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Celebrating our People: Biomedical Research Unit in Reproductive Health

The Biomedical Research Unit in Reproductive Health won the Research Team Award at our University Awards in recognition of their work. The team includes colleagues from Warwick Medical School, Warwick Manufacturing Group, Department of Computer Science and University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.

Dr Omar Khan, Software Engineer, Institute of Digital Healthcare, WMG and Dr Sascha Ott, Associate Professor in Bioinformatics, Computer Science told us about their involvement.

Tell us a bit about your role:

Omar:

My job involves developing electronic systems to support current projects, whether that be creating electronic health records, databases and repositories or web servers and portals. My main projects are the Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research and the BEACON Neuroblastoma Clinical Trial. I work with a wide range of people from software engineers and IT personnel developing or maintaining systems at hospitals, to doctors and researchers commissioning and using the systems developed. "

Sascha:

I am developing computational methodologies that help biomedical researchers to answer their questions. A particular focus are the various ways in which sequencing technologies can be used to analyse molecular processes. Maintaining an awareness of the ever-changing technological landscape and constantly contributing to data analyses are important prerequisites to ensure that efforts of computational method development are targeted well. "

Tell us about the award-winning project and your involvement:

Omar:

The project for which we were named Research Team of the Year is the Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research. This is a national initiative funded by the Tommy's Charity to try to improve outcomes for couples suffering from recurrent miscarriage. My role in the project is developing the electronic system to be used as the data capture tool and analysis platform for the miscarriage clinics and the various miscarriage trials running under the Tommy's umbrella. It involves working with a number of hospitals such as University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire and Birmingham Women's Hospital to both understand the clinical requirements for the system and how this can be integrated with clinical systems currently in use at the hospital for care of patients.

The data collected will be the largest data on miscarriage in the world and will allow researchers to identify the characteristics of patients at risk of miscarriage, the tests which are the best predictors or indicators of miscarriage and the treatments most effective at reducing that risk. "

Sascha:

I was involved in the data analysis of the methylome data set that Dr Emma Lucas produced in the lab of Prof. Jan Brosens. This data analysis contributed to the formation of the hypothesis that stem cell content tends to differ between recurrent miscarriage patients and controls. This hypothesis was later confirmed by Emma which led to the clinical trial aiming to increase stem cell content in the endometrium."

Going above and beyond your role:

Omar:

The key challenges from my perspective have been trying to get the system into the NHS and having the system approved ethically to collect and store patient data. These are being resolved by consulting Information Governance experts and working with IT and integration teams at the partner hospitals to get the IT infrastructure in place to safely and securely deploy this system. "

Sascha:

Jan and I have previously produced a video explaining our collaboration that led to the paper in Stem Cells.

How does it feel to have won the Research Team Award?

Omar:

Winning the award means recognition of the great work being performed by the team and helps highlight the important and impactful research the team is undertaking to help improve the lives of people suffering from this condition. "

Sascha:

It is a great encouragement which will help us for our future work.

Why do you think people should nominate next time (for the 2018 University Awards):

Omar:

To highlight the amazing people and teams here at the University of Warwick and ensure that we recognise and commend great work and effort."

We hope you enjoyed the University Awards Evening on 12 May. Did you have any highlights?

Omar:

Great entertainment. The comedy troupe singing about building a new parking lot on campus made my day! "

The University Awards are a great chance for the University to improve and learn from staff initiatives over the year. If you could change one thing at the University, what would it be?

Omar:

I hope the outcome of this work shows how researchers at the University of Warwick can both conduct cutting edge and meaningful research as well as deliver systems and products into the public domain. I would like Warwick to continue showcasing impactful research here to attract continued funding for teams."

Sascha:

Reduce administrative obstacles by giving more powers to academic staff.

What would you like to say to the person(s) who nominated you?

Omar:

Many thanks for nominating us for the award. It means a lot to know that others see the importance of the work being performed and they recognise how much effort the team is putting in to make this initiative a success."

Extract from team nomination: By combining excellent clinical care and patient-centred research, the BRU team has successfully galvanised public support that drives, and funds, the development of the Tommy’s National Miscarriage Research Centre. The work of the Warwick team is internationally recognised as pioneering and has already delivered new treatment options that are currently being tested in clinical trials. The new Tommy’s centre now enables 24,000 women per year to access treatment and support and participate in Tommy’s research studies. Tommy’s #misCOURAGE campaign continues to grow and resonate with women, attracting a UK and global audience. To date the campaign has reached over 16 million women on Facebook with 7 million of them watching the campaign film; 7,000 taking part in a miscarriage survey and over 1,000 women bravely sharing their personal #misCOURAGE story.

Biomedical Research Unit in Reproductive Health

You can shadow Sascha or Omar through our work shadowing programme.