A pan-UCL view of Health and Life Sciences
By rmhzdal, on 18 October 2018
The School of Life and Medical Sciences (SLMS) seeks to tackle the greatest health challenges that face society, including dementia, mental health, genetic disease, obesity, infectious disease, cancer and ageing. This is a prodigious ambition and we don’t do it alone.
Our ambition is to bring together UCL researchers, across all UCL disciplines and Schools, who work on health – and our definition of health is all encompassing! As well as human physical and mental health, this could include animal health and planetary health (‘One Health’).
In order to facilitate these important pan-UCL initiatives on health, in early 2016 we established the UCL Health Strategy Forum to address the need for a pan-UCL perspective across the breadth of our health priorities. Vice Deans (Health or Interdisciplinarity) or Health Champions have been appointed in all UCL Faculties and are members of the Forum. This pan-UCL engagement has highlighted the range of UCL Faculties involved in multi-disciplinary, health-related research and the extent of the levels at which it takes place: through institutes, centres or hubs, consortia, and projects of varying scale and scope.
The Forum plays a key role in supporting the significant advances made by the UCL Domains and UCL Grand Challenges in extending and developing interactions between SLMS and the rest of UCL. Pan-UCL health research is facilitated via the UCL Research Domains of: Personalised Medicine, Populations & Lifelong Health, Neuroscience, Cancer and more recently established Domains on Food Metabolism and Society, and Microbiology. A very successful launch event for the Microbiology research Domain was held in April 2018. Domain activities are co-ordinated via the Office of the Vice Provost (Health) Research Coordination Office, and the Office of the UCL Vice-Provost (Research).
- The Cancer Domain aims to ensure that the breadth and depth of cancer research is visible to external audiences, and brings together investigators around four themes: Understanding Cancer; Treating Cancer; Technology; and Cancer in Society. It links UCL computer scientists, ethicists, statisticians, clinicians, engineers, physicists, and life scientists as well as NHS Trusts, funders, and industry partners. Their recent ‘Artificial Intelligence in Cancer’ event brought together over 120 researchers.
- The UCL Personalised Medicine Domain aims to harness the personalised medicine research activity across the university and its partner hospitals, to deliver innovative patient-targeted medicines and therapies. The Domain has established a Precision Medicine accelerator focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Healthcare. The SLMS Translational Research Office (TRO) worked together with venture capitalists, companies and the UCL community notably, BEAMS investigators to develop the AI in Health accelerator.
- The Populations & Lifelong Health domain co-ordinated UCL’s successful £7m application for membership of Health Data Research UK, as a pan-London collaboration with Imperial, Kings, QMUL, and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The focus is on health informatics and actionable analytics, precision medicine, public health, and clinical trials.
- The Neuroscience Domain has supported the UCL Mental Health strategy working group which consulted widely across UCL to develop recommendations for our future mental health research direction. It has also helped to facilitate productive connections between the Institute of Education and the Divisions of Psychology and Language Sciences and Psychiatry.
Education also benefits from a pan-UCL approach and UCL offers 28 health-related Masters’ programmes external to SLMS, including a new Master’s degree in Bio-social Anthropology. In addition to the 15 MSc, 7 MA and 5 MRes programmes across BEAMS, SLASH and the IoE, Engineering hosts an EPSRC Doctoral Training Programme in Medical Imaging, MAPS offers a health-related post-graduate certificate, and Laws offer two health-related modules.
We aim to extend our impact by close working with UCL’s NHS partners and other Academic Health Science Centres within London and the Southeast cluster. We are involved in a range of exciting major projects with our national and international partners. These are some of our research initiatives:
- The Wellcome/EPSRC Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences (WEISS) accommodates researchers from the Faculty of Engineering, the Division of Surgery & Interventional Science, the Centre for Medical Imaging and the Institute for Healthcare Engineering in state-of-the-art interdisciplinary facilities at Charles Bell House, enabling research at the intersection of engineering and health.
- Led by UCL Biochemical Engineering, the EPSRC Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub (Vax-Hub) will drive vaccine discovery, development and manufacturing, bringing together 25 partners with industry and policy makers to address key challenges in vaccine manufacturing.
- The EPSRC IRC in Early-Warning Sensing Systems for Infectious Diseases (i-sense) is a multidisciplinary research consortium which aims to engineer a new generation of disruptive sensing systems to diagnose, monitor and prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as major flu epidemics, MRSA and HIV.
- The contribution of health economics to decisions concerning the production, distribution and evaluation of health and healthcare is recognised by health services worldwide. The Faculty of Population Health Sciences has brought together and strengthened the health economics community across UCL, including Economics, Statistical Science, IoE Social Science and Engineering.
- The Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health (CUSSH), a four-year Wellcome Trust funded collaboration between Bartlett School of Architecture and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, will deliver key global research on the systems that connect urban development and health.
UCL has one of the largest and most prestigious groupings of academics in biomedical, life and population health sciences in the world. While we are all familiar with the need to interpret league tables with care, they nonetheless provide a helpful indication that our performance over the last academic year supports this claim. In the QS World University Rankings, UCL ‘Life Sciences and Medicine’ ranked 8th in the world (up from 11th in 2017), moving ahead of Yale, UCSF and UCLA, and 3rd in the UK, sustaining our position ahead of our London peers, Imperial and King’s.
I am convinced that this success is due to our pursuit of UCL 2034’s third principal theme: to address global challenges using our ‘distinctive cross-disciplinary approach’. We have made cross-disciplinarity a priority and we can only get better by working more closely with one another. I am keen that we continue to extend and grow the interactions in health and life sciences across UCL.
Professor David Lomas
Vice Provost (Health)
For further information on how to get involved, please contact the Domain leads, or:
Dr Sinéad Kennedy (Director of Research Co-ordination & Planning, OVPH) for research opportunities in health: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Dr Jane Kinghorn (Director of the Translational Research Office, OVPH) for translational research: email@example.com;
Dr Nandi Simpson (Acting Head of Partnerships and Projects, OVPH) for the Health Strategy Forum: firstname.lastname@example.org.