in Minneapolis in biomedical engineering, it became evident to him that the fundamentals of engineering could be applied to help solve problems in the clinical sphere. His interest was piqued by organ donation and transplantation research where there were, and still are, a number of issues to tackle, all with the common goal of helping clinicians and improving transplant outcomes for patients.
The NHS relies on companies making reasonably priced and accessible devices to help healthcare professionals deliver expert care to their patients. Bill highlighted the problem that many products are not affordable and are manufactured in the United States with the US reimbursement model, which differs completely from that of the UK and Europe. New devices developed on the back of high-quality research must serve real-world needs as well as make a profit for investors. Sounds like a tall order, right?
With this in mind, Bill took his years of research and learning a whole new vocabulary to approach and pitch to investors, sought to develop a device that could address key issues raised by the transplant community. At present, the demand for organ transplants far exceeds the supply, and current preservation systems rely on static cold storage which cannot be relied upon to keep the donated organ in optimal condition for more than a few hours. Methods that can sustain optimal conditions for prolonged periods of time are too large, complex and expensive. Bill, in collaboration with clinical engineers, software developers and investors, have developed the ScubaTx device designed to be fit for the real-world transplant environment and automate as much of the process as possible, while providing feedback on key events for the surgical team who can focus their attention on the transplant procedure rather than setting up a machine. Funds have been raised through Innovate UK and currently a number of prototypes are going to stakeholders across the world, with the hope that one day in the near future the device will be suitable for commercialisation.
Over the years, Bill has also successfully acquired financial backing for several start-ups and research projects. When asked what advice he would give to early career researchers and future entrepreneurs looking to write their own grant proposals, he emphasised the need to just put yourself out there. “You miss out on 100% of opportunities you don’t try for, [and] it takes 100 times of repeating the same task to get good at something” he said. Essentially, persistence and resilience are key. Bill also advised to “not limit yourself to one funder” and take time to understand what motivates the funder, as they will each want something different. He continues by describing the continual evolution of a grant proposal, adapting to the feedback received and the importance of finding the right investors and stakeholders who share your vision.
Bill can often be found in front of an audience of another kind as he leads the MRes Transplantation course as a Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor. He says it is a very rewarding experience as he gets the opportunity to inform, inspire and foster greater progress and interest in the field in the next generation of nurses, healthcare professionals and researchers, all of whom form the backbone of the NHS. For Bill personally, teaching also gives him the chance to re-connect with his specialist field, to see the bigger picture and highlight problems that face the current generation.
When asked what piece of advice he would give to his students and mentees, he highlighted the importance of forming a narrative, regardless of whether you are creating a poster, presentation or producing written work like a grant proposal or manuscript, “if you do not tell a story, then you are simply stringing together a series of facts on the screen or on paper, expecting others to read the situation exactly as you do”.
When Bill is not teaching, presenting or working in the lab, he enjoys hikes in the countryside with his dogs and fishing, where he can embrace the tranquillity and explore the natural beauty of Northumberland.
We currently have two exciting roles available to join our growing team…
Transplant Research Project Manager
Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, Oxford Transplant Centre, Churchill Hospital, Headington, Oxford.
Location: Oxford Transplant Centre, Churchill Hospital Site – Partial remote working is negotiableContract type: Fixed termHours: Full-time
About the role: The Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences seeks a proactive project manager to support the Professor of Transplant Biology, Rutger J Ploeg in the financial management, administration and development of his research project portfolio in the field of transplantation.
This role is a purely administrative role and does not require a scientific background. This post’s primary focus is on the co-ordination of deliverables and financial management of research projects and their funding from a range of sources including public and commercial funders. The post holder will provide Professor Ploeg and his Transplant Research Group with the oversight of project status, timeline and finances. In addition, they will help to identify funding from a range of existing sources to meet the activity and salary requirements for long and short-term projects. The post holder will support members of the Transplant Research Group with the financial aspects of their grant applications and awarded projects, and will help identify additional sources of funding for the Group. The post holder will manage the financial aspects of the existing QUOD Biobank programme and support new avenues of whole organ research by the QUOD Team.
You will be based at the Oxford Transplant Centre but partial remote working is negotiable. Tasks will include expenditure allocation, budget monitoring, coordination of grant applications and research contracts, yearly expenditure and progress reports to funders, organisation and taking minutes of research consortium meetings, project team meetings and following up on action points. You will liaise with NDS, Research Accounts, the Joint Research Office as well as Research Services for the development of new grants and contracts as well as day-to-day administration of expenses and orders.
About you: The successful candidate will be educated to degree level. Previous experience of financial planning and reporting, administration and project management, and demonstrable ability to confidently and effectively interact with a wide variety of stakeholders in multiple locations over a range of channels is essential for this role. Experience in medical sciences would be an asset. You will have excellent oral and written communication skills, with close attention to detail and the ability to adapt to a flexible working pattern, prioritise changing workloads, and meet tight deadlines. A proactive and professional attitude is a must. You will be computer literate and have experience of word processing, spreadsheets, databases, presentation software, and e-mails.
This full-time post is available immediately and is fixed-term until 30 June 2023 in the first instance, with the opportunity for an extension dependant on funding.
Application Process: Please quote reference NDSA853 on all correspondence. Only applications received before noon 20 October 2022 can be considered. For full details please visit Job Details (corehr.com)
Governance and Quality Manager QUANTUM Biobank
Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, John Radcliffe Hospital and Churchill Hospital, Headington, Oxford
Location: John Radcliffe and Churchill Hospitals (opportunity for occasional remote working).Contract type: Fixed term for 2 years in the first instance Hours: Full-time.
About the role: We are looking for a Governance and Quality Manager to join the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, QUANTUM and QUOD Biobank teams, based at the John Radcliffe and Churchill Hospitals.
You will be part of the new UK Biobank, QUANTUM (QUAlity biobanking iNvesTigating Urological Malignancies). The biobank will serve as a sample-collection vehicle for our several nationally-funded collaborative trials (e.g. TRANSLATE, PART, PROMOTE, FINESSE) as well as translational research studies (e.g. SPACE, PROMOTE).
The postholder will need to work closely with the Chief Investigators and other senior biobank staff to establish a governance framework. This will include the coordination of the QUANTUM Management Committee, which incorporates biobank governance and tissue access committee, alongside quality management processes and documentation. Quality Management will include the management of records and controlled documents using a Quality Management System (QMS) but also the day to day management of quality issues, liaising with stakeholders to develop customer/stakeholder defined quality assurance, problem resolution and implementing change in relation to standard operating procedures and documentation. Once firmly established, the postholder will provide oversight and management of the QUANTUM QMS. This will involve managing audits and developing practices to fit with best practice guidelines.
This role will also expand the Quality Assurance team for the Quality in Organ Donation (QUOD) programme (www.quod.org.uk) and the Oxford Transplant Biobank (OTB). The postholder will help ensure that the QUOD and OTB Research Tissue Banks adhere to their regulatory and ethical requirements for existing and future projects. The role forms an integral part of the quality management process, by maintaining quality systems, which will include undertaking risk assessments and audits to ensure good governance is in place. The postholder will anticipate when SOPs should be introduced or updated, and ensure the provision of appropriate training. The role supports the QUOD and OTB Manager in ensuring that both Tissue Banks’ ethical approval is up-to-date and fit-for-purpose.
About you: The successful candidate will be educated to degree level and will have extensive experience working in an academic or clinical research environment. You will have excellent organisational and communication skills, and proven understanding of key legislation surrounding biobanks, clinical trials, ethically approved research studies and handling sensitive and confidential data, this will include the Human Tissue Act (HTA), Good Clinical Practice (GCP) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The post holder will also assist with maintaining and developing (writing and reviewing) SOPs for key aspects of the biobank (consent, sample access, import and export of samples, data security, storage and monitoring) to standardise such processes where possible. Understanding the way in which governance structures have moved from one study (ProMPT) to a biobank (QUANTUM) will be one of the key elements of succeeding in this role. This full-time post is available immediately and is fixed-term for 2 years months in the first instance. We would be willing to consider applications for part-time hours.
Application Process: Please quote reference NDSA860 on all correspondence. Only applications received before noon Thursday 20 October 2022 can be considered. For full details please visit Job Details (corehr.com)
In September, QUOD welcomed our new Transplant Research Project Manager – Emma Greig. Emma has agreed to share a bit more about herself and her role at QUOD.
What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD? I was living in Toronto working as a Project Manager at an advertising agency.
What interested you about working with QUOD? I started working in advertising shortly after graduating from university. After working in advertising for a few years I wanted to eventually transition to a role that was more impactful. When I was planning my move to the UK I found the QUOD job posting and it seemed like the perfect fit!
What does your role in QUOD involve? The main focus of my role is to make sure projects finish on time, in scope, and within budget. I spent the first few months of my role organizing the QUOD finances, but now I am focusing on setting up commercial projects and helping organize the logistics of the ADMIRE project that will be using QUOD samples.
Lightning round time:
If you were stuck on an island what three things would you bring?
Water, shelter, a survival kit. I may have watched a season or two of Survivor during the lockdown and am thinking about what they usually need!
Where’s your favourite place? Toronto
What was your primary COVID-19 lockdown survival method? I started crocheting during the lockdown and just made my first blanket.
Finally, what kinds of enquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you? Anything related to project management or crocheting. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The UKCRC Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre awarded QUOD first place in the UK Biobank of the Year.
The UK Biobanking Showcase is the UK’s leading event for those who work in biobanking and human tissue research and took place online over three days with interesting talks and presentations from biobanks all over the UK.
Please see below some extracts from the Judging Panel’s comments:
‘… the Biobank provides a highly specialist resource which is of immense value to the organ donation field. Despite being so specialised, … QUOD nevertheless responded flexibly during the pandemic to participate in the RECOVERY trial and in the development of the NHSBT Oxford COVID BioArchive (COBA). … The panel particularly commended the quality and range of the Biobank’s outreach and engagement activities which unusually included providing work experience to college students during the pandemic.’
Professor Ploeg, Director of QUOD (Quality in Organ Donation) and Dr Sarah Cross National Operational Coordinator of QUOD are delighted with this wonderful achievement: ‘This award is an important milestone in our pursuit to increase research in donation and transplantation, increasing organ utilisation and providing more and better organs for our patients’. They congratulate the whole QUOD team including the Specialist Nurses in Organ Donation and NORS teams based in the 61 NHS partner trusts across the UK, as well as the core team in Oxford, the Directors of NHS Blood and Transplant, the Medical Research Council and our academic collaborators without whom none of this would have been possible.
With funding from Kidney Research UK, a team of researchers from the University of Oxford, the University of Nottingham and University College London will develop ways to assess donor kidneys and predict how well they will work after transplant.
Having a kidney transplant is the best treatment for kidney failure, but the demand for donated kidneys is high.
To save more lives, doctors are now accepting kidneys from older or higher risk donors. These kidneys may also work less well after transplantation. This can have devastating effects, causing patients once recovering from transplantation to also go back on to dialysis, and wait for another transplant.
Right now, doctors cannot accurately assess donor kidneys. This makes it difficult to predict how well a transplant will work and how long a kidney will last after it has been transplanted.
Thanks to Kidney Research UK’s grant award of £237,626, (in partnership with the Stoneygate Trust), the ADMIRE study ‘Assessing Donor kidneys and Monitoring Transplant Recipients’ aims to address this clinical challenge.
Dr Maria Kaisar and her team will utilise the Oxford Transplant Biobank (OTB) and the Quality in Organ Donation (QUOD) biobank to look for marker proteins in the donors’ blood samples. They use these samples to develop a mathematical model to predict how well donor kidneys will work after transplantation. The successful model would allow doctors to accurately assess kidneys and only transplant those that will function well. It could also identify suitable kidneys previously deemed too high risk to transplant.
With Professors Sue Francis and David Long from the University of Nottingham and University College London, the NDS team will use the QUOD X platform to also develop a monitoring strategy. MRI scanning methods will be performed on both the donor organ before it is transplanted, and later on after transplantation. This will allow us to monitor how well the transplanted organ is functioning.
“I am absolutely delighted that our study received this funding award by Kidney Research UK in partnership with The Stoneygate Trust,” said Maria. “This funding will enable us to bring scientific and clinical expertise together in collaboration, to develop novel non-invasive methods to better assess donor kidneys and, predict how well a transplant will work in the recipient. We also envisage that our planned scientific work will offer many opportunities to our early career scientists, to further develop their skills and research expertise in studying kidney disease. “