Dr Eleanor Stride, University College London

Therapeutic Imaging

About your Challenging Engineering Award

In the majority of current medical practice, diagnostic imaging and therapeutic procedures are intrinsically separate, often involving entirely different teams of experts. Whilst this takes advantage of the highly developed skills of narrow specialisms, it can have significant drawbacks: it is resource intensive; lack of real-time monitoring increases the risk of ineffective treatment or collateral damage; long waiting times between diagnosis and treatment and/or treatment and follow up are psychologically and often physically detrimental to patients due to disease progression; and there is increased risk of patients not attending or not complying with treatment regimes. The aim of the proposed research programme is to build a world leading multi-disciplinary team to develop new methods and technologies that will truly integrate diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and produce a step change in clinical practice.

The research activity will be focused in three areas:

  • Developing new types of agent for targeted drug delivery which will enable clinicians to monitor the placement, transport and controlled release of drugs and other therapeutic material.
  • Understanding the mechanisms by which these agents interact with cells and tissue to enable the design of safer, more reliable delivery strategies
  • Designing technology that will not only enable tracking of therapeutic material but also active manipulation and stimulation.

The outcomes of the research will directly benefit patients, clinicians and other healthcare workers by providing new, more efficient and effective procedures. This will in turn yield economic benefits, directly through new products and services for the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries, and by reducing demand on healthcare resources. To realise these outcomes, a key feature of the research strategy will be to maintain close working relationships with both clinical and industrial partners to maintain the focus of the work on the most relevant research challenges and to identify and access the most appropriate and efficient routes for translation.

The research will also lead to new discoveries and the development of a range of experimental and theoretical tools which will be of direct benefit to the research community. Another important aspect of the programme will thus be training of the research team to communicate effectively across disciplinary boundaries as well as through wider public engagement activities. Through building on the proposed pilot studies and collaborations with academics, clinicians and industry a research project portfolio will be constructed which will sustain the activity of the group beyond 5 years in order to fully realise the integration of diagnostic imaging and therapy from concept to clinic.

What do you hope to achieve with this award?

My objectives:

  • To build and head an internationally leading multi-disciplinary Biomedical Engineering research group whose work will generate both scientific and practical benefits and have a significant positive impact upon clinical practice.
  • To address the following key research challenges to facilitate the integration of imaging and therapy:
    • Development of combined agents for traceable drug delivery and other therapeutic procedures.
    • Investigation of the mechanisms by which imaging and therapeutic agents interact with tissue at the cellular level.
    • Design of technology for imaging, localisation and activation of therapeutic agents.
  • To maintain and pursue new academic, industrial and clinical collaborations nationally and internationally to: augment the group’s research capabilities, to ensure industrial relevance and feedback into clinical practice and to facilitate networking and dissemination to the wider research community.
  • To construct a research project portfolio building on the proposed pilot studies and collaborations which will sustain the activity of the group beyond the duration of the Challenging Engineering grant.
  • To undertake appropriate technology transfer activities through development of prototypes, protection of intellectual property, pre-clinical and clinical testing; and to pursue this in partnership with UCL and industrial and clinical collaborators.
  • To train members of the research team in complementary skills from both the Physical and Life Sciences which will advance their careers and provide the academic and commercial research sectors with a valuable resource.
  • To disseminate the research as effectively as possible through a combination of high quality academic publications, open access to research data and public engagement activities.

Why is this award important to you and how will it affect your career?

It will give me the opportunity to lay the foundations for a research group in a new area which will enable me not only to generate both scientific and practical benefits throughout the course of the award but also to sustain and grow my research efforts for the rest of my career.

What is it about the scheme that attracted you?

The independence and flexibility that it offers and the fact that it encourages highly ambitious research in new areas.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge of the next five years?

The balance between academic and practical outcomes

And what are you looking forward to the most?

Overcoming these challenges and realising some objectives I’ve been wanting to tackle for a very long time, through both answering some fundamental research questions and translating the results into clinically useful outcomes.

Advice to anyone thinking of applying to Challenging Engineering?

Think differently and be ambitious in formulating your research vision. Get in touch with current grant holders about the application process itself.