Hospital charity boost for Quadram clinical research fund

13th May 2024

An innovation fund successfully pump priming clinical research projects between Quadram Institute scientists and doctors at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) is being expanded thanks to extra funding from the Norfolk & Norwich Hospitals Charity.

The Quadram Institute Clinical Seedcorn Fund was first established in 2021/2022 to help clinicians develop research ideas with scientists at the Quadram Institute. Funding to date has come via Quadram Institute Bioscience (QIB) grants from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

In 2022/23 the fund was oversubscribed, and six projects were funded from 14 applications. Some of the projects funded have included work with respiratory medicine consultant Dr Eleanor Mishra and group leader Prof Mark Webber on bacterial colonisation of tubes used to remove fluid from the lungs, and work with consultant paediatric endocrinologist Dr Emma Webb and group leader Prof Arjan Narbad on the gut microbiome and obesity.

Funding from the Norfolk & Norwich Hospitals Charity means the fund can be extended to support more clinical research projects for patient benefit during 2024/25. The Clinical Seedcorn Fund supports secondments of NHS staff to Quadram Institute laboratories and associated Quadram Institute research costs. In 2024/25 QIB will fund £150,000, with up to another £150,000 funded by the Norfolk & Norwich Hospitals Charity.

Applications are assessed by a panel drawn from across NNUH, QIB and the UEA and considers applications on the basis of potential patient benefit, quality, feasibility, extent of collaboration, innovation and value for money.

John Paul Garside, Director of the N&N Hospitals Charity, said, “The hospital is one of the four partners in the Quadram Institute and working together the Partnership is serving to increase knowledge and deliver benefit for patients. This is important work and the Charity is delighted to be supporting the research and innovation of NNUH clinicians working alongside scientists from the Quadram Institute.”

Quadram Institute Director Prof Ian Charles OBE said: “We are delighted to be joining forces with the Norfolk & Norwich Hospitals Charity to extend the impact of our Clinical Seedcorn Fund. It’s great to see NNUH clinicians working with scientists at the Quadram to understand more about some of the healthcare challenges they face daily, and how we can understand and then tackle them for the benefit of patients.”

Quadram Clinical Seedcorn case studies

Dr Eleanor Mishra, consultant respiratory physician at NNUH, is researching the development of a new approach to reduce infections when treating patients with pleural effusions – fluid that builds up in the space between the lung and the chest wall. This condition is normally treated by inserting a permanent silicon drain into the chest, called an IPC. Dr Mishra’s research showed that about 5 per cent of these drains get infected. Working with Prof Mark Webber of the Quadram Institute, they found that bacteria form biofilms on the silicon surface of the drains that lead to infection and make the condition difficult to treat. Once this was identified, they worked with UEA’s Prof Sheng Qi to develop novel silicon surfaces that are biofilm-resistant to help reduce infection rates. Dr Mishra is now collaborating with RocketMedical, a UK company which makes IPCs, to ensure that the team’s design is commercially viable.

Dr Emma Webb, consultant paediatric endocrinologist at NNUH, has been working with Prof Martin Warren and Prof Arjan Narbad from the Quadram Institute to understand more about children with obesity and how the gut microbiome and deficiencies in micronutrients are affecting the health of young people living with obesity.

The Microcare Study is looking at what is termed as “hidden hunger” where serious deficiency in key micronutrients such as iron, Vitamin B12, Vitamins K and D causes ill health and drives the body to keep eating in an attempt to obtain the micronutrients needed. The study is looking at the interactions between diet, medications and the gut microbiome. In people with obesity, the gut microbiome is less diverse and may be affected by medication. Seventy young people have been recruited on to the Microcare study.

Applications are assessed by a panel drawn from across NNUH, QIB and the UEA and considers applications on the basis of potential patient benefit, quality, feasibility, extent of collaboration, innovation and value for money. Applications are invited from clinicians and clinical scientists associated with all clinical specialities.

About the Quadram Institute

The Quadram Institute is a partnership between Quadram Institute Bioscience, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the University of East Anglia and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Its mission is to deliver healthier lives through innovation in gut health, microbiology and food and its vision is to understand how food and microbes interact to promote health and prevent disease.

Interconnected research themes in Quadram Institute Bioscience deliver a pipeline of research in plants, microbes, food, and health: microbes and food safety; the gut and the microbiome; and food innovation. The Quadram Institute is also home to the BBSRC-funded Food and Nutrition National Bioscience Research Infrastructure, and the National Collection of Yeast Cultures.

About the N&N Hospitals Charity

The N&N Hospitals Charity is registered with the Charity Commission (reg no 1048170) and is the primary charity associated with the N&N University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Its vision is to support our hospitals to provide the best care for patients, through:
• funding additional facilities and equipment;
• supporting the development & wellbeing of Trust staff; &
• enabling research, innovation & improvement for patient benefit.

In the last five years the Charity has granted awards of £15.3m to fund equipment, facilities, courses, projects and posts to support patient care, education for staff and research and innovation. The Charity is reliant on the ongoing generosity of our donors and supporters.