2020 CVS News Highlights
Despite the tremendous challenges to both work and personal lives in 2020, the Centre for Cardiovascular Science adapted to the changing times and achieved many successes throughout the year.
David Webb - Commander of the British Empire (CBE)
Professor David Webb was recognised with a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for services to clinical pharmacology research and education, awarded in the Queen’s birthday honours.
This award recognised Professor Webb’s long standing and hugely impactful work on medicine safety and efficacy and medicines regulation. An announcement was made by the British Pharmacological Society, a society that David has influenced substantially.
"I am delighted and honoured that my work in pharmacology has been recognised by the award of a CBE. I have had the pleasure of working with some outstanding colleagues in academia, industry and the health service over the years, and I have really enjoyed the breadth of my work - in supporting my patients, developing drugs for heart disease and blood pressure, ensuring that medicines and medical devices are safe and effective, and promoting medical education. I have also had the opportunity to support the British Pharmacological Society, in many roles including President, and to work with the General Medical Council to ensure that the undergraduate medical syllabus adequately covers prescribing skills, and with the Medical Schools Council to develop an examination (The Prescribing Safety Assessment), designed to protect patient safety by assessing safe prescribing, which all new medical graduates (over 8000 each year) have to pass."
Michael Eddleston - Chancellor's Award for Impact
Professor Michael Eddleston was awarded an Impact Chancellor's Award. Michael's important work aims to reduce deaths from pesticide and self-poisoning in rural Asia.
Professor Michael Eddleston is recognised for the impact of his clinical and public health research at the interface of health and agriculture with the aim of drawing attention to, and preventing, pesticide and self-poisoning suicides in rural Asia - the cause of 14 million deaths over the last 60 years. His advocacy has resulted in the research findings being incorporated into practice across Asia and changing the policies of both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Professor Eddleston has built up a multi-disciplinary collaboration of Sri Lankan and international researchers, and as a result tens of thousands of people are alive today who would otherwise have died. Professor Eddleston holds the Personal Chair in Clinical Toxicology based at the Centre for Cardiovascular Science.
Dawn Livingstone - EUSA Teaching Award
Dr Dawn Livingstone was awarded the EUSA Kendell Award for Teaching in Medicine, with special commendation for her leadership and teaching in Junior and Senior Honours Pharmacology.
The Students' Association's Teaching Awards recognises the teachers, personal tutors, students who tutor, research supervisors, and support staff who make positive impact on students' learning experiences at the University of Edinburgh. The Kendell Award for Teaching in Medicine recognises the outstanding teachers in the Edinburgh Medical School, across all three Deaneries. These teachers are recognised as having had a huge positive impact on their students.
"It's a delight and a privilege to win the Kendell Award for Teaching in Medicine. Being nominated for a EUSA Teaching Award is always something a bit special, because these nominations come direct from our students."
Students nominated Dr Livingstone for being a fantastic lecturer, creating a friendly and welcoming learning environment, bringing humour into her lessons, and offering unending support to her students.
Society for Endocrinology - 2020 Journal Award Winners
Mark Nixon and Natalie Homer won the 2020 Society for Endocrinology best paper award for the article “Androgens modulate glucocorticoid receptor activity in adipose tissue and liver” which was published in Journal of Endocrinology.
This prize is awarded annually at SfE BES and aims to recognise excellence in endocrine research and practice and a contribution to the wider biomedical and biological sciences field. Their paper was marked by a panel on the basis of originality, scientific content, presentation and contribution to the field.
High Impact Paper - Natalie Jones
Natalie Jones’ BHF-funded PhD study with Professor Matt Bailey, “Endothelin-1 mediates the systemic and renal hemodynamic effects of GPR81 activation” was selected by the editors of Hypertension as a High Impact Paper for Summer 2020 in the category of Basic Science.
Michelle Williams - Board of Directors for SCCT
Michelle Williams was elected onto the Board of Directors of the Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography (SCCT).
- Stress during pregnancy may influence baby brain development
- Pete Aldiss awarded TENOVUS funding to study ‘lean genes’ and obesity
- CVS scientists shift to COVID-19 cardiovascular research
- New research highlights blood clot dangers of COVID-19
- Abdominal fat tissue could prevent sepsis
- Jim Jefferies kicks off heart disease trial
- Mouse cell research offers hope for diabetes treatment
On Thursday 18 June 2020, the Centre for Cardiovascular Science hosted a well-attended virtual CVS Symposium with a rich blend of presentations relating to the Centre's cardiovascular research and public engagement activity, concluded with an excellent discussion exploring immunometabolic crosstalk in inflammation by Keynote speaker Professor Trian Chavakis.
Symposium Awards were presented to recognise exemplary communication and engagement work at CVS, through both the 3-minute thesis competition and 2020 public engagement prize.
CVS 2020 3-minute research competition winner: Kate Ross Stewart (Runners-up: Francesca Vacante and Cara Brown)
- CVS 2020 Public Engagement Award recipients: PhD student group: Hannah Costello, Manolis Solomonidis, Ben Thomas, Olivia Matthews, Ailsa Ralph, Ciara McDonnell, Sarah Finnie, Natalie Jones, Kathleen Scullion, Adrienne Assmus, Oliver Teenan, Holly Woodward, Finn Bruton, Tanguy Blehaut, Aryan Baghbadrani, Rebecca Wafer, Lisa Ivatt, Rachel Bell, Clare Macleod, and Sophie Walke
On 3 February 2020, the Metabolism, Obesity and Diabetes Theme at the Centre for Cardiovascular Science hosted the first inaugural Edinburgh Diabetes Day at the Queens Medical Research Institute, Edinburgh. This day brought together the aligned strengths of the diabetes research groups in Edinburgh under the banner of the Centre for Cardiovascular Science, supported by the REA3 award. The event was a celebration of the growing network of excellence in diabetes research that includes expertise in fundamental science, clinical, epidemiological, genetic, translational/medicines discovery, e-health and policy domains.
The event hosted a number of high-profile speakers including Elizabeth Roberson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK; Professor Andrew Morris, Vice Principal Data Science; Professor Jonathan Seckl, Vice Principal Planning, Resources and Research Policy; and cross-cutting REA3 data science leader and Chair of Cardiology, Professor Nick Mills.
During the global COVID-19 pandemic, many CVS scientists shifted the focus of their research to coronavirus-related topics.
- Professor Rebecca Reynolds was awarded an ISSF grant, together with colleagues in the Centre for Reproductive Health for the project 'Covid-19 and Pregnancy: A biorepository for immediate and longer term investigation of mechanisms of transmission, adverse outcomes and treatment responses.'
- Professor Rebecca Reynolds was awarded SFC-GCRF Covid-19 funds for the project 'Developing a rapid understanding of the impact of Covid-19 on maternity services and pregnant women’s health in Malawi.'
- Professor Michael Eddleston began a SFC-GCRF Covid-19 project: Near-patient GC-IMS device (BreathSpec) to study breath of ≥200 patients presenting to National Hospital-Kandy, Sri Lanka for diagnosis of Covid-19 lung disease.
- The COVID BreathSpec project aims to determine whether a technique to analyse gas molecules in patients' breath can help detect signatures of Covid-19 pneumonia. There are two 'sister' BreathSpec studies going on: one in Edinburgh which has started already and one in Kandy, Sri Lanka, which will begin this month
As experts in cardiovascular science, many CVS researchers were also publicly consulted by the media about the detrimental health effects of COVID-19.
- Dr Mark Miller was quoted as an air pollution expert in a Guardian article about the link between air quality and Covid-19 deaths. “It is striking that only small differences in [pollution] levels are linked to significantly higher levels of Covid-19,” said Mark Miller.
- Professor Michael Eddleston's toxi-triage study in Edinburgh was referenced in a BBC Wales news piece about trials for a new breath-analysis Covid-19 test.
- Professor Edwin van Beek was quoted in an article in Healthline, commenting on a COVID-19-related pulmonary embolism case. Professor van Beek commented, "COVID-19 affects many organs, mostly through a pathway where we see inflammation of tissues and small blood vessels, known as “thrombo-inflammation.” That leads to clotting-related complications, said van Beek, who has studied COVID-19 and thromboembolic disease."
- Professor van Beek's expert advice was based on a report he co-wrote for the Dutch Ministry of Health about 'Diagnosis, Prevention, and Treatment of Thromboembolic Complications in COVID-19.'
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of steroid enthusiasts met monthly at the Queen’s Medical Research Institute, Edinburgh to talk about steroid research and steroid methodology. Bespoke steroid methods are developed in the Mass Spectrometry Core in CVS - a Core Facility that is part of the Edinburgh Clinical Research Facility - run by Natalie Homer and directed by Ruth Andrew.
Unable to meet face-to-face in April 2020, the group moved their meetings online and formally established the Edinburgh Steroid Forum, opening up the forum to participants from outside the University. The group now reaches a much wider audience and invites external speakers every quarter to give seminars alongside local researchers.
In February 2020, CVS Lab Manager, Neil Johnston, was recognised for his energy-saving efforts, leading the way in lab sustainability by using the Sustainable Campus Fund to purchase more efficient freezer equipment. Neil applied for £10,600 of funding to purchase seven efficient ultra-low temperature (-80°C) freezers and one efficient -20°C freezer, along with other freezer-related energy-saving items.
This accomplishment was highlighted on the University of Edinburgh's Social Responsibility and Sustainability website.
On 17 September 2020, several members of CVS had the pleasure of hosting Sir Keir Starmer, Leader of the Opposition, at the University as part of his first official visit to Scotland.
Sir Keir met with Dr Mark Miller, Professor David Newby, Professor Rebecca Reynolds (and Professors Andrew Baker and Nick Mills, remotely) as well as the Principal of the University to discuss their research.
Topics of discussion included the impact of air pollution on cardiovascular disease, projects investigating the effects of COVID-19 in pregnant women in the UK and Malawi, the impact of the pandemic on the care of patients with heart disease, and also the consequences of the pandemic on medical research funding. The meeting was followed by a short tour of the Clinical Research Facility, where Sir Keir had the opportunity to meet with CRF staff to discuss their experiences of changing roles from research to frontline care during the early stages of the lockdown.
Sir Keir was very engaged in the discussions and showed a clear desire for research findings to be fed into the political process to actively tackle these important issues. Because of the nature of the coronavirus restrictions, the meeting had to be held in private with only a small number of researchers. However, because of the enthusiastic response, we hope to be able to tempt Sir Keir back to the University in the future to be able to show off all the other amazing research within CVS.
Several technical staff have successfully gained professional registration with the Science Council this year. Becoming a Registered Science Technician recognises professional experience, skills and qualifications. It shows not only a high level of competence as a practising scientist, but also a commitment to work to high ethical standards for the public interest of others.
- Dr Takeshi Fujisawa, Senior Scientist and Laboratory Manager at the BHF Cardiovascular Biomarker lab, CVS is now a Chartered Scientist.
- Dr Joanna Simpson, Mass Spectrometry Analyst in the Edinburgh Clinical Research Facility Mass Spectrometry Core in CVS, is now a Chartered Scientist.
- Carlos Alcaide Corral, Preclinical PET Research Technician at CVS, is now a Registered Science Technician.
- Scott Denham, Deputy Manager of the Mass Spectrometry Core, is now a Chartered Scientist.
Dr Takeshi Fujisawa wrote a short blog piece on his reasons and motivations for pursuing professional registration.
Several researchers at the Centre for Cardiovascular Science successfully received research fellowships during 2020.
- Peter Gallacher was awarded a BHF PhD Clinical Training Fellowship to study the relationship between kidney function and heart disease.
- Anda Bularga was awarded a Medical Research Council Clinical Fellowship for the project 'Machine learning and the diagnosis of myocardial infarction.'
- Ryan Wereski was awarded a Medical Research Council Clinical Fellowship for the project 'Redefining Unstable Angina with High-sensitivity Cardiac Troponin.'
- Michelle Williams was awarded a BHF Intermediate Clinical Research Fellowship.
- Wendy McDougald was awarded a NC3Rs Fellowship for her project 'Modelling Radiobiology Effects of X-Rays in Small Laboratory Animals to Develop Guidelines for Preclinical Computed Tomography Imaging'.