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Research fellows

Developing the next generation of researchers is vitally important to the future of patient health care.   

 

Our Trust’s renowned reputation in clinical research attracts many high-calibre researchers to undertake their PhD clinical fellowships. 


Select the fellows name to:


  • access contact details
  • read a short synopsis of their current projects
  • learn more about their background and qualifications

 

Cardiovascular clinical research fellows


Current research


Project title: Bicuspid aortic valve- related aortopathy: a multi-omic study.


Contact: C.Fletcher@rbht.nhs.uk

Supervisor: Professor John Pepper 

Background and qualifications


Brian Halliday is a cardiovascular clinical research fellow. He graduated from Medicine with Honours in 2008 from the University of Edinburgh and was awarded the Murdoch Brown Silver Medal for Medicine and the Thomas Keith Memorial Prize for Surgery. 


He also obtained first class honours in his intercalated BSc (Med Sci) degree. He completed his foundation clinical training in Edinburgh and moved to London for his core medical training before being awarded a national training number in cardiology in the London Deanery.



Current research 


Project title: Dilated cardiomyopathy – remodelling, risk stratification and personalising therapy


Details: Brian was awarded a British Heart Foundation clinical research training fellowship in 2015 under the supervision of Dr Sanjay Prasad and Professor John Cleland and started his period of research in October 2015. 


Brian will focus on dilated cardiomyopathy, a common cause of heart failure and sudden death in young people and the most common indication for cardiac transplantation. The research includes a pilot randomised controlled trial investigating the withdrawal of pharmacological therapies in patients with recovered dilated cardiomyopathy. He will also investigate methods of improving the risk stratification of patients with dilated cardiomyopathy and mild and moderate levels of cardiac dysfunction. This aims to find better ways of identifying patients at high risk of sudden cardiac death.


Contact: b.halliday@rbht.nhs.uk


Supervisors: Dr Sanjay Prasad, Professor John Cleland


Current research

 

Project title: Clinical outcomes, perfusion and vascular function in patients with refractory angina and raised lipoprotein (a), treated with lipoprotein apheresis.

 

Contact: T.Khan@rbht.nhs.uk


 

Supervisors: Professors Mahmoud Barbir and Dudley Pennell

Background and qualifications


Dr Amrit Lota is a cardiology specialty registrar in the London Deanery and a clinical research fellow at Royal Brompton Hospital. He graduated from Oxford University in 2008, where he was awarded the Glaxo scholarship and first class honours in his intercalated BA research degree in myocardial, vascular and respiratory biology. 


He trained as a junior doctor in London and has undertaken specialist training in cardiology at Hammersmith and St Mary’s Hospitals with advanced training in heart failure and imaging at The Heart Hospital and Harefield Hospital. His research interests are in the genotype-phenotype study of heart muscle disease.



 

Current research


Project: Diagnosis and risk stratification in acute myocarditis using CMR and clinical genetics 


Details: Myocarditis is an inflammatory disease of the myocardium. It accounts for 12 per cent of young adults presenting with sudden death on post-mortem studies. One of the main current challenges is identifying the subset of ‘high-risk’ individuals that show adverse ventricular remodelling to dilated cardiomyopathy, which represents the leading indication for cardiac transplantation. 


Recent research has found that cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) T1 and T2 mapping techniques may hold promise for improving diagnostic accuracy, and as our knowledge of the genetic basis of cardiovascular disease expands, greater understanding of the clinical significance of genetic variation is needed and may potentially identify novel therapeutic targets.


The aim of this project is to evaluate the use of a stratified approach incorporating cardiovascular magnetic resonance mapping techniques, circulating biomarker profiles and genetic sequencing to predict why some patients recover whereas others develop heart failure or sudden death. 


Contact: a.lota@rbht.nhs.uk

Supervisors:  Dr Sanjay Prasad, Dr James Ware, Professor Stuart Cook


Background and qualifications

 

In 2006, Dr Upasana Tayal graduated in medicine with merit from Magdalen College, University of Oxford. This was followed by Academic Foundation clinical training in Oxford and during this time, she completed a short period of research in cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging with Prof Stefan Neubauer’s group -  looking at changes in the body’s main blood vessel (the aorta) in obese patients before and after weight loss. Following this, she moved to London to undertake her core medical training across Royal Brompton, Harefield and Hammersmith Hospitals. In 2010 she was appointed as a cardiology registrar in London.

 

In 2014, Upasana was awarded an MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship to undertake her current PhD in the NIHR cardiovascular biomedical research unit based at the Royal Brompton Hospital.

 

Building upon her previous editorial experience gained whilst on a Medical Journalism Scholarship at the British Medical Journal, Upasana writes regular editorials for the British Cardiovascular Society website and is an active member of the Trainees’ Committee of the Royal Society of Medicine.



Current research

 

Project title: Genotyping and phenotyping in dilated cardiomyopathy 

 

Details: This project will investigate patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) – the second most common cause of heart failure and the leading indication for heart transplantation in the UK.  Recent research from Prof Cook’s group, working with collaborators at Harvard University, found an abnormality in the titin (TTN) gene in a quarter of people who previously had no known cause for their DCM. The TTN gene is responsible for making titin, the biggest protein in heart muscle.
 
Using cardiac MRI (CMR) data, genetic and clinical information, this project’s aim is to characterise the clinical significance of genetic mutations in patients with DCM. This research hopes to better understand what may be the future consequences on the heart health of people who have mutations in the TTN gene as well as other genetic mutations.

 

Contact: u.tayal@rbht.nhs.uk

 

Supervisors:  Dr Sanjay PrasadProfessor Stuart Cook and Dr Piers Daubeney 

Background and qualifications


Roddy Walsh obtained a BSc in biomedical science from University College Cork and an MSc in bioinformatics at the University of Manchester. In 2011 he joined Professor Stuart Cook's cardiovascular genetics and genomics group based at Royal Brompton Hospital. Here he helped to develop the genome informatics platforms for the analysis of inherited cardiac conditions, which are essential for both research into the genetic basis of these diseases and for the newly established clinical genetics laboratory at Royal Brompton Hospital.



Current research


Project: Genetic, genotype and imaging studies of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy


Details: The project will investigate the genetic basis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and assess the effect of rare and common variants on the phenotype of HCM patients. In recent years, the number of genes implicated in HCM and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) has increased dramatically, though the published evidence for these associations has been limited. Using clinical genetics data from published work in Boston, USA; collaborators Prof Hugh Watkins, Oxford, UK; research cohorts from Royal Brompton and the recently released ExAC database of 60,706 population samples; this study will assess the role of these genes in cardiomyopathies, with particular focus on HCM.


HCM is characterised by variable penetrance - patients with similar classes of variants, indeed even family members with the same variant, can display vastly different phenotypic outcomes.  Using genome wide association studies to investigate the basis of these observations, this study will assess the effect of rare and common variants on clinical phenotypes obtained by MRI scanning. 


Contact: r.walsh@rbht.nhs.uk  


Supervisor: Professor Stuart Cook



 Publications


  • Walsh R, Thomson KL, Ware JS, Funke BH, Woodley J, McGuire KJ, Mazzarotto F, Blair E, Seller A, Taylor JC, Minikel EV, Exome Aggregation Consortium, MacArthur DG, Farrall M, Cook SA, Watkins H. Reassessment of Mendelian gene pathogenicity using 7,855 cardiomyopathy cases and 60,706 reference samples.  Genet Med. 2016 Aug 17. doi: 10.1038/gim.2016.90. PMID:27532257

 


  • Walsh R, Peters NS, Cook SA, Ware JS. Paralogue annotation identifies novel pathogenic variants in patients with Brugada syndrome and catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia. J Med Genet. 2014 Jan;51(1):35-44. PMID:24136861

 


  • Ware JS, Walsh R, Cunningham F, Birney E, Cook SA. Paralogous annotation of disease-causing variants in long QT syndrome genes. Hum Mutat. 2012 Aug;33(8):1188-91. PMID:22581653

 

Background and qualifications


Sophie Welch is a cardiovascular BRU research nurse. She was awarded the faculty of medicine dean’s prize for her distinction in Cardiorespiratory nursing MSc at Imperial College London. 


Her dissertation project provided pilot data for her PhD study at the National Heart and Lung Institute, in collaboration with cardiologist Dr Jay Wright, at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and the Institute of Cardiovascular Medicine and Science. 


Sophie was awarded a nurse training fellowship grant by the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology to support her development as a researcher in the field of heart failure (HF). 


Sophie currently works as a research nurse in the cardiovascular BRU based at Royal Brompton Hospital on clinical trials of drugs and novel therapies for patients with advanced HF. 


She was involved in the CUPID2 and Serca-LVAD gene therapy trials. Last year, Sophie was invited to become the nurse representative and nucleus member of the Heart failure specialists of Tomorrow (HoT), a young society of the Heart Failure Association (HFA) promoting interdisciplinary collaboration. As part of this role Sophie works closely with the UKHoT national representative and the BSH.

 


Current research


Project title: Treatment decision-making in heart failure management


Details: This is a mixed-methods study exploring the views of patients, family members, health professionals and the public on novel therapies and treatment decision-making in heart failure management. Participants will be recruited from two specialist UK hospitals. 


This research hopes to increase professionals understanding of the barriers and facilitators to treatment decision-making. Sophie plans to use these data to develop a model that will assist professionals in personalising treatment discussions and support adherence to treatment choice.


Contact: s.welch@rbht.nhs.uk


Supervisors: Dr Jillian Rileyand Dr Alexander Lyon 


Respiratory clinical research fellows


Background and qualifications


Bushra studied Medicine at UCL where she also gained an intercalated BSc in Psychology.  After graduation, Bushra completed her foundation training in the Oxford Deanery, before starting paediatric specialty training in London and gainied membership to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (MRCPCH) in 2011.  

 

Bushra has worked at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Ealing Hospital General,Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. She was also involved in medical education as a member of the London School of Paediatrics Faculty Development Subgroup.

 


Current research

 

Project: Chronic Suppurative Lung Disease Longitudinal Investigation of the MicroBiome in children (CLIMB study).


Contact: b.ahmed@rbht.nhs.uk 


Bushra is currently conducting an observational research study looking at the cause of respiratory infections in cystic fibrosis. The study population are children between birth and aged 16 years who have either cystic fibrosis or primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) of any severity

 

The study will have two parts: 


  • a cross-sectional study to compare the upper and lower airway microbiota to investigate whether upper airway swabs can represent lower airway pathogens
  • the longitudinal “CLIMB” study.  

 


The CLIMB study groups are:

 

  • children diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) on newborn screening
  • a comparison of children with CF with those with PCD
  • a comparison of children with CF admitted electively for intravenous antibiotics with those admitted only during exacerbations.  

 

For this study throat swabs, cough swabs or sputum samples are taken from each patient during routine clinical appointments, with the addition of stool samples from infants (only those who are still in nappies).  In addition, samples from routine bronchoscopies will also be collected.  



Publications


  • Ahmed B, Balfour Lynn IM, Alshafi K.  Cough swabs should not be used to isolate non-tuberculous mycobacteria in children with cystic fibrosis.  Archives of Disease in Childhood 2012; 97(9): 854-5.  PMID: 22798696
  • Ahmed B, Bush A, Davies J. C.  How to use: bacterial cultures in diagnosing lower respiratory tract infections in cystic fibrosis.  Archives of Disease in Childhood Education and Practice Edition 2013 – in press 

Background and qualifications


Dr Craig Batista is a respiratory registrar, who has taken time away from his clinical training to undertake research into chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He studied medicine at King’s College London and his clinical training has involved attachments within London, Surrey, Sussex and the West Midlands. 

 

Now a clinical research fellow with the Respiratory BRU, he is based at the National Heart & Lung Institute, where he is studying for a PhD under the supervision of Professors Peter Barnes and Louise Donnelly

 


Current research


Project title: An investigation into the defective nature of innate immunity in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

 

Details: Craig is researching possible causes for the defective innate immunity and inflammation displayed in COPD. His work includes studying the effects of novel anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agents and a possible new method for the measurement of inflammatory mediators present in the airway lining fluid.  

 

He is collaborating with other research groups within Imperial College, including the Imperial Clinical Respiratory Research Unit (St Mary's Hospital) and the Muscle Research Laboratory (Harefield Hospital), headed by Dr Trevor Hansel and Dr William Man respectively. He has also developed links with the respiratory department at Ashford and St. Peter’s NHS Trust, with whom he undertakes bronchoscopy for research. 

 

Craig has previously presented research findings at the annual conference for the Hyperlipidaemia Education & Research Trust UK (2003), National Association of Biochemistry (2006), the Intensive Care Society (2008) and the European Respiratory Society (2011 and 2013).

 

Craig is passionate about medical education and has achieved a postgraduate certificate with distinction. He teaches regularly at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, and has been involved in medical school curriculum development.

 

He invites patients with COPD and smoking or non-smoking healthy subjects to take part in his research, which is co-ordinated through the asthma laboratory at Royal Brompton Hospital (contact Miss Sally Meah on 020 7351 8051 or by email at airways@imperial.ac.uk).

Background and qualifications

 

Shortly after completing his undergraduate medical training at Nottingham University, Louit moved to London to specialise in intensive care, respiratory, and general internal medicine.

 

Louit has been working as a clinical research fellow within the Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit since October 2012, and continues to work as an SpR on the adult ICU at Royal Brompton.



Current research


Project title: Project: A peri-operative study of lung transplantation and acute respiratory failure


Contact: L.Thakuria@rbht.nhs.uk 


Details: Louit is currently recruiting patients who are scheduled to undergo bilateral lung transplantation at Harefield Hospital. The study will explore the recovery following lung transplantation, with a special focus on the effects on peri-operative surfactant metabolism. The aim is to recruit 40 patients over the course of 1.5 years.  The primary investigators for this study are Dr Anna Reed, Dr Nandor Marczin and Dr Mark Griffiths.

 

Louit is also involved in the study of in vitro and ex vivo models of lung injury.

Background and qualifications


Richard trained at the University of Edinburgh School of Medicine, graduating in 2008.  Foundation 1 and 2 training years were undertaken at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Wishaw General Hospital. Subsequently he was appointed as a core medical trainee, working in Monklands District General Hospital and Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

  

Since finishing core medical training, Richard has worked in respiratory medicine in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and Royal Brompton Hopsital, linked to the interstitial lung disease unit.


Current research

 

Project: An investigation into the senescence status and phenotype of macrophages in the pathogenesis of fibrotic lung disease


Richard’s PhD project aims to characterise the phenotype of alveolar macrophages in the broncoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid of patients in the spectrum of the interstitial lung diseases (ILD) compared with healthy controls.  The aim is to also show that macrophage dysfunction in these conditions is driven by premature cellular senescence and determine the effect of a targeted intervention aimed at preventing premature senescence.

 

In addition to this work, Richard will also be involved in the numerous pharmaceutical trials that the ILD unit is undertaking.

 

Contact: r.toshner@rbht.nhs.uk

Supervisor: Dr Toby Maher.



 

Publications


  • McNeill JS, Toshner R, Bessent RG, Poon FW, Gray HW, Neilly JB. Bone Sans: Keeping pace with the IRMER. Nuclear Medicine Communications. 2003 24(3):336.
  • Walker K, Toshner R, Sandeep TC, Devers M, Bain D, Barwell N.  Linezolid-induced hypoglycaemia in a patient with type 1 diabetes.   British Journal of Diabetes and Vascular Disease. July/August 2012 vol. 12 no. 4 186-188. 

Background and qualifications


Uruj completed three years of training as a specialist registrar in respiratory medicine and has now joined the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust programme as a research fellow to undertake research in severe asthma.

 


Current research


Project: Exacerbations in severe asthma patients - mechanisms and biomarkers  


Details: He will be working under the supervision of Professor Fan Chung looking at the mechanisms behind exacerbations in severe asthma. Exacerbations in severe asthma are associated with significant mortality and high morbidity and treatment costs. The currently available treatments have many shortcomings and there is therefore an unmet need for research in this area. 

 

The study will recruit severe asthmatics whilst they are experiencing an exacerbation. Patients will have their lung function and markers of inflammation measured and microbiology samples will be taken to identify the role of infective agents. 

 

The aim of the study is to develop a better understanding of the nature and course of these exacerbations, which will hopefully lead to earlier diagnosis and new potential treatment targets for asthma exacerbations. 


Contact: u.hoda@rbht.nhs.uk 

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