So much has happened at the Centre for Cancer Immunology since my last blog, and in retrospect it all seemed to be leading up to Friday’s Vice Chancellors Awards ceremony held at St Mary Stadium……where the CCI campaign team won a category award for “support and services to the University”: a somewhat insipid description of five years of thrills and spills the team has experienced to get us to where we are today. I was delighted and honoured to be on the multidisciplinary team with some of our University’s best professionals in fundraising, admin support, finance, estates, comms and academics. We will continue to work with our colleagues at ODAR, and to our devoted network of philanthropists to raise money for the CCI talent fund while Jo Donahoe and her team set their sights on a new £200m University campaign. I wish them well and I am inspired by their vision to gear-up an order of magnitude.
I was also fired up in July at our open day by how capably all our staff and students rose to the occasion to host 80 visitors during the day which included small-group lab tours, demonstrations and podium talks. Special thanks to Ali Marks who organised the day, literally minute by minute so as to avoid bottlenecks and pile-ups. All hands were on deck, we had fun, and a lot of people have discovered a new talent for explaining their research and its importance to the public. Roll on Researchfish.
Professors Sally Ward and Raimund Ober are gradually building up their presence in the building and have appointed Julia Newman (previously a star at RIS) as business manager, Kit Li (who will be joining us from the University of Glasgow) as lab manager, and Ed Rogers (from the Optoelectronics Centre) as senior microscopist. There will be many other appointments in the coming months funded by Sally and Raimunds new Wellcome Trust and CRUK Programmes. Meanwhile Julia, Kit and Ed are busy setting up Sally and Raimund’s lab which will focus on cellular and molecular mechanisms of immunotherapeutic antibodies, and with their strong interdisciplinary approach I hope that their research will reach across into many other areas of the University in the coming years.
Also on the interdisciplinary research front, I was delighted to get FOB’s approval for a Research Sabbatical Fellowship programme for the CIC. The idea behind this is to provide an immersive experience in cancer immunology for established researchers in other disciplines with a view to developing joint programmes of research. I’m pleased to say that our first CCISF – Applied mathematician Professor Jacek Brodzki moved into the building for the semester last week and is looking suitably stunned. Many of you will know Jacek from his ground-breaking work on the UBIOPRED programme where he applied new topological modelling techniques to integrated molecular phenotype datasets identify new respiratory disease subtypes. You’re welcome to drop by and say ”hi” Mon-Wed when he’ll be around.
Research is strong, including recent papers in Nature Immunology and Cancer Cell with others accepted in the past few days in Immunity and Nature, which for the purposes of this blog (and in line with my commitment to DORA) I offer as markers of quality and reach independent of journal impact factor! Our commitment to early-phase clinical trials has also been in evidence recently – with vaccination of our first patient on the combination therapy trial, HARE, in August led by Christian Ottensmeier; and an excellent special report on Juliet Grays innovative combination therapy trial in pediatric neuroblastoma aired on channel 4 this week. Here’s the link if you haven’t already seen it……and see if you can spot our BMedSci students in the lab!
Professor Tim Elliott
Director, Cancer Immunology Centre