Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF3)

Previous Successes

ISSF funding has had wide-ranging successful outcomes across a range of research priority areas.

Previous successes

ISSF funding has led to highly successful outcomes across a broad range of activity.

Some Highlights from ISSF1, 2 and 3 (2011-2020)

  • A total of £17.5M was awarded to more than 400 projects, leveraging  £104M of follow on funding, including fellowships.
  • 12 colleagues subsequently gained Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards or Fellowships
  • 15 won Fellowships from other funders
  • One company (Edinzyme) was formed, two major GSK DPAc awards acquired and a pharma collaboration established to develop a malaria vaccine
  • Although relatively inexpensive, many key outreach events were supported, including the >100,000 footfall ‘The Brain is Wider than the Sky’ event and vital contributions to Midlothian Science Festival.
  • Funded Public Engagement (PE) posts and projects have enabled progression from PE at science festivals, open talks, patient events to PE that informs research.  This more strategic approach will aim to reveal, involve and embed PE in research underpinned by the principles of training, evaluation and partnership to build a research culture supportive of PE.
  • Translator in Residence, an ISSF funded post, has secured more than £500K in 2019 in translational funding - see translation below.
  • Provids vital support to ECR tenure track schemes, ECAT and ESAT.

Awards to Early Career Researchers

Preparing for fellowships:

  • Dr Juan Carlos Acosta purchased siRNA libraries to perform tumour suppressor screens that formed the basis of a CRUK Career Development Fellowship [£1.4M]
  • Dr Karl Busch’s award ‘Molecular mechanisms underpinning long-lasting signalling in neural circuits’ (£27K) led to a MRC New Investigator Award [£772K]
  • Drs Christos Gkorgas, Andrew Wood and Yi Feng (CF) received ISSF awards leading to WT Sir Henry Dale Fellowships [~£1M each]
  • Dr Marc Vendrell’s award ‘Multiplexed fluorescent probes for in vivo imaging of reactive oxygen species in zebrafish inflammatory models’ (£25K) led to a BBSRC Industrial Partnership Award [£981K] and a Marie Curie Fellowship [£122K]
  • Dr Sebastian Greiss’ award led to an ERC Starting Grant [€1.5M]
  • An award to Dr Szu-Han Wang ‘Optimise retrieval-extinction paradigms for ameliorating stressful memories and visualise the underlying brain mechanisms by fMRI’ (£48K), led to a BBSRC New Investigator Award [£479K]
  • Dr Roland Stimson gained preliminary data underpinning an MRC Clinician Scientist Fellowship on imaging and manipulating brown adipose tissue in human obesity (£1.45M)

The following  external fellowships, awards and activities have been possible due to ISSF3 funding:

  • Bandiera L, EPSRC Fellowship £350K; Carsten, H, MRC project grant £500K and Worldwide Cancer Research award £200K; Emmerson E, UKRI Innovation Fellowship £750K; Surmeli G, Henry Dale Fellowship £1.29M; Wang B, WT Seed Award £100K; Meunier D, 1 year fellowship extension.

Senior and clinical fellowships:

  • Hunter R, WT Clinical RCD Fellowship £490K; Stimson R, Scottish Clinical Academic Fellowship £533K. Other major awards Buck A, Johnson & Johnson Innovations £220K; Dhaun N, Kidney Research Project Grant £251K; Hardwick K Leverhulme award £172K; Lawrence M MRC Project Grant £420K; Obbard D, Leverhulme RPG £200K; Pedersen A NERC grant £794K.

New Collaborations:

  • Dr Teuta Pilzota’s award Novel approaches to bacterial stress response, was followed by a HFSP Program Grant [$1.05M], a BBSRC iCASE award [£91K] and a Cunningham Trust award [£71K] and led to new collaborations with Physics at Edinburgh
  • The Edinburgh Neuroscience Neuroresearchers Fund (£5K) has funded a cluster of exchange/training awards to support: learning new animal modelling techniques at UCL; a visit to a USA brain trauma unit to train in porcine models; setting up a new collaboration with an Israeli auditory neurophysiology lab; a visit to Oxford to learn a fMRI anaesthesia consciousness monitoring technique; a visit to a USA fragile X clinical trial centre
  • An award to Dr Matthew Livesey led to a Royal Society of Edinburgh Personal Research Fellowship [£250K] and, with Prof David Wyllie, a Dementia Platforms UK Partnership Award [1.2M]
  • Facilitating high impact papers: Dr Patrick Cai’s award (£57K) led to a PNAS paper, Support for Dr Phil Spence enabled a first author Nature paper and his recruitment to Edinburgh

VIP-like and Senior Investigator awards

  • Dr Nick Gilbert generated necessary preliminary data towards a successful MRC Senior Fellowship [£3.0M]
  • Prof Jeff Pollard’s ISSF award helped to establish his lab following recruitment from Albert Einstein as Director of the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, supported his WT Senior Investigator Award [£4.6M] and the 5y renewal of the MRC Centre.
  • Dr Steven Pollard, simple and scalable platform for production of TALENs and TALE-TFs (£98K) was awarded a CRUK Senior Fellowship [£1.9M] and is a component of the BBSRC/MRC/EPSRC Synthetic Biology Research Centre [£13M]
  • Prof Nik Morton’s award supported key studies enabling a WT Investigator Award to discover “genes for leanness” [£1.5M] and a paper in Nature Medicine.
  • Dr Don Mahad used preliminary data enabled by ISSF funding to obtain a grant from Biogen Idec [$600K], a Scottish Senior Clinical Fellowship [£1.5M] and CSO funding [£545K].
  • Dr Paul Brennan (ECAT graduate) ‘Characterisation of intratumoural heterogeneity of glioma cancer stem cells’ (£50K) led to Brain Tumour Charity and CSO awards [£300k and £221k respectively]
  • Single cell autoprep equipment to Dr Sally Lowell et al (£90K) led to a WT Senior Fellowship [£1.7M] and a MRC Programme Grant to Prof Ian Chambers [£2.3M]
  • Funding to Dr Juri Rappsilber (Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology, WTCCB) led to a WT Senior Research Fellowship [£1.6M]
  • An award to Prof Keith Matthews (WT-funded Centre for Immunity, Infection and Evolution, CIIE) led to a WT Senior Investigator Award [£1.3M]

Awards to Reinforce Infrastructure, Collaborations and Scientific priority areas

  • Prof Ian Deary derived key preliminary epigenetics data supporting renewal of the MRC Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology [MRC-CCACE; £4.15M]
  • Dr Patrick Cai’s award The Edinburgh Repository of standardised genetics parts, (£57K) led to a BBSRC award to develop hardware and software for UK DNA synthesis facilities [£1.99M]
  • An award to Prof David Gray made it possible to launch Edinburgh Genomics whole genome sequencing and to recruit research project leaders
  • Prof Andrew McIntosh obtained preliminary data that underpinned a successful WT Strategic Award on the “stratification of depression” [£4.7M] and an award from NC3R [£1M]
  • Dr Eric Schirmer et al’s Application of Rotary Shadowing to DNA and Protein Structural Determination with Electron Microscopy (£60K) led to a MRC Programme Grant ‘DNA Misfolding and the Maintenance of Genome Stability’ [£2.2M] and a WT Multiuser Equipment Grant [£389K].
  • Dr Ruth Andrew’s support for mass spectrometry tissue imaging for steroids, based in the WT Clinical Research Facility Mass Spectrometry Core Lab, led to a WT Multiuser Equipment Grant [£850K].
  • Prof David Hume established capabilities supporting a successful bid for the National Avian Resource Facility [£14M; BBSRC, Roslin Foundation, UoE and WT]
  • A purchased Covaris DNA shearing system is now used by research groups across the University.
  • An award to Dr Filippo Menolascina for the purchase of a specialised inverted fluorescence microscope, a platform used by only 5 other institutions worldwide, is helping UoE to become a leader in Optimal Systems Identification in Systems Biology.
  • Acquisition of a molecular imaging platform for the brain leveraged a successful bid [£2M] to the MRC’s supermicroscopy scheme
  • Dr Eric Schirmer et al’s ‘Application of Rotary Shadowing to DNA and Protein Structural Determination with Electron Microscopy’ (£60K) led to a MRC Programme Grant [£2.2M] and a WT Equipment Grant [£389K]
  • Prof Malcolm Walkinshaw et al were awarded £56k towards a £100k Size Exclusion Chromatography-Multi Angle Light Scattering (SEC-MALS) instrumentation for the WT-funded Edinburgh Protein Production Facility (EPPF). > 8 publications have emanated from having this platform, also new collaborations and a EPPF High School Work placement programme
  • Mark Arends and Michael Cheeseman purchased digital slide-scanning equipment for the new Centre for Comparative Pathology supporting the ‘one medicine-one health’ agenda and a MRC node in Molecular Pathology
  • Prof Clare Blackburn leveraged a successful FP7 application on “Development of Stem Cell-Based Therapy for Thymic Regeneration” [€6M]
  • Dr Abdenour Soufi’s ISSF award ‘Engineering novel reprogramming factors to manipulate mammalian cell identity’ (£60K) led to a MRC Career Development Fellowship (£1.8M).
  • Dr Kamil Kranc’s award ‘In vivo high-throughput functional discovery of genes regulating tissue homeostasis and cancer development’ (£83K) led to a Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund award [£278K], the 2015 STEM CELLS Young Investigator Award, and the Stem Cells best paper of 2015
  • Catalysing an Edinburgh Network for Brain Tumour Research

  • Statistical and Study Design support for the Centre for Immunity, Infection and Evolution

  • The University of Edinburgh Cross-College Compound Collection

Awards for Public Engagement

  • >200 staff and students from UoE were involved in Midlothian Science Festival in 2014, supported by ISSF and involving 127 events. UoE staff engaged 2,635 members of the public, including the larges events – Science Alive Gala Day (453 visitors) and Easter Bush Campus Open Day (389 visitors).
  • The Centre for Immunity, Infection and Evolution and ASCUS Art Science Collaborative Outreach Project organised an ISSF-sponsored exhibition about women at the School of Biological Sciences.
  • An award to Dr Samantha Brown et al was for "Potential Difference" exhibition. The result of a collaboration between students, postdocs and academics in Biological Science with artists, the exhibition was launched at the Royal Society of Edinburgh in April 2015, during the Edinburgh Science Festival, attended by >125 people.
  • To reach new audiences in rural and deprived communities, SCI-FUN delivered their hands-on science centre experience in Dalkeith Library and engaged 137 local people. Other events were run in Mayfield, Gorebridge, Penicuik and Danderhall, each of which are acknowledged as containing pockets of socioeconomic deprivation.
  • New activities about X-ray crystallography, with Prof Malcolm Walkinshaw, were run at the Science Alive Gala Day in Lasswade (453 visitors) and at the Science Gala Day at Danderhall
  • Dr Mandy Johnstone, Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Fellow and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist gave a talk on “New ways of modelling neurodevelopmental disorders” to 40 public. This event was in association with Penicuik University of the Third Age (U3A)
  • Su Ling Leong and his colleagues from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology presented Spider Silk Wow activities at Glencorse Gala Day (237 public). Students from Prof Seth Grant’s group (Centre for Neuroregeneration which is partially funded by Wellcome Trust) presented “Team Synapse” activities at this same event.
  • An award to Dr Donald Davidson was to develop multi-media public engagement projects for Inflammation Research, including the development of animation, a Top Trumps card game, Minecraft anatomical model development and gaming equipment for use at events.
  • ISSF support for the Ashworth Natural History Collection allowed development of interactive ‘Bugs and Bones’ workshops for schools and the public. The workshops were delivered to over 120 primary school children in their classrooms.
  • ISSF-funded public engagement exhibition ‘The Brain – is wider than the sky’ opened June 2014 in St Andrew Square (Edinburgh). It attracted 100,000 visitors in the first 4 weeks, with much press/TV coverage.
  • Edinburgh Beltane received ISSF funding to support novel engagement activities such as 'PhD in an Hour' and the 'Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas'. These are informal but intense engagement activities reaching diverse audiences beyond the 'usual suspects' with ~30% events led by UoE staff. Examples include: Richard Weller (Dermatology), ‘Lighten Up About the Sun’; Ian Jackson (IGMM), ‘Red Hair: Truth, Secrets and Lies’; Deborah Ritchie and Neneh Rowa-Dewar (Health in Social Science) ‘Smoking in My private Space - Butt Out!’; Stephen Lawrie (Psychiatry), ‘Antidepressants Are NOT Overprescribed’; Innogen Institute, ‘Is Scottish Independence Bad For Your Health?’; Gary Kerr (Science, Technology and Innovation Studies), ‘Are “Designer Babies” a Slippery Slope?’; Jon Stone (Clinical Neurosciences), ‘The Hidden World of Functional Disorders’; Alan Gow (MRC-CCACE), ‘Brain Training on Trial’; Helen Sang and Bruce Whitelaw (Roslin Institute), ‘We’d Eat GM Meat, Would You?’
  • Storing and using the Guthrie Card collection for research purposes: a role for citizens in shaping policy In 2009, the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland placed a moratorium on research access to the Guthrie Card collection, pending clarification of legal issues around consent, storage and access. The moratorium was extended to England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2013. In 2013, the Scottish Government published a report setting out the legal, ethical and social issues in relation to the use of the Guthrie Cards for research purposes (Laurie et al 2013). One recommendation made by the report was to conduct wider public engagement on the issue, to both inform the public about the potential arguments for and against research access to Guthrie Cards and to help involve the public in decisions about whether or not their/their child’s blood sample should be used in such a way. Citizens’ jury methodology was chosen to explore public views on the question: “Would research access to the Guthrie Card heel prick blood tests be in the public interest and, if so, under what conditions?” Citizens’ juries are an established method for involving publics in deliberating on key health policy concerns (BMJ 2017). The University of Edinburgh team commissioned IPSOS Mori to conduct the jury, in order to ensure independence of process. The jury took place on two consecutive Saturdays and involved the sharing of information and the development of considered responses over the course of the two sittings. A detailed report will follow
  • A post to embed public engagement, working with researchers across the life sciences at Edinburgh to: cost activity into current research grants; act as a key point of contact for PE activities and ensure cohesive involvement with Festivals/events; contribute to and facilitate the cross-college PE “special interest group”
  •  The ISSF3-funded post of Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre Officer.

Awards for Translation

  • An award to Prof Neil Carragher et al "High-content analyses of signalling and phenotype in iPS cells from patients with neurodegenerative disease; towards stratification and drug discovery (£75K) contributed to a UK National Phenotyping Centre award [£249K] and other awards.
  • An award to Prof Keith Matthews et al, ‘A contained facility for pathogen study, drug discovery and translational research’ (£52K), was followed by users being awarded a MRC SRF [£7.7M], Profs Walkinshaw and Dr Michels a WT Seeding Drug Discovery award and Matthews a WT SIA and a BBSRC Super Follow on award [£328K]
  • An award to Prof Alex Rowe supported key validation studies of a malaria vaccine with DepoVax™, in collaboration with Immunovaccine Inc.
  • Malcolm Walkinshaw’s ISSF award enabled formation of a start-up company Edinzyme to use pyruvate kinase monoclonal antibodies as new diagnostic
  • An award to Dr Asier Unciti-Broceta led to two publications (MedChemComm and J Med Chem) and a patent application that was progressed to PCT
  • Following ISSF investment, Mr Damien Mole (Early Career Researcher) was awarded GSK DPAc funding [£3M] and an Amelie Waring Fellowship to co-develop a novel pancreatitis therapy, published in Nature Medicine
  • An award to Prof Juri Rappsilber, ‘Support for the roll-out of cross-link identification software’, Xi (£40K) led to a Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship for Co-I Dr Salman Tahir to realise commercial potential
  • Dr Mohini Gray’s award, ‘Development of a Biomarker that Predicts Progression to Biologic Therapy in Early Rheumatoid Arthritis’ (£40K) led to a biomarker patent application (GB1506806.7)
  • An award to Dr Amy Buck provided critical funding to establish a collaborative relationship with two diagnostic companies to improve the point of care-type assay and a major grant application and led to a Wellcome Trust Pathfinder Award [£127K]
  • Dr Andrew McBride was appointed Translator-in-Residence, a role established to provide both scientific and project management support to ISSF3 and Wellcome Trust-funded translational projects and to catalyse links between research groups, business development teams, external service providers and industry, to enhance our translational culture.  Andrew engages with researchers to identify, evaluate and develop  and raise awareness of translational opportunities.  
  • Enabling the APPreSci Consortium full application to the MRC Stratified Medicine Initiative Ab ISSF3 award has supported Mole (MRC Senior Clinical Fellow), Baillie (Wellcome Beit Fellow) and others in a bid to lead Edinburgh and partners throughout the UK to the forefront of precision medicine in the field of acute pancreatitis (AP), through the APPreSci Consortium: Acute Pancreatitis Precision Science. The rapid development of high-throughput –omics technologies, and especially the computational revolution in machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence now allows clinician scientists to be within reach of identifying therapeutically-relevant endotypes in AP by integrating multiomic datasets. The award funded key experiments that have allowed the applicants to generate and analyse preliminary data (RNASeq and proteomics from a biobank of AP patient time series samples) of critical importance.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

In Edinburgh Medical School there is a themed, ISSF3-funded, programme of activities: i) Research Leadership Course. a 4-day course for Group leaders to mirror the skills developed at the highly acclaimed EMBO Laboratory Management courses.  ii) Early post-doctoral development training to develop the skills towards an independent research career.  iii) Understanding the challenges of part-time researchers – directed at researchers who work part-time or flexibly.  A pilot workshop was funded by UoE. iv) ‘Part-time research, full-time challenge’ one day conference  v) Career-coaching scheme. This scheme with Equate Scotland has been successfully initiated in Roslin Institute.  vi) A part-time PSS to support the implementation of these schemes  vii) Pilot scheme for clinical academics to work-shadow and receive local mentorship. viii) Postgraduate Buddy scheme initiative led by the AS PG student working-group  ix) Medical Schools EDI Network. In 2020 we are hosting the 3rd Medical schools EDI network meeting.  x) Returner’s program for staff who have taken leave of greater than 4 months to minimise disruption to staff career trajectories resulting from leave.  xi) In the School of Biological Sciences, ISSF3 funds a new, evidence-based approach to EDI. An EDI officer is to evaluate past EDI initiatives, develop indicators of EDI progress and implement future initiatives. ISSF3 funds have also supported initiatives targeted to groups where female and under-represented staff particularly benefit: in Sept 2018-Aug 2019 these include a Nature publishing masterclass for 15 early-career researchers (match-funded by Roslin Institute); career coaching for 12 early-career researchers; etc. 

Open Research

The Open Research project is new for ISSF3 and aims to sustain Open practices by automating data dissemination, so that (a) the researcher’s detailed information (metadata) is retained and shared, (b) dissemination is an easy part of daily research not a laborious afterthought, and (c) dissemination is sustainable, not depending on lab resources but using community- or University-based infrastructure, especially “DataShare”, the University’s public, Trusted Digital Repository.  ISSF-supported data management systems are to move to central, University support, so ISSF3 funding is seeding strategic change in Open Research provision to benefit all biomedical researchers in the institution.