Institute for Regeneration and Repair

IRR Early Career Innovator 2020

09 June 2020

Congratulations to Jennifer Shelley, who has been named the winner of this year’s IRR Early Career Innovators Competition.

Jennifer is a PhD student in the Davidson Lab at the Centre for Inflammation Research. Her winning proposal is to use novel skin models to help develop new treatments for Atopic Dermatitis.

Atopic Dermatitis (AD) is the most common form of eczema, a distressing disease where the skin becomes itchy, dry and cracked. There is currently no cure for AD and new novel therapies are required, however traditional models have limitations which hinders treatment development. Jennifer’s vision is to develop novel human skin models to screen and identify peptides for further development into new therapies.

The annual competition was open to all early career researchers (PhD students, post docs and research fellows) across the Institute, who were invited to submit innovative project proposals which would translate their basic research into new research or diagnostic tools or treatments. Four shortlisted finalists (Jennifer Shelley, Emily Thompson & Ross Dobie from the Centre for Inflammation Research and Cecilia Rocchi from the Centre for Regenerative Medicine) were then invited to pitch their project ideas to a panel of industry experts.

The panel were impressed by all three pitches, but felt that Jennifer in particular presented an innovative solution with a clear plan of what she wanted to do and an appreciation of the next steps and potential issues going forward.

The judging panel comprised of Dr Rachael Brooker, Senior Business Manager, LifeArc; Dr Paul Chapman, Patent Attorney, Marks & Clerk; and Dr Jeff Wright, Entrepreneur in Residence, Edinburgh Innovations. The competition was overseen by Dr Andrew McBride, Translator in Residence for the College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine; and Dr Lysimachos Zografos, Entrepreneur in Residence who helped the finalists to develop their pitches

Dr Andrew McBride said:

We had four impressive finalists this year who each delivered engaging pitches for investment in their innovative translational projects.  The expert judging panel were impressed with the proposals from the validation of a novel biomarker to the winning proposal from Jenny, to develop a novel human atopic dermatitis skin model to profile potential therapeutics.  They commended all the finalists on their understanding of the stages and challenges in developing early stage ideas to new products delivering patient benefit.

Jennifer has won funding of £5,000 to further develop her idea. Along with the other finalists, Jennifer will also receive support from the University’s research translation and commercialisation team to develop her project plan and explore alternative funding opportunities.

Reflecting on the competition, Jennifer said:

The IRR competition has been a really enjoyable opportunity to expand the scope of my research and approach my project from a different angle. I have been able to develop my presentation skills and gain confidence in a more industry-focused environment, which I wouldn’t have accessed otherwise. The competition is a really exciting process which I’d encourage everyone to get involved in for future years!

All finalists have been encouraged to seek the support of the Wellcome Trust Entrepreneurs in Residence Dr Lysimachos Zografos and Dr Jess Wright who oversee the iTPA hub for Translational Research. The iTPA hub is a community for those who want to take the first steps to turn their research into a tangible health benefit for society. Members of the iTPA hub have access to funding and resources to help this transition. All members of staff – postdocs particularly - are invited to join. 

iTPA hub