Welcome to OPTIMA: The EPSRC and MRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Optical Medical Imaging

What is OPTIMA?

OPTIMA is a 4 year PhD training programme combining:

  • excellent research and PhD supervision in world-leading scientific environments, and
  • a bespoke programme of business training in healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship.

It is a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) funded by both the EPSRC and the MRC in recognition for our use of cutting-edge optical technology to address key clinical questions via medical imaging.

OPTIMA is hosted by the University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde.

Our focus is to train the next generation of scientific entrepreneurs in healthcare technologies and so we place great emphasis on interdisciplinary projects, commercially-relevant training and strong ties to the clinical environment.

People

The key to OPTIMA’s success is its people.
Management, supervisors and students are working together to create a unique training environment

Management

OPTIMA's managment team are committed to delivering the best training possible for our students. Not only does it contain key leaders in the various academic fields represented by OPTIMA, but also a dedicated support staff of manager, outreach officer and administrators.

Meet the team behind OPTIMA...

Prof Mark Bradley

Principal Investigator

Over the past 7 or 8 years I, along with Dr Kev Dhaliwal, have established a centre for excellence in Optical Medical Imaging in Scotland. For example we run an EPSRC-funded Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration aimed at developing a Multiplexed "Touch and Tell" Optical Molecular Sensing and Imaging System. This system will provide real healthcare benefits for patients; as it uses optical imaging to allow doctors to rapidly diagnose patients and monitor them in real-time without the need for cumbersome equipment. In working on this programme it became clear that there was a national need to establish a Centre for Doctoral Training in Optical Medical Imaging to train the next generation of young researchers. However my vision goes beyond this. I am a strong believer in the rapid translation and application of my research - I have spun out 4 companies so far including an imaging company. And so OPTIMA is a product of what I see as an unmet need in the training of young scientists : all students will have a clinical focus while being driven by the cutting-edge technology of the physical sciences and at the same time receive a full year's worth of business training in entrepreneurship.

Prof Duncan Graham

Principal Investigator

Optical medical imaging is most certainly an area of growth in terms of research into new techniques and their applications. Translating this research into benefits to healthcare treatment is happening but to ensure this is occurs rapidly and is sustained we need to provide the next generation of highly skilled and innovative scientists and clinicians. OPTIMA was created with this view in mind and being involved with such a vibrant, dynamic and high quality doctoral training centre is something I find very exciting and rewarding.

Dr Colin Campbell

Director

As the Director my role has been to design and establish the training program that is an integral part of the CDT. I think that we’ve put together a program that’s really exciting and I would love to do if I was a student all over again.
Optical Medical Imaging is exciting and it’s also challenging I think we’ve put together a CDT that offers exciting research opportunities along with the support required to succeed in a multidisciplinary environment.

Prof Karen Faulds

Deputy Director

OPTIMA is an amazing opportunity to be involved in cutting edge research in optical medical imaging. The multidisciplinary ethos of the CDT and the exciting opportunities made available by being able to collaborate with biomedical scientists and clinicians to design innovative research projects with real world applications is truly unique. The students involved in the programme are all very motivated and engaged and I believe this is a great opportunity for them to carry out research in a truly multidisciplinary environment.

Principal Investigator

Over the past 7 or 8 years I, along with Dr Kev Dhaliwal, have established a centre for excellence in Optical Medical Imaging in Scotland. For example we run an EPSRC-funded Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration aimed at developing a Multiplexed "Touch and Tell" Optical Molecular Sensing and Imaging System. This system will provide real healthcare benefits for patients; as it uses optical imaging to allow doctors to rapidly diagnose patients and monitor them in real-time without the need for cumbersome equipment. In working on this programme it became clear that there was a national need to establish a Centre for Doctoral Training in Optical Medical Imaging to train the next generation of young researchers. However my vision goes beyond this. I am a strong believer in the rapid translation and application of my research - I have spun out 4 companies so far including an imaging company. And so OPTIMA is a product of what I see as an unmet need in the training of young scientists : all students will have a clinical focus while being driven by the cutting-edge technology of the physical sciences and at the same time receive a full year's worth of business training in entrepreneurship.

Principal Investigator

Optical medical imaging is most certainly an area of growth in terms of research into new techniques and their applications. Translating this research into benefits to healthcare treatment is happening but to ensure this is occurs rapidly and is sustained we need to provide the next generation of highly skilled and innovative scientists and clinicians. OPTIMA was created with this view in mind and being involved with such a vibrant, dynamic and high quality doctoral training centre is something I find very exciting and rewarding.

Director

As the Director my role has been to design and establish the training program that is an integral part of the CDT. I think that we’ve put together a program that’s really exciting and I would love to do if I was a student all over again.
Optical Medical Imaging is exciting and it’s also challenging I think we’ve put together a CDT that offers exciting research opportunities along with the support required to succeed in a multidisciplinary environment.

Deputy Director

OPTIMA is an amazing opportunity to be involved in cutting edge research in optical medical imaging. The multidisciplinary ethos of the CDT and the exciting opportunities made available by being able to collaborate with biomedical scientists and clinicians to design innovative research projects with real world applications is truly unique. The students involved in the programme are all very motivated and engaged and I believe this is a great opportunity for them to carry out research in a truly multidisciplinary environment.

Dr Kev Dhaliwal

Deputy Director

I am involved with OPTIMA because I am passionate about innovating in healthcare. Optical imaging will revolutionize modern healthcare by providing point of care molecular sensing and monitoring tools.. I see OPTIMA as an essential training ground for the College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine to foster the future leaders in this area. Interdisciplinary research is the future of science. I work both as a consultant physician in the NHS and a University Senior Lecturer and my role in OPTIMA is to help provide the clinical bridge to optical imaging. I also wish to encourage young clinicians to embrace interdisciplinary research and join OPTIMA thorough clinical fellowships. We need to ‘light up disease’ and push molecular imaging into a new optical frontier.

Prof Chris Gregory

Deputy Director

The ability to visualize cell and tissue processes with high resolution lies at the heart of biomedical science. The reason I undertook an academic career in this field was a fascination with the microscopic world which inspired me from the very first time I looked down a light microscope in a biology class at school. Seeing is believing and optical imaging-based observation is a fundamentally powerful discovery tool for biological and medical science. The particular attraction of OPTIMA is that it uniquely provides new opportunities for such discovery by bringing true multidisciplinary expertise together. Successful multidisciplinary interactions are essential in 21st century biomedical research but are difficult to achieve. OPTIMA is successfully training the next generation of optical imaging scientists through just such interactions. That’s why it’s both satisfying and fun to be involved.

Prof Jamie Fleck

Deputy Director

As the representative from the University of Edinburgh Business School, I am leading on overseeing and delivering the innovation and enterprise elements of the OPTIMA programme. With nearly 40 years (!!) of involvement in research on science and high technology based innovation and entrepreneurship, I am really excited by the potential offered by the programme to go far beyond the normal bounds of PhD study, by making a substantial difference to the well being of society as well as providing an early lift off for a meteoric career for the participants.

Dr Jean O'Donoghue

Project Manager

To me, OPTIMA represents an amazing opportunity to transform PhD training. In funding this CDT, the EPSRC and the MRC have given us a responsibility and a challenge - to enshrine the value of interdisciplinary research from the beginning of our students' scientific careers and to enhance their training opportunities in order to meet the need for business-ready scientists in the future. My role in the team to make sure we are successful in our goal of "training the next generation of scientific entrepreneurs". I need to ensure our students our supported and encouraged through their training - as it is challenging combining research between lab groups/disciplines as well as participating in the integrated study modules. I also scope opportunities to improve our training in terms of making further connections outside OPTIMA with the commercial world, other CDTs and training professionals. If we do our job well - I hope OPTIMA can become a model for how PhD-training could be for all students in the future - challenging yet supportive - interdiscipinary yet focussed.

Deputy Director

I am involved with OPTIMA because I am passionate about innovating in healthcare. Optical imaging will revolutionize modern healthcare by providing point of care molecular sensing and monitoring tools.. I see OPTIMA as an essential training ground for the College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine to foster the future leaders in this area. Interdisciplinary research is the future of science. I work both as a consultant physician in the NHS and a University Senior Lecturer and my role in OPTIMA is to help provide the clinical bridge to optical imaging. I also wish to encourage young clinicians to embrace interdisciplinary research and join OPTIMA thorough clinical fellowships. We need to ‘light up disease’ and push molecular imaging into a new optical frontier.

Deputy Director

The ability to visualize cell and tissue processes with high resolution lies at the heart of biomedical science. The reason I undertook an academic career in this field was a fascination with the microscopic world which inspired me from the very first time I looked down a light microscope in a biology class at school. Seeing is believing and optical imaging-based observation is a fundamentally powerful discovery tool for biological and medical science. The particular attraction of OPTIMA is that it uniquely provides new opportunities for such discovery by bringing true multidisciplinary expertise together. Successful multidisciplinary interactions are essential in 21st century biomedical research but are difficult to achieve. OPTIMA is successfully training the next generation of optical imaging scientists through just such interactions. That’s why it’s both satisfying and fun to be involved.

Deputy Director

As the representative from the University of Edinburgh Business School, I am leading on overseeing and delivering the innovation and enterprise elements of the OPTIMA programme. With nearly 40 years (!!) of involvement in research on science and high technology based innovation and entrepreneurship, I am really excited by the potential offered by the programme to go far beyond the normal bounds of PhD study, by making a substantial difference to the well being of society as well as providing an early lift off for a meteoric career for the participants.

Project Manager

To me, OPTIMA represents an amazing opportunity to transform PhD training. In funding this CDT, the EPSRC and the MRC have given us a responsibility and a challenge - to enshrine the value of interdisciplinary research from the beginning of our students' scientific careers and to enhance their training opportunities in order to meet the need for business-ready scientists in the future. My role in the team to make sure we are successful in our goal of "training the next generation of scientific entrepreneurs". I need to ensure our students our supported and encouraged through their training - as it is challenging combining research between lab groups/disciplines as well as participating in the integrated study modules. I also scope opportunities to improve our training in terms of making further connections outside OPTIMA with the commercial world, other CDTs and training professionals. If we do our job well - I hope OPTIMA can become a model for how PhD-training could be for all students in the future - challenging yet supportive - interdiscipinary yet focussed.

Dr Kirsty Ross

Outreach Officer

My scientific background in microbiology and immunology, as well as six years experience in public engagement, is enabling me to hit the ground running in the role of Outreach Officer. I was absolutely delighted to join OPTIMA's dynamic and enthusiastic team. It offers a unique opportunity to fuse industry engagement with community outreach. In this role, I hope to focus on reaching audiences who wouldn’t ordinarily get the opportunity to meet researchers in such a cutting-edge field, strengthening links with current industrial partners and forging new partnerships. Nanoscience and nanotechnology have the potential to revolutionise medicine and many other fields. By embedding engagement with end users from the start, it will be possible to address any concerns using open and honest dialogue and share the excitement! I am open to any and all ideas for how we could work together, so please do not hesitate to get in touch!

Mrs Samantha Brown

OPTIMA Administrator (Edinburgh)

I am the administrator on the OPTIMA project supporting staff and students in the University of Edinburgh. I manage and organise the student administration for the project, ensuring details of students, courses and programmes are stored accurately on the University system. I organise events, for example, summer schools and induction. A large part of my role is to monitor all financial related aspects of the project and ensure expenses and other financial related matters are processed timeously and efficiently. I liaise with applicants regarding their applications and interview arrangements and manage the logistics of organising the interviews.

Ms Gillian Neeson

OPTIMA Administrator (Strathclyde)

My role in OPTIMA includes providing full organisational and administrative support to the PI, Centre Director and Management Team. This includes production of a mid-term funding review, contribution to funding application processes, complex budget administration, development of best practice models including drafting, establishing and maintaining standard operating procedures, managing student recruitment, industrial placements and external promotion activities where appropriate, organisation of meetings, classes and workshops, collating and producing learning support materials, attending committees as appropriate and general administrative duties.

Outreach Officer

My scientific background in microbiology and immunology, as well as six years experience in public engagement, is enabling me to hit the ground running in the role of Outreach Officer. I was absolutely delighted to join OPTIMA's dynamic and enthusiastic team. It offers a unique opportunity to fuse industry engagement with community outreach. In this role, I hope to focus on reaching audiences who wouldn’t ordinarily get the opportunity to meet researchers in such a cutting-edge field, strengthening links with current industrial partners and forging new partnerships. Nanoscience and nanotechnology have the potential to revolutionise medicine and many other fields. By embedding engagement with end users from the start, it will be possible to address any concerns using open and honest dialogue and share the excitement! I am open to any and all ideas for how we could work together, so please do not hesitate to get in touch!

OPTIMA Administrator (Edinburgh)

I am the administrator on the OPTIMA project supporting staff and students in the University of Edinburgh. I manage and organise the student administration for the project, ensuring details of students, courses and programmes are stored accurately on the University system. I organise events, for example, summer schools and induction. A large part of my role is to monitor all financial related aspects of the project and ensure expenses and other financial related matters are processed timeously and efficiently. I liaise with applicants regarding their applications and interview arrangements and manage the logistics of organising the interviews.

OPTIMA Administrator (Strathclyde)

My role in OPTIMA includes providing full organisational and administrative support to the PI, Centre Director and Management Team. This includes production of a mid-term funding review, contribution to funding application processes, complex budget administration, development of best practice models including drafting, establishing and maintaining standard operating procedures, managing student recruitment, industrial placements and external promotion activities where appropriate, organisation of meetings, classes and workshops, collating and producing learning support materials, attending committees as appropriate and general administrative duties.

Supervisors

OPTIMA brings together two internationally leading teams. The combination of capabilities in physical sciences and clinical translation offered through this partnership present an unsurpassed environment for dynamic postgraduate training.

Our team of supervisors is of international standing in their respective fields. They have published in excess of 1300 peer-reviewed papers, are in receipt of research grant income in excess of £110M and have supervised in excess of 300 PhD students.

Dr Alison Hulme

School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh

My research interests in natural products chemistry cover diverse fields, from synthetic organic chemistry and chemical biology and medicine, to imaging and historic textile dyestuffs. I have a particular interest in the synthesis of natural products which interact with their biological targets through several, or many, chiral groups. We use libraries based around these natural product targets to investigate their structure activity relationships. I’m also interested in the design and synthesis of small molecule probes to investigate the interactions of biomolecules both in vivo and in vitro. We use a range of techniques (affinity chromatography, FRET, NMR footprinting, MS, Raman spectroscopy etc.) to investigate how our natural products and other biomolecules such as glycosaminoglycans, steroids and peptide aptamers bind to their cellular targets.

Dr Alastair Wark

Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, University of Strathclyde

My research focus is based around the synthesis, functionalization and analytical applications of novel nanomaterials alongside the development of techniques capable of optically imaging and tracking single nanoparticles and molecules. The advantages of these materials for nanometrology and bioanalytical science is that optical measurements can be performed to monitor biomolecular interactions in real-time. As well as developing robust methodologies for ultrasensitive bioaffinity detection at target concentrations approaching just a few molecules, we are also exploring the use of multimodal imaging techniques for monitoring nanoparticle-cellular interactions. This involves developing hybrid nanostructures which can be used for tackling research challenges requiring dynamic measurements in complex biological environments. Consequently, my research is highly multidisciplinary and I have enjoyed successfully collaborating with researchers from across the biology, physics, engineering and medicine research fields.

Dr Andy Downes

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

My research is focussed on label-free optical imaging and spectroscopy, applied to living cells and tissue. Label-free optical techniques are ideally suited to distinguishing cancerous from healthy cells. These fall into three categories: molecular bond vibrations (Raman), second harmonic generation (collagen), and autofluorescence (elastin).

Prof David Birch

Department of Physics, University of Strathclyde

My group focuses on interdisciplinary molecular grand challenges at the biomedical interface that are relevant to metabolism and disease. We are among the pioneers of modern-day fluorescence lifetime spectroscopy and the initiators and driving force behind Scotland being the global manufacturing hub for fluorescence lifetime instrumentation. Many of the techniques and instrumentation first published by the group are now in widespread use and are standards in the field. For example, multiplexed time-correlated single-photon counting has become the method of choice for fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM). Current research includes biomolecular structure and dynamics down to the single molecule level, melanin structure, photophysics and melanoma; glucose sensing for diabetes; aggregation leading to fibrils e.g. beta-amyloid and Alzheimer’s disease; gold nanoparticle photophysics and its application to sensing and imaging; and 1-10 nm silica nanoparticle metrology.

School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh

My research interests in natural products chemistry cover diverse fields, from synthetic organic chemistry and chemical biology and medicine, to imaging and historic textile dyestuffs. I have a particular interest in the synthesis of natural products which interact with their biological targets through several, or many, chiral groups. We use libraries based around these natural product targets to investigate their structure activity relationships. I’m also interested in the design and synthesis of small molecule probes to investigate the interactions of biomolecules both in vivo and in vitro. We use a range of techniques (affinity chromatography, FRET, NMR footprinting, MS, Raman spectroscopy etc.) to investigate how our natural products and other biomolecules such as glycosaminoglycans, steroids and peptide aptamers bind to their cellular targets.

Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, University of Strathclyde

My research focus is based around the synthesis, functionalization and analytical applications of novel nanomaterials alongside the development of techniques capable of optically imaging and tracking single nanoparticles and molecules. The advantages of these materials for nanometrology and bioanalytical science is that optical measurements can be performed to monitor biomolecular interactions in real-time. As well as developing robust methodologies for ultrasensitive bioaffinity detection at target concentrations approaching just a few molecules, we are also exploring the use of multimodal imaging techniques for monitoring nanoparticle-cellular interactions. This involves developing hybrid nanostructures which can be used for tackling research challenges requiring dynamic measurements in complex biological environments. Consequently, my research is highly multidisciplinary and I have enjoyed successfully collaborating with researchers from across the biology, physics, engineering and medicine research fields.

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

My research is focussed on label-free optical imaging and spectroscopy, applied to living cells and tissue. Label-free optical techniques are ideally suited to distinguishing cancerous from healthy cells. These fall into three categories: molecular bond vibrations (Raman), second harmonic generation (collagen), and autofluorescence (elastin).

Department of Physics, University of Strathclyde

My group focuses on interdisciplinary molecular grand challenges at the biomedical interface that are relevant to metabolism and disease. We are among the pioneers of modern-day fluorescence lifetime spectroscopy and the initiators and driving force behind Scotland being the global manufacturing hub for fluorescence lifetime instrumentation. Many of the techniques and instrumentation first published by the group are now in widespread use and are standards in the field. For example, multiplexed time-correlated single-photon counting has become the method of choice for fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM). Current research includes biomolecular structure and dynamics down to the single molecule level, melanin structure, photophysics and melanoma; glucose sensing for diabetes; aggregation leading to fibrils e.g. beta-amyloid and Alzheimer’s disease; gold nanoparticle photophysics and its application to sensing and imaging; and 1-10 nm silica nanoparticle metrology.

Prof Charles ffrench-Constant

Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh

The principal focus of our research is multiple sclerosis (MS), an inflammatory progressive disease in which the myelin around the axons of the central nervous system (CNS) is damaged. We identify molecules and signalling pathways that can be used to enhance repair in the damaged CNS by recruiting stem cells and by enhancing the formation of myelin sheaths by the new oligodendrocytes formed by these stem cells. Additionally, ongoing collaborative projects in our laboratory also address spinal-cord injury.
The CNS consists of the brain and the spinal cord and is made up of nerve cells (neurons) and glial cells. The neurons transmit information from one cell to another, while the glial cells support and protect the neurons. Oligodendrocytes, one of the supporting glial cell types, form the myelin that insulates the axons of neurons. These cells are damaged in MS, and can be replaced by new oligodendrocytes formed by stem cell-like oligodendrocyte precursors. In MS this repair fails, and overcoming this failure is the focus of our research with specific goals being i) the mechanisms by which oligodendrocytes form a myelin sheath and ii) how the stem cells in the CNS become activated to contribute to oligodendrocyte replacement.

Prof Chris Haslett

Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh

Early in my career my focus was on harnessing the apoptotic and recognition processes to drive resolution of inflammation/scarring processes culminating in the key discovery that cdk inhibitors could 'drive' neutrophil apoptosis and promote the resolution of inflammatory/scarring processes. In the past five years I have joined forces with Mark Bradley and Kev Dhaliwal to create novel optical imaging 'smartprobes' which, partnered by in vivo bronchoscopic confocal microscopy, are now ready for 'first-into-man' application in lung inflammation fibrosis. The discovery of granulocyte apoptosis and the recognition of its likely role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory disease has stimulated research in this field in many laboratories internationally. The recent demonstration that it can be harnessed for potential benefit provides a new approach to the treatment of currently intractable inflammatory diseases of the lung and other organs. There is considerable interest in our new optical imaging approach to detecting 'real-time' specific molecular events deep in diseased human tissues. This will provide novel tools for drug design, patient stratification and rapid assessment of drug efficacy.

Prof Alistair Elfick

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

My research interests include:
Optical Spectroscopy – this is a very valuable tool for non-invasively probing the chemistry and molecular structure of matter. We are developing instrumentation to investigate the utility of conducting near-field optical microscopy and spectroscopy using an apertureless approach.
Orthopaedic biomaterials - research into the wear performance of total joint replacements. This work is augmented with investigation of the cellular/tissue reaction to orthopaedic biomaterials and their wear products.
Synthetic Biology - is an emergent discipline in which we undertake to rationally design and fabricate biological devices which show some desired functionality.
Nanotribology - the tribology of biological systems is in general poorly understood at the molecular level. On-going basic science research into the molecular lubricating ability of adsorbed proteins glycoproteins lipids polyelectrolytes and so on will inform many future medical and engineering applications.

Prof David Newby

Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh

My principal research interests are in endothelial and vascular biology, acute coronary syndromes and heart failure; focusing on clinical experimental and translational medicine. I currently hold a Programme Grant from the British Heart Foundation to explore the adverse cardiovascular effects of air pollution. I am involved in several multicentre trials and have played a major role in the conduct of the SALTIRE (Scottish Aortic stenosis Lipid lowering Trial, Impact on REgression) and 3CPO (Health Technology Assessment trial of non-invasive ventilation for acute cardiogenic pulmonary oedema) trials.

Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh

The principal focus of our research is multiple sclerosis (MS), an inflammatory progressive disease in which the myelin around the axons of the central nervous system (CNS) is damaged. We identify molecules and signalling pathways that can be used to enhance repair in the damaged CNS by recruiting stem cells and by enhancing the formation of myelin sheaths by the new oligodendrocytes formed by these stem cells. Additionally, ongoing collaborative projects in our laboratory also address spinal-cord injury.
The CNS consists of the brain and the spinal cord and is made up of nerve cells (neurons) and glial cells. The neurons transmit information from one cell to another, while the glial cells support and protect the neurons. Oligodendrocytes, one of the supporting glial cell types, form the myelin that insulates the axons of neurons. These cells are damaged in MS, and can be replaced by new oligodendrocytes formed by stem cell-like oligodendrocyte precursors. In MS this repair fails, and overcoming this failure is the focus of our research with specific goals being i) the mechanisms by which oligodendrocytes form a myelin sheath and ii) how the stem cells in the CNS become activated to contribute to oligodendrocyte replacement.

Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh

Early in my career my focus was on harnessing the apoptotic and recognition processes to drive resolution of inflammation/scarring processes culminating in the key discovery that cdk inhibitors could 'drive' neutrophil apoptosis and promote the resolution of inflammatory/scarring processes. In the past five years I have joined forces with Mark Bradley and Kev Dhaliwal to create novel optical imaging 'smartprobes' which, partnered by in vivo bronchoscopic confocal microscopy, are now ready for 'first-into-man' application in lung inflammation fibrosis. The discovery of granulocyte apoptosis and the recognition of its likely role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory disease has stimulated research in this field in many laboratories internationally. The recent demonstration that it can be harnessed for potential benefit provides a new approach to the treatment of currently intractable inflammatory diseases of the lung and other organs. There is considerable interest in our new optical imaging approach to detecting 'real-time' specific molecular events deep in diseased human tissues. This will provide novel tools for drug design, patient stratification and rapid assessment of drug efficacy.

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

My research interests include:
Optical Spectroscopy – this is a very valuable tool for non-invasively probing the chemistry and molecular structure of matter. We are developing instrumentation to investigate the utility of conducting near-field optical microscopy and spectroscopy using an apertureless approach.
Orthopaedic biomaterials - research into the wear performance of total joint replacements. This work is augmented with investigation of the cellular/tissue reaction to orthopaedic biomaterials and their wear products.
Synthetic Biology - is an emergent discipline in which we undertake to rationally design and fabricate biological devices which show some desired functionality.
Nanotribology - the tribology of biological systems is in general poorly understood at the molecular level. On-going basic science research into the molecular lubricating ability of adsorbed proteins glycoproteins lipids polyelectrolytes and so on will inform many future medical and engineering applications.

Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh

My principal research interests are in endothelial and vascular biology, acute coronary syndromes and heart failure; focusing on clinical experimental and translational medicine. I currently hold a Programme Grant from the British Heart Foundation to explore the adverse cardiovascular effects of air pollution. I am involved in several multicentre trials and have played a major role in the conduct of the SALTIRE (Scottish Aortic stenosis Lipid lowering Trial, Impact on REgression) and 3CPO (Health Technology Assessment trial of non-invasive ventilation for acute cardiogenic pulmonary oedema) trials.

Dr Colin Campbell

School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh

My research direction is towards understanding the role of redox chemistry in biological systems. Understanding how redox chemistry impacts biological function is important because it not only underpins normal cell function, but when it goes wrong it is implicated in diseases ranging from neurodegeneration to cancer. This research has two distinct components: SERS nanosensors for measuring intracellular redox potential and mapping circuits of redox regulation in cells using systems-biology notation. SERS Nanosensors Gold nanoshells (metal-coated dielectrics) are a novel-class of optically-tuneable nanoparticle for which optical absorption can be controlled by adjusting the dimensions of the core and shell. This property can be exploited to design nanoparticles optimized for use in spectral regions where most biological materials are fairly transparent and exhibit low autofluorescence. We recently reported the first use of gold nanoshells as intracellular sensors based on surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) and have since established that these materials exhibit low toxicity to the cells of interest. We are now actively developing sensors based on chemically modified nanoshells to measure redox potential in living cells.

Dr Marc Vendrell

Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh

The aim of our research is to develop fluorescent chemical probes as optical imaging tools to interrogate in situ and in real time, key events associated to cancer and inflammation. These probes will be eventually applied in man as new diagnostics tools with high specificity and molecular resolution. Our probes target relevant biomarkers in cancer and inflammation, and are generated through a multidisciplinary approach that involves organic chemistry, cell biology, imaging and medicine. Activatable fluorescent probes are advantageous in that their fluorescent signal is triggered by a target molecule (e.g. protein, enzyme, metabolite) or a specific environment (e.g. subcellular organelle); hence they emit fluorescence only after they interaction with the specific target. This strategy leads to optimum signal-to-noise ratios with increased sensitivity over other optical imaging approaches and enables their use in small concentrations reducing any potential adverse effects and facilitating the translation to clinical applications.

Prof Val Brunton

Institute for Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh

Tumour cells metastasise via a series of discrete biological processes that allow cells to disseminate from the primary tumour, move and colonise distant sites within the body. Our research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms whereby tumour cells can metastasise. We are using mouse models of metastatic cancer carrying fluorescent reporters that allow us to follow the metastatic process in real time using whole body imaging, while high resolution intravital microscopy allows us to follow the behaviour of single cells in the tumour micro-environment. This provides a unique way to study these processes and allows us to monitor drug efficacy and mechanism of action of new molecularly targeted agents that are currently in clinical development. We hope that this approach will lead to the development of more effective treatment strategies.

Prof Gail McConnell

Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, University of Strathclyde

My research background is in photonics and the development of optical instrumentation. My present research applies this expertise to develop and apply innovative novel optical systems to address fundamental challenges faced in biological imaging. As the life sciences communities continue to embrace optical imaging, the growing range of applications places greater demands on the optical technology required. Robust and simple to use systems are sought to improve the efficiency and ease of existing imaging techniques. Nonlinear optics has demonstrated great potential in creating useful solutions for advanced optical imaging, exploiting higher order effects not only to improve existing imaging methods but also to assist with the creation of new imaging techniques. Current projects involve innovations in nonlinear optics to create new enabling technologies. These include custom-designed laser systems for coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering microscopy, the creation of 'open source' laser scanning microscopy platforms, the application of optical methods to control the function and behaviour of biological organisms and the development of diagnostic tools and measurement techniques applied in optical imaging.

School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh

My research direction is towards understanding the role of redox chemistry in biological systems. Understanding how redox chemistry impacts biological function is important because it not only underpins normal cell function, but when it goes wrong it is implicated in diseases ranging from neurodegeneration to cancer. This research has two distinct components: SERS nanosensors for measuring intracellular redox potential and mapping circuits of redox regulation in cells using systems-biology notation. SERS Nanosensors Gold nanoshells (metal-coated dielectrics) are a novel-class of optically-tuneable nanoparticle for which optical absorption can be controlled by adjusting the dimensions of the core and shell. This property can be exploited to design nanoparticles optimized for use in spectral regions where most biological materials are fairly transparent and exhibit low autofluorescence. We recently reported the first use of gold nanoshells as intracellular sensors based on surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) and have since established that these materials exhibit low toxicity to the cells of interest. We are now actively developing sensors based on chemically modified nanoshells to measure redox potential in living cells.

Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh

The aim of our research is to develop fluorescent chemical probes as optical imaging tools to interrogate in situ and in real time, key events associated to cancer and inflammation. These probes will be eventually applied in man as new diagnostics tools with high specificity and molecular resolution. Our probes target relevant biomarkers in cancer and inflammation, and are generated through a multidisciplinary approach that involves organic chemistry, cell biology, imaging and medicine. Activatable fluorescent probes are advantageous in that their fluorescent signal is triggered by a target molecule (e.g. protein, enzyme, metabolite) or a specific environment (e.g. subcellular organelle); hence they emit fluorescence only after they interaction with the specific target. This strategy leads to optimum signal-to-noise ratios with increased sensitivity over other optical imaging approaches and enables their use in small concentrations reducing any potential adverse effects and facilitating the translation to clinical applications.

Institute for Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh

Tumour cells metastasise via a series of discrete biological processes that allow cells to disseminate from the primary tumour, move and colonise distant sites within the body. Our research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms whereby tumour cells can metastasise. We are using mouse models of metastatic cancer carrying fluorescent reporters that allow us to follow the metastatic process in real time using whole body imaging, while high resolution intravital microscopy allows us to follow the behaviour of single cells in the tumour micro-environment. This provides a unique way to study these processes and allows us to monitor drug efficacy and mechanism of action of new molecularly targeted agents that are currently in clinical development. We hope that this approach will lead to the development of more effective treatment strategies.

Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, University of Strathclyde

My research background is in photonics and the development of optical instrumentation. My present research applies this expertise to develop and apply innovative novel optical systems to address fundamental challenges faced in biological imaging. As the life sciences communities continue to embrace optical imaging, the growing range of applications places greater demands on the optical technology required. Robust and simple to use systems are sought to improve the efficiency and ease of existing imaging techniques. Nonlinear optics has demonstrated great potential in creating useful solutions for advanced optical imaging, exploiting higher order effects not only to improve existing imaging methods but also to assist with the creation of new imaging techniques. Current projects involve innovations in nonlinear optics to create new enabling technologies. These include custom-designed laser systems for coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering microscopy, the creation of 'open source' laser scanning microscopy platforms, the application of optical methods to control the function and behaviour of biological organisms and the development of diagnostic tools and measurement techniques applied in optical imaging.

Dr Javier Escudero

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

I am a signal processing engineer who analyses biomedical data. My main aim is to reveal the subtle changes that major diseases (e.g., Alzheimer's and epilepsy) cause in the brain activity and how this changes in different conditions and mental states. In collaboration with researchers at Edinburgh, across the UK and overseas, I am currently working in the processing and analysis of biomedical signals, particularly human brain activity. By applying advanced mathematics, I aim at increasing our understanding of how several brain conditions progress. I have expertise in noise reduction and feature extraction for diverse biomedical recordings. Of particular interest is the evaluation of brain functional connectivity in both neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases to understand how they affect the way in which different brain regions interact with each other. I am also interested in the application of pattern recognition techniques to highly-dimensional clinical datasets to support decision making and in the development of non-invasive methods for rehabilitation purposes, being either the dexterous controls prostheses for amputees or brain-computer interfaces.

Dr Pierre Bagnaninchi

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

Our main research interest is the development of non-destructive quantitative monitoring technologies for regenerative medicine to monitor cell distribution, viability and identity in 2D and 3D cell therapies delivery vehicles (film, scaffold, gels, matrices). These technologies will help us to establish a quality-control of cell-based products before they are used in the clinic. They also address the need for real-time monitoring of in vitro disease models. Our current projects are Optical coherence tomography for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine; and non-invasive biosensors and quantitative methods in medicine and biology

Dr Olaf Rolinsky

Department of Physics, University of Strathclyde

My group’s main research goal is developing new fluorescence sensors based on nanometre distance-dependent molecular interactions. We specialise in fluorescence lifetime based sensing, particularly fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) sensors for structural, metal ion and metabolite detection. We developed the method to determine the donor-acceptor distribution functions from FRET experiment data. We are involved in structural studies of phospholipid assemblies, sol-gels and porous polymers. Our biomedical research interests include: analyte-induced conformational changes of proteins monitored by fluorescence and specially designed FRET systems.

Prof Seth Grant

Centre for Neuroregeneration, University of Edinburgh

Our research has focussed on the study of genes and proteins that control the synapses between nerve cells. Multiprotein machines comprising many different protein components are responsible for basic innate and learned behaviours and dysfunction in many brain diseases. Recent work shows that these mechanisms are conserved between mice and humans opening new avenues for diagnosis and therapeutic discoveries.
These protein complexes are microscopic molecular machines inside synapses - the junctions between nerve cells. Molecular proteomic studies show there are more than 1000 synapse proteins working together to process information in the brain.
Multiprotein complexes are involved with dozens of brain diseases, control multiple types of behaviours and are involved with the responses to drug treatments of mental disorders. Evolutionary studies show ancient forms of the complexes evolved over a billion years in single cell animals and may represent the origin of the brain.
Our long term goal is to understand the molecular basis of the extraordinarily complex brain of humans, how this complexity evolved, what it confers on behaviour and why brain evolution made us susceptible to mental illness.

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

I am a signal processing engineer who analyses biomedical data. My main aim is to reveal the subtle changes that major diseases (e.g., Alzheimer's and epilepsy) cause in the brain activity and how this changes in different conditions and mental states. In collaboration with researchers at Edinburgh, across the UK and overseas, I am currently working in the processing and analysis of biomedical signals, particularly human brain activity. By applying advanced mathematics, I aim at increasing our understanding of how several brain conditions progress. I have expertise in noise reduction and feature extraction for diverse biomedical recordings. Of particular interest is the evaluation of brain functional connectivity in both neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases to understand how they affect the way in which different brain regions interact with each other. I am also interested in the application of pattern recognition techniques to highly-dimensional clinical datasets to support decision making and in the development of non-invasive methods for rehabilitation purposes, being either the dexterous controls prostheses for amputees or brain-computer interfaces.

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

Our main research interest is the development of non-destructive quantitative monitoring technologies for regenerative medicine to monitor cell distribution, viability and identity in 2D and 3D cell therapies delivery vehicles (film, scaffold, gels, matrices). These technologies will help us to establish a quality-control of cell-based products before they are used in the clinic. They also address the need for real-time monitoring of in vitro disease models. Our current projects are Optical coherence tomography for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine; and non-invasive biosensors and quantitative methods in medicine and biology

Department of Physics, University of Strathclyde

My group’s main research goal is developing new fluorescence sensors based on nanometre distance-dependent molecular interactions. We specialise in fluorescence lifetime based sensing, particularly fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) sensors for structural, metal ion and metabolite detection. We developed the method to determine the donor-acceptor distribution functions from FRET experiment data. We are involved in structural studies of phospholipid assemblies, sol-gels and porous polymers. Our biomedical research interests include: analyte-induced conformational changes of proteins monitored by fluorescence and specially designed FRET systems.

Centre for Neuroregeneration, University of Edinburgh

Our research has focussed on the study of genes and proteins that control the synapses between nerve cells. Multiprotein machines comprising many different protein components are responsible for basic innate and learned behaviours and dysfunction in many brain diseases. Recent work shows that these mechanisms are conserved between mice and humans opening new avenues for diagnosis and therapeutic discoveries.
These protein complexes are microscopic molecular machines inside synapses - the junctions between nerve cells. Molecular proteomic studies show there are more than 1000 synapse proteins working together to process information in the brain.
Multiprotein complexes are involved with dozens of brain diseases, control multiple types of behaviours and are involved with the responses to drug treatments of mental disorders. Evolutionary studies show ancient forms of the complexes evolved over a billion years in single cell animals and may represent the origin of the brain.
Our long term goal is to understand the molecular basis of the extraordinarily complex brain of humans, how this complexity evolved, what it confers on behaviour and why brain evolution made us susceptible to mental illness.

Dr Marc Dweck

University/British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science

I am interested in the use of modern imaging techniques to investigate the pathophysiology of aortic stenosis. Primarily combined positron emission tomography and computed tomography (PET/CT) to study inflammation and calcification within the valve and cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) to study fibrosis both within the valve and the hypertrophied myocardium. These studies form the basis of my British Heart Foundation Clinical PhD training fellowship and my recent Intermediate Clinical Research Fellowship. More recently I have become interested in the application of PET/CT to the detection of high-risk atherosclerotic plaque that has led to major funding investigating whether 18F-Fluoride can improve the prediction of myocardial infarction.

Dr Kev Dhaliwal

MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh

Our group is multidisciplinary and has two broad themes 1) Focussed on discovering new methodologies that will permit the accurate and spatial characterisation of inflammation, infection and fibrosis in the distal human lung. We work alongside chemistry, physics, engineering, image analysis and informatics to develop optical molecular imaging strategies. 2) Understanding the pulmonary response to acute infection and inflammation with a particular interest in monocyte/macrophage biology and neutrophil recruitment.
Current research projects in the lab include developing novel point-of-care diagnostics for bacterial detection in the distal lung, drug-stratification tools in acute lung injury and mechanisms to monitor the fibroproliferative pathway. We are also interested in understanding and defining the contribution of damage-associated molecular pattern molecules in pulmonary infection and organ injury

Prof Margaret Frame

Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh

My long-held research interests are cancer invasion and metastasis, and the role of tyrosine kinases in controlling tumour cell spread. I have had several CR-UK funded programs of research to work on understanding cancer invasion and metastasis, the key hallmarks of malignancy, and was recently awarded an ERC Advanced Investigator grant to build a novel cancer discovery platform. Our major goal is to work with clinicians treating cancers of unmet need, to determine whether, and if so how, targeting the invasive and metastatic processes may be therapeutically beneficial, and may be monitored in the preclinical and clinical settings by novel imaging techniques.

Dr Liz Patton

Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh

Melanoma accounts for 80% of the deaths from skin cancer, and incidence continues to rise rapidly. Aggressive and resistant to chemotherapies, individuals with metastatic melanoma often have a life expectancy of less than one year. Our research is focused on understanding how melanocytes – the pigment cells that become melanoma – develop, divide, migrate and maintain homeostasis within their microenvironment, as well as the genetic and cellular events that cause melanocytes to form moles and their progression to invasive cancer. To do this, we use the zebrafish system, which allows both the visualization of developing and migrating melanocytes, as well as their aberrant progression to melanoma. The zebrafish is a powerful model system to study developmental biology, chemical biology and disease models. Due to the similar genetic, molecular and cancer pathology between humans and fish, our melanoma progression model can be viewed as an important starting point for identifying novel genes, environmental conditions, and therapeutic compounds that affect melanoma progression.

University/British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science

I am interested in the use of modern imaging techniques to investigate the pathophysiology of aortic stenosis. Primarily combined positron emission tomography and computed tomography (PET/CT) to study inflammation and calcification within the valve and cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) to study fibrosis both within the valve and the hypertrophied myocardium. These studies form the basis of my British Heart Foundation Clinical PhD training fellowship and my recent Intermediate Clinical Research Fellowship. More recently I have become interested in the application of PET/CT to the detection of high-risk atherosclerotic plaque that has led to major funding investigating whether 18F-Fluoride can improve the prediction of myocardial infarction.

MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh

Our group is multidisciplinary and has two broad themes 1) Focussed on discovering new methodologies that will permit the accurate and spatial characterisation of inflammation, infection and fibrosis in the distal human lung. We work alongside chemistry, physics, engineering, image analysis and informatics to develop optical molecular imaging strategies. 2) Understanding the pulmonary response to acute infection and inflammation with a particular interest in monocyte/macrophage biology and neutrophil recruitment.
Current research projects in the lab include developing novel point-of-care diagnostics for bacterial detection in the distal lung, drug-stratification tools in acute lung injury and mechanisms to monitor the fibroproliferative pathway. We are also interested in understanding and defining the contribution of damage-associated molecular pattern molecules in pulmonary infection and organ injury

Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh

My long-held research interests are cancer invasion and metastasis, and the role of tyrosine kinases in controlling tumour cell spread. I have had several CR-UK funded programs of research to work on understanding cancer invasion and metastasis, the key hallmarks of malignancy, and was recently awarded an ERC Advanced Investigator grant to build a novel cancer discovery platform. Our major goal is to work with clinicians treating cancers of unmet need, to determine whether, and if so how, targeting the invasive and metastatic processes may be therapeutically beneficial, and may be monitored in the preclinical and clinical settings by novel imaging techniques.

Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh

Melanoma accounts for 80% of the deaths from skin cancer, and incidence continues to rise rapidly. Aggressive and resistant to chemotherapies, individuals with metastatic melanoma often have a life expectancy of less than one year. Our research is focused on understanding how melanocytes – the pigment cells that become melanoma – develop, divide, migrate and maintain homeostasis within their microenvironment, as well as the genetic and cellular events that cause melanocytes to form moles and their progression to invasive cancer. To do this, we use the zebrafish system, which allows both the visualization of developing and migrating melanocytes, as well as their aberrant progression to melanoma. The zebrafish is a powerful model system to study developmental biology, chemical biology and disease models. Due to the similar genetic, molecular and cancer pathology between humans and fish, our melanoma progression model can be viewed as an important starting point for identifying novel genes, environmental conditions, and therapeutic compounds that affect melanoma progression.

Dr Glenn Burley

Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, University of Strathclyde

Our research is focused on the chemistry and biology of nucleotides, nucleic acids and nucleic acid binding molecules. Some of our research programmes are: 1. Chemical Biology of alternative RNA splicing. This work is aimed at unravelling fundamental issues associated with alternative splice site selection using small molecule and large molecule (oligonucleotides and protein hybrids) probes and how these processes are affected in disease states such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy and cancer. 2. DNA-based construction of molecular devices. We are currently developing new chemical biological approaches for the construction of optoelectronic devices. This is being achieved by synthesizing DNA binding molecules which effectively read the genetic code of DNA in order to locate a particular metal or a magnet to a particular destination along the DNA template. We are now applying this technology to investigate the utility of these constructs as light-harvesting devices and plasmonic waveguides for molecular electronics and medical diagnostic applications.

Prof Hilary Critchley

MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh

Our research specifically examines local mechanisms within the womb-lining (endometrium) involved in menstruation, implantation and early pregnancy loss. Both menstruation and implantation display features common to inflammatory events. We study the cascade of events that occur in cells of the endometrium that are triggered by withdrawal of the hormone, progesterone which occurs at the end of each monthly cycle prior to a period. We are interested in the complex dialogue between circulating steroid hormones and the many different cell types, including immune cells that constitute the endometrium. We also study factors that switch on production of molecules involved in blood vessel growth and repair in the endometrium; both necessary events to prepare for the next menstrual cycle. If we can understand how the womb heals itself without scarring as women go through their menstrual cycles we hope we will contribute valuable information relevant to inflammation and scarring throughout the body. If these events are disturbed then abnormal menstrual bleeding may be the result. We hope that information about the molecular and cellular pathways involved in menstruation will help identify new targets for treatment, especially if these treatments could be delivered directly to the uterus.

Dr Vasileios Koutsos

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

We are interested in the behaviour of soft materials and complex fluids at surfaces & interfaces. Complex fluids consisting of two or more components, such as nanocolloid or polymer suspensions, polymer blends, block copolymers, exhibit unusual physical properties due to the geometric constraints imposed by the coexistence of the different phases. When confined on surfaces, there is an additional geometric constraint which induces further changes in their behaviour. Polymers and nanocolloids can self-assemble into a variety of nanostructures and nanopatterns at interfaces offering alternative ways of facile and inexpensive nanofabrication routes which have great potential for many applications ranging from micro/nanoelectronics to biomedical implants.

Prof Moira Whyte

Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh

My research interests have focussed on molecular mechanisms of innate immune cell apoptosis in the context both of chronic inflammatory lung disease and of host defence against bacterial infection. These are areas of major therapeutic challenge with no effective therapies for persistent neutrophilic inflammation and with strategies to manipulate host immune responses to pathogens having exciting potential for treatment of antibiotic-resistance infection.

Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, University of Strathclyde

Our research is focused on the chemistry and biology of nucleotides, nucleic acids and nucleic acid binding molecules. Some of our research programmes are: 1. Chemical Biology of alternative RNA splicing. This work is aimed at unravelling fundamental issues associated with alternative splice site selection using small molecule and large molecule (oligonucleotides and protein hybrids) probes and how these processes are affected in disease states such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy and cancer. 2. DNA-based construction of molecular devices. We are currently developing new chemical biological approaches for the construction of optoelectronic devices. This is being achieved by synthesizing DNA binding molecules which effectively read the genetic code of DNA in order to locate a particular metal or a magnet to a particular destination along the DNA template. We are now applying this technology to investigate the utility of these constructs as light-harvesting devices and plasmonic waveguides for molecular electronics and medical diagnostic applications.

MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh

Our research specifically examines local mechanisms within the womb-lining (endometrium) involved in menstruation, implantation and early pregnancy loss. Both menstruation and implantation display features common to inflammatory events. We study the cascade of events that occur in cells of the endometrium that are triggered by withdrawal of the hormone, progesterone which occurs at the end of each monthly cycle prior to a period. We are interested in the complex dialogue between circulating steroid hormones and the many different cell types, including immune cells that constitute the endometrium. We also study factors that switch on production of molecules involved in blood vessel growth and repair in the endometrium; both necessary events to prepare for the next menstrual cycle. If we can understand how the womb heals itself without scarring as women go through their menstrual cycles we hope we will contribute valuable information relevant to inflammation and scarring throughout the body. If these events are disturbed then abnormal menstrual bleeding may be the result. We hope that information about the molecular and cellular pathways involved in menstruation will help identify new targets for treatment, especially if these treatments could be delivered directly to the uterus.

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

We are interested in the behaviour of soft materials and complex fluids at surfaces & interfaces. Complex fluids consisting of two or more components, such as nanocolloid or polymer suspensions, polymer blends, block copolymers, exhibit unusual physical properties due to the geometric constraints imposed by the coexistence of the different phases. When confined on surfaces, there is an additional geometric constraint which induces further changes in their behaviour. Polymers and nanocolloids can self-assemble into a variety of nanostructures and nanopatterns at interfaces offering alternative ways of facile and inexpensive nanofabrication routes which have great potential for many applications ranging from micro/nanoelectronics to biomedical implants.

Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh

My research interests have focussed on molecular mechanisms of innate immune cell apoptosis in the context both of chronic inflammatory lung disease and of host defence against bacterial infection. These are areas of major therapeutic challenge with no effective therapies for persistent neutrophilic inflammation and with strategies to manipulate host immune responses to pathogens having exciting potential for treatment of antibiotic-resistance infection.

Prof Ted Hupp

Institute for Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh

Cancer progression in is driven in part by the mutation of genes that mediate immortality, angiogenesis, metastasis, changes in energy metabolism, and evasion of the immune system. P53 mutation is one of the most common genetic changes in cancer development that leads to a re-wiring and selective survival advantage to the developing cancer cell. This genetic re-wiring involves changes in the transciptome, the proteome, and the phenotype of the cell within a specific microenvironmental niche in vivo. The lab is using biophysical, biochemical, and proteomic approaches to develop novel molecular insights into clinically relevant cancer progression pathways.

Prof Margarete Heck

University/British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh

The research in our laboratory uses Drosophila melanogaster in order to exploit classical and molecular genetics in an organism amenable to developmental and cytological analysis. We have been studying a novel metalloprotease that we identified as a result of a unique mitotic phenotype affecting chromosome structure, spindle assembly, and the dynamics of nuclear envelope proteins. We propose that this protease is essential for the coordination of mitotic structural rearrangements. This protease defines a novel family of proteases with homology to leishmanolysin, from Leishmania species. We originally postulated the unusual ring-like structures that this protein is found in to be invadopodia – and hence named the protein invadolysin. Current research is focused on identifying substrates and regulators of invadolysin in order to understand its mechanism of action, analysing model systems such as the fly and fish to study in vivo function, and examining the fate of the protein in cellular in vitro differentiation systems. Ultimately, we hope to understand the role of the protein in normal and human disease states in which migration and/or proliferation of cells play crucial roles.

Prof Stuart Forbes

MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh

Liver disease is the 5th commonest cause of death in the UK and the deaths from cirrhosis are rapidly rising. Currently the only curative option for end-stage liver disease is liver transplantation. Donor organ availability cannot even meet current demand and many patients die whilst waiting for a suitable organ. Alternative therapeutic strategies are urgently required for the treatment of advanced liver disease. Our program of research concentrates on understanding how the Hepatic Progenitor Cells regenerate the liver in chronic disease and how this process becomes deranged in the development of liver cancer. By understanding what controls this process we aim to be able to promote healthy liver regeneration and reduce the formation of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
We are also developing pre-clinical and clinical tools to stimulate liver regeneration and reduce scarring using cell therapy. In particular we have found that bone marrow derived macrophages can promote liver regeneration and reduce scarring and this is being developed as a clinical therapy.

Prof Lee Smith

MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh

The adult testis is essentially a factory, which produces two key products, steroid hormones, notably testosterone and mature sperm from spermatogonial stem cells. Our current work is focused upon dissecting the mechanisms underlying these, using novel transgenic mouse models coupled to a wide variety of cutting edge molecular genetic and endocrinological techniques. In addition to this, we have extended our studies to investigate mouse models with targeted deletion of AR in the other body systems, including the cardiovascular system, adipose tissue and prostate. Together, these investigations highlight a body-wide and lifelong role for androgen-signalling in supporting lifelong health and wellbeing in men. Our future focus is now on understanding how androgen production is controlled within the testis and how this influences not only male fertility, but also other important clinical problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and age-related conditions.

Institute for Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh

Cancer progression in is driven in part by the mutation of genes that mediate immortality, angiogenesis, metastasis, changes in energy metabolism, and evasion of the immune system. P53 mutation is one of the most common genetic changes in cancer development that leads to a re-wiring and selective survival advantage to the developing cancer cell. This genetic re-wiring involves changes in the transciptome, the proteome, and the phenotype of the cell within a specific microenvironmental niche in vivo. The lab is using biophysical, biochemical, and proteomic approaches to develop novel molecular insights into clinically relevant cancer progression pathways.

University/British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh

The research in our laboratory uses Drosophila melanogaster in order to exploit classical and molecular genetics in an organism amenable to developmental and cytological analysis. We have been studying a novel metalloprotease that we identified as a result of a unique mitotic phenotype affecting chromosome structure, spindle assembly, and the dynamics of nuclear envelope proteins. We propose that this protease is essential for the coordination of mitotic structural rearrangements. This protease defines a novel family of proteases with homology to leishmanolysin, from Leishmania species. We originally postulated the unusual ring-like structures that this protein is found in to be invadopodia – and hence named the protein invadolysin. Current research is focused on identifying substrates and regulators of invadolysin in order to understand its mechanism of action, analysing model systems such as the fly and fish to study in vivo function, and examining the fate of the protein in cellular in vitro differentiation systems. Ultimately, we hope to understand the role of the protein in normal and human disease states in which migration and/or proliferation of cells play crucial roles.

MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh

Liver disease is the 5th commonest cause of death in the UK and the deaths from cirrhosis are rapidly rising. Currently the only curative option for end-stage liver disease is liver transplantation. Donor organ availability cannot even meet current demand and many patients die whilst waiting for a suitable organ. Alternative therapeutic strategies are urgently required for the treatment of advanced liver disease. Our program of research concentrates on understanding how the Hepatic Progenitor Cells regenerate the liver in chronic disease and how this process becomes deranged in the development of liver cancer. By understanding what controls this process we aim to be able to promote healthy liver regeneration and reduce the formation of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
We are also developing pre-clinical and clinical tools to stimulate liver regeneration and reduce scarring using cell therapy. In particular we have found that bone marrow derived macrophages can promote liver regeneration and reduce scarring and this is being developed as a clinical therapy.

MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh

The adult testis is essentially a factory, which produces two key products, steroid hormones, notably testosterone and mature sperm from spermatogonial stem cells. Our current work is focused upon dissecting the mechanisms underlying these, using novel transgenic mouse models coupled to a wide variety of cutting edge molecular genetic and endocrinological techniques. In addition to this, we have extended our studies to investigate mouse models with targeted deletion of AR in the other body systems, including the cardiovascular system, adipose tissue and prostate. Together, these investigations highlight a body-wide and lifelong role for androgen-signalling in supporting lifelong health and wellbeing in men. Our future focus is now on understanding how androgen production is controlled within the testis and how this influences not only male fertility, but also other important clinical problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and age-related conditions.

Prof Simon Herrington

Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh

My main research focus is the pathogenesis of anogenital epithelial neoplasia and how improved understanding of the mechanisms involved can be used to improve disease diagnosis. In addition to investigating the role of human papillomavirus infection in epithelial neoplasia, particularly of the female genital tract, the non-HPV-dependent pathway by which vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) can develop is also of interest. This involves the investigation of ‘differentiated type’ VIN, which is the precursor of keratinising squamous cell carcinomas and occurs particularly in patients with lichen sclerosus. This entity provides the opportunity to investigate the development of invasive carcinoma in the context of retained epithelial differentiation. I am also interested in the use of optical imaging for the early detection of epithelial neoplasia.
In addition, in collaboration with the University of St Andrew, we are developing spectroscopic approaches for the early detection of epithelial neoplasia utilizing cross disciplinary experimental and theoretical techniques. This work aims to develop technology that can discriminate between normal and neoplastic cells and tissues with the aim of applying these novel methods to clinical samples.

Dr James Hopgood

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

My research specialisation include model-based Bayesian signal processing, speech and audio signal processing in adverse acoustic environments, including blind dereverberation and multi-target acoustic source localisation and tracking, single channel signal separation, distant speech recognition, audio-visual fusion, medical imaging, blind image deconvolution, and general statistical signal and image processing.

Prof Peter Brophy

Centre for Neuroregeneration, University of Edinburgh

In the developing vertebrate nervous system, oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells not only play a vital role in promoting neuron survival, but
they also produce the myelin sheath, which is essential for the normal function of the nervous system, a fact underscored by the debilitating consequences of demyelination in multiple sclerosis (CNS) and in peripheral neuropathies of the Charcot-Marie-Tooth (PNS) type. In one project we are building on our discovery of the Periaxin (Prx) gene in Schwann cells. Mice lacking a functional Prx gene ensheath and myelinate peripheral nerve axons in an apparently normal manner but the sheath later destabilizes and the mice develop a severe demyelinating neuropathy. In collaboration with colleagues in Paris we have identified a human disease called CMT-4F caused by similar mutations. In a second project, we have shown that two isoforms of neurofascin, one glial, the other neuronal, play distinct but vital roles in the assembly of the node of Ranvier. The role of these proteins during both normal development and during nerve repair is the subject of current work.

Prof John Mullins

University/British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh

My research interests focus on the molecular mechanisms of blood pressure regulation and in particular the genetics of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.

Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh

My main research focus is the pathogenesis of anogenital epithelial neoplasia and how improved understanding of the mechanisms involved can be used to improve disease diagnosis. In addition to investigating the role of human papillomavirus infection in epithelial neoplasia, particularly of the female genital tract, the non-HPV-dependent pathway by which vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) can develop is also of interest. This involves the investigation of ‘differentiated type’ VIN, which is the precursor of keratinising squamous cell carcinomas and occurs particularly in patients with lichen sclerosus. This entity provides the opportunity to investigate the development of invasive carcinoma in the context of retained epithelial differentiation. I am also interested in the use of optical imaging for the early detection of epithelial neoplasia.
In addition, in collaboration with the University of St Andrew, we are developing spectroscopic approaches for the early detection of epithelial neoplasia utilizing cross disciplinary experimental and theoretical techniques. This work aims to develop technology that can discriminate between normal and neoplastic cells and tissues with the aim of applying these novel methods to clinical samples.

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

My research specialisation include model-based Bayesian signal processing, speech and audio signal processing in adverse acoustic environments, including blind dereverberation and multi-target acoustic source localisation and tracking, single channel signal separation, distant speech recognition, audio-visual fusion, medical imaging, blind image deconvolution, and general statistical signal and image processing.

Centre for Neuroregeneration, University of Edinburgh

In the developing vertebrate nervous system, oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells not only play a vital role in promoting neuron survival, but
they also produce the myelin sheath, which is essential for the normal function of the nervous system, a fact underscored by the debilitating consequences of demyelination in multiple sclerosis (CNS) and in peripheral neuropathies of the Charcot-Marie-Tooth (PNS) type. In one project we are building on our discovery of the Periaxin (Prx) gene in Schwann cells. Mice lacking a functional Prx gene ensheath and myelinate peripheral nerve axons in an apparently normal manner but the sheath later destabilizes and the mice develop a severe demyelinating neuropathy. In collaboration with colleagues in Paris we have identified a human disease called CMT-4F caused by similar mutations. In a second project, we have shown that two isoforms of neurofascin, one glial, the other neuronal, play distinct but vital roles in the assembly of the node of Ranvier. The role of these proteins during both normal development and during nerve repair is the subject of current work.

University/British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh

My research interests focus on the molecular mechanisms of blood pressure regulation and in particular the genetics of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.

Prof Duncan Graham

Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, University of Strathclyde

The main focus of my work is the creation of a range of functionalised metallic nanoparticles which can be used for a variety of different purposes which include the diagnosis of disease and also the treatment of disease. This includes the chemical manipulation of the appropriate surface molecules and labels required to turn these metal nanoparticles into functioning nanosensors capable of detecting single molecules in complex environments using SERS (Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy). In addition, the mounting of therapeutic agents onto these nanoparticles has resulted in significantly increased performance of the drugs when tested against particular disease states.

Dr Yu Chen

Department of Physics, University of Strathclyde

My main research activities lie in the creation and characterization of nanoscale structures for their unique physical and chemical properties, utilizing both optical and electron microscopy and spectroscopy. My recent research focuses on surface plasmon enhanced effect, including two-photon luminescence, energy transfer and SERRS from noble metal nanoparticles, arrays and porous media, with strong links to biomedical imaging and sensing, as well as nanoparticle-cell interaction and cytotoxicity. Other work includes 3D visualization of nanoparticles, stability of Au nanoparticles, and creating nanostructures using chemical lithography and direct writing.

Prof Robert Henderson

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

My research interests include :

CMOS Image Sensors
Column-parallel and pixel-parallel ADC structures, fixed-pattern noise reduction, low-noise readout architectures, pixel structures, high-speed imagers, 3D imaging, kTC noise reduction
Mixed-signal CMOS Integrated Circuit Design
ADC architectures (flash, pipeline, cyclic, sigma-delta, successive etc), DACs, PLLs, DLLs, bandgaps, filters.

Sigma-delta ADC and DACs
Low-power, low-voltage architectures, multi-bit DAC linearization, high-sample rate, switched-capacitor and continuous-time implementations
Biosensors
Fluorescence detection, dielectrophoresis, chemical sensing, lab-on-a-chip

Dr Fabio Nudelman

School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh

We are interested in understanding how organisms produce mineralized tissues like bone, teeth and shells. These tissues are organic-inorganic composite materials, where the formation of the inorganic phase is controlled by a matrix of proteins and polysaccharides that compose the organic phase. The intimate relationship between the organic and inorganic phases results in materials that are highly adapted for their functions.

Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, University of Strathclyde

The main focus of my work is the creation of a range of functionalised metallic nanoparticles which can be used for a variety of different purposes which include the diagnosis of disease and also the treatment of disease. This includes the chemical manipulation of the appropriate surface molecules and labels required to turn these metal nanoparticles into functioning nanosensors capable of detecting single molecules in complex environments using SERS (Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy). In addition, the mounting of therapeutic agents onto these nanoparticles has resulted in significantly increased performance of the drugs when tested against particular disease states.

Department of Physics, University of Strathclyde

My main research activities lie in the creation and characterization of nanoscale structures for their unique physical and chemical properties, utilizing both optical and electron microscopy and spectroscopy. My recent research focuses on surface plasmon enhanced effect, including two-photon luminescence, energy transfer and SERRS from noble metal nanoparticles, arrays and porous media, with strong links to biomedical imaging and sensing, as well as nanoparticle-cell interaction and cytotoxicity. Other work includes 3D visualization of nanoparticles, stability of Au nanoparticles, and creating nanostructures using chemical lithography and direct writing.

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

My research interests include :

CMOS Image Sensors
Column-parallel and pixel-parallel ADC structures, fixed-pattern noise reduction, low-noise readout architectures, pixel structures, high-speed imagers, 3D imaging, kTC noise reduction
Mixed-signal CMOS Integrated Circuit Design
ADC architectures (flash, pipeline, cyclic, sigma-delta, successive etc), DACs, PLLs, DLLs, bandgaps, filters.

Sigma-delta ADC and DACs
Low-power, low-voltage architectures, multi-bit DAC linearization, high-sample rate, switched-capacitor and continuous-time implementations
Biosensors
Fluorescence detection, dielectrophoresis, chemical sensing, lab-on-a-chip

School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh

We are interested in understanding how organisms produce mineralized tissues like bone, teeth and shells. These tissues are organic-inorganic composite materials, where the formation of the inorganic phase is controlled by a matrix of proteins and polysaccharides that compose the organic phase. The intimate relationship between the organic and inorganic phases results in materials that are highly adapted for their functions.

Dr Sarah Walmsley

MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh

To date there are no effective treatments for neutrophilic inflammation which is central to the pathology of a number of important respiratory diseases including COPD, bronchiectasis and ARDS. Neutrophils as key effectors of the innate immune response are required to function at sites of inflammation that are relatively oxygen deplete – hypoxic. Unique to the neutrophil hypoxia is a profound survival stimulus. Neutrophils both sense oxygen and respond to changes in oxygenation via the HIF pathway, which involves regulation of the transcription factor hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) by von Hippel Lindau protein and a group of oxygen sensitive hydroxylases – prolyl hydroxylase domain (PHD) containing enzymes and factor inhibiting HIF (FIH). Preliminary data suggest a direct role for this oxygen sensing pathway in the regulation of neutrophil apoptosis at sites of hypoxia. I aim to elucidate the mechanisms regulating HIF-1alpha expression in neutrophils and determine the importance of these pathways for neutrophilic inflammation in vivo.

Prof Karen Faulds

Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, University of Strathclyde

Our research focuses on using surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) to create new approaches to bioanalysis for use in the life and clinical sciences. SERS is a spectroscopic technique that offers significant advantages over other established techniques such as fluorescence and our research has focused on highlighting the advantages, creating new examples of increased capability in life science applications and interacting with end users to shape future step changes in research. Our research centres around using the inherent sensitivity of SERS for the detection of target DNA or proteins using signal amplification methods to enhance the signal rather than using target amplification methods such as PCR. Our work has focussed on exploiting the sensitivity of SERS for quantitative analysis of biomolecules as well as exploiting one of the key advantages of SERS, the ability to analyse multiple analytes in one sample. This allows more information to be gained per analysis as well as giving information about complex systems that are intrinsically difficult to measure.

Prof Jeffrey Pollard

MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh

My main research interests focus on the understanding of the tumour microenvironment and the mechanisms of action of oestrogen and progesterone in controlling cell division in vivo. My research takes a comprehensive approach to studying these problems by using mouse genetics to dissect the molecular mechanisms in vivo. We also apply state of the art high throughput methods and novel in vivo imaging methods to define cellular interactions and the novel signalling pathways involved in these interactions. Another research emphasis includes examining the mechanisms of action of female sex steroid hormones in controlling cell proliferation and on the tumour microenvironment of breast cancer. In the former programme my lab has sought to understand the mechanism of progesterone in negatively regulating oestrogen-induced uterine epithelial cell proliferation and in the preparation of the uterus for blastocyst implantation. In the latter area we have pioneered studies on the role of macrophages and demonstrated that they promote tumour progression and malignancy. Our work has focused upon mechanisms behind these pro-tumoural actions of macrophages with a particular emphasis on metastatic disease.

Dr Alan Serrels

Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Univeristy of Edinburgh

The tumour is a complex ‘organ’ consisting of many cell types that interact to support tumour growth and drive metastasis. In order to try and understanding how tumour cells interact with their surrounding microenvironment and better characterize the role of integrin signalling in this context, we use intra-vital imaging to see with great detail phenotypic changes in both tumour cell behaviour and the microenvironment when we perturb signalling either through mutagenesis, gene knockout, or treatment with pharmacological inhibitors. Using advanced microscopy techniques such as confocal, multi-photon, FLIM, FRAP, photo-activation, photo-switching, and vibrational spectroscopy, we have performed ‘in vivo phenotypic profiling’ of the role of FAK in cancer biology, and in collaboration with the labs of Professor Margaret Frame and Dr Bryan Serrels are using pathway analysis and proteomics to interrogate the signalling underlying these phenotypes in order to identify new therapeutic targets.

Continued development and application of advanced microscopy techniques to in vivo cancer research is a key aim of our lab as we aim to derive a greater degree of information from a single sample. In search of this goal we have recently built and continue to develop (in collaboration with Dr Andy Downes) a bespoke multi-modal microscope that combines two-photon fluorescence and Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM), with label-free imaging modalities including Second Harmonic Generation (SHG), Coherent Anti-stokes Raman Scattering (CARS), and Stimulated Raman Scattering (SRS). This combinatorial approach offers great benefits over using just confocal or multi-photon microscopy on their own, by adding a greater degree of context and understanding to the image. In addition, the potential to use CARS and SRS for imaging anti-cancer drugs is still under investigation, and is the focus of a collaboration with the labs of Professor Margaret Frame, Professor Val Brunton, and Dr Alison Hulme.

MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh

To date there are no effective treatments for neutrophilic inflammation which is central to the pathology of a number of important respiratory diseases including COPD, bronchiectasis and ARDS. Neutrophils as key effectors of the innate immune response are required to function at sites of inflammation that are relatively oxygen deplete – hypoxic. Unique to the neutrophil hypoxia is a profound survival stimulus. Neutrophils both sense oxygen and respond to changes in oxygenation via the HIF pathway, which involves regulation of the transcription factor hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) by von Hippel Lindau protein and a group of oxygen sensitive hydroxylases – prolyl hydroxylase domain (PHD) containing enzymes and factor inhibiting HIF (FIH). Preliminary data suggest a direct role for this oxygen sensing pathway in the regulation of neutrophil apoptosis at sites of hypoxia. I aim to elucidate the mechanisms regulating HIF-1alpha expression in neutrophils and determine the importance of these pathways for neutrophilic inflammation in vivo.

Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, University of Strathclyde

Our research focuses on using surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) to create new approaches to bioanalysis for use in the life and clinical sciences. SERS is a spectroscopic technique that offers significant advantages over other established techniques such as fluorescence and our research has focused on highlighting the advantages, creating new examples of increased capability in life science applications and interacting with end users to shape future step changes in research. Our research centres around using the inherent sensitivity of SERS for the detection of target DNA or proteins using signal amplification methods to enhance the signal rather than using target amplification methods such as PCR. Our work has focussed on exploiting the sensitivity of SERS for quantitative analysis of biomolecules as well as exploiting one of the key advantages of SERS, the ability to analyse multiple analytes in one sample. This allows more information to be gained per analysis as well as giving information about complex systems that are intrinsically difficult to measure.

MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh

My main research interests focus on the understanding of the tumour microenvironment and the mechanisms of action of oestrogen and progesterone in controlling cell division in vivo. My research takes a comprehensive approach to studying these problems by using mouse genetics to dissect the molecular mechanisms in vivo. We also apply state of the art high throughput methods and novel in vivo imaging methods to define cellular interactions and the novel signalling pathways involved in these interactions. Another research emphasis includes examining the mechanisms of action of female sex steroid hormones in controlling cell proliferation and on the tumour microenvironment of breast cancer. In the former programme my lab has sought to understand the mechanism of progesterone in negatively regulating oestrogen-induced uterine epithelial cell proliferation and in the preparation of the uterus for blastocyst implantation. In the latter area we have pioneered studies on the role of macrophages and demonstrated that they promote tumour progression and malignancy. Our work has focused upon mechanisms behind these pro-tumoural actions of macrophages with a particular emphasis on metastatic disease.

Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Univeristy of Edinburgh

The tumour is a complex ‘organ’ consisting of many cell types that interact to support tumour growth and drive metastasis. In order to try and understanding how tumour cells interact with their surrounding microenvironment and better characterize the role of integrin signalling in this context, we use intra-vital imaging to see with great detail phenotypic changes in both tumour cell behaviour and the microenvironment when we perturb signalling either through mutagenesis, gene knockout, or treatment with pharmacological inhibitors. Using advanced microscopy techniques such as confocal, multi-photon, FLIM, FRAP, photo-activation, photo-switching, and vibrational spectroscopy, we have performed ‘in vivo phenotypic profiling’ of the role of FAK in cancer biology, and in collaboration with the labs of Professor Margaret Frame and Dr Bryan Serrels are using pathway analysis and proteomics to interrogate the signalling underlying these phenotypes in order to identify new therapeutic targets.

Continued development and application of advanced microscopy techniques to in vivo cancer research is a key aim of our lab as we aim to derive a greater degree of information from a single sample. In search of this goal we have recently built and continue to develop (in collaboration with Dr Andy Downes) a bespoke multi-modal microscope that combines two-photon fluorescence and Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM), with label-free imaging modalities including Second Harmonic Generation (SHG), Coherent Anti-stokes Raman Scattering (CARS), and Stimulated Raman Scattering (SRS). This combinatorial approach offers great benefits over using just confocal or multi-photon microscopy on their own, by adding a greater degree of context and understanding to the image. In addition, the potential to use CARS and SRS for imaging anti-cancer drugs is still under investigation, and is the focus of a collaboration with the labs of Professor Margaret Frame, Professor Val Brunton, and Dr Alison Hulme.

Prof Chris Gregory

MRC Centre of Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh

High-grade cancers often contain large numbers of dying tumour cells alongside those that proliferate, the balance of cell-birth versus cell-death favouring net tumour growth. We believe that different categories of normal white blood cells ‘sense' these dying cells and are either attracted to the tumours to help them to grow or are excluded from the tumours to prevent their destruction. Our research will define the mechanisms by which white cells invade malignant tumours and aims to identify novel targets that may be used to treat cancers in the future by controlling their infiltration by normal blood cells and encouraging the dying cells in the tumour to activate the white blood cells to become tumour-destructive. Our understanding of how dead cells affect their viable neighbours will also help to improve the production of therapeutic cells and protein medicines in culture.

Prof Deepak Uttamchandani

Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, University of Strathclyde

Our research interests include:
• Fibre optic sensors for physical and chemical measurements
• Silicon micro-engineering for sensors
• Optoelectronic applications for silicon and doped glasses
• Nanometric resolution optical sensors
• Optical network studies including multiple access.

Dr Carmel Moran

University/British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh

My research interests are in ultrasonic contrast agents and high frequency clinical and preclinical ultrasound imaging

Prof Mark Bradley

School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh

My group’s research is highly diverse including microarrays (cells, small molecules, and polymers); cellular delivery (DNA, proteins, peptides); high-throughput chemistry and optical imaging.

However three research themes dominate our work at this time.

• The development of smart fluorescent reporters for clinical optical imaging - including probes for imaging cancer in vivo in real-time.
• The development and exploitation of polymer microarray technology for the identification and application of polymers for controlling and modulating cells - including the isolation of cancer stem cells
• In vivo catalytic chemistry - with a focus on Pd(0) in situ synthesis of cancer drugs.

MRC Centre of Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh

High-grade cancers often contain large numbers of dying tumour cells alongside those that proliferate, the balance of cell-birth versus cell-death favouring net tumour growth. We believe that different categories of normal white blood cells ‘sense' these dying cells and are either attracted to the tumours to help them to grow or are excluded from the tumours to prevent their destruction. Our research will define the mechanisms by which white cells invade malignant tumours and aims to identify novel targets that may be used to treat cancers in the future by controlling their infiltration by normal blood cells and encouraging the dying cells in the tumour to activate the white blood cells to become tumour-destructive. Our understanding of how dead cells affect their viable neighbours will also help to improve the production of therapeutic cells and protein medicines in culture.

Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, University of Strathclyde

Our research interests include:
• Fibre optic sensors for physical and chemical measurements
• Silicon micro-engineering for sensors
• Optoelectronic applications for silicon and doped glasses
• Nanometric resolution optical sensors
• Optical network studies including multiple access.

University/British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh

My research interests are in ultrasonic contrast agents and high frequency clinical and preclinical ultrasound imaging

School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh

My group’s research is highly diverse including microarrays (cells, small molecules, and polymers); cellular delivery (DNA, proteins, peptides); high-throughput chemistry and optical imaging.

However three research themes dominate our work at this time.

• The development of smart fluorescent reporters for clinical optical imaging - including probes for imaging cancer in vivo in real-time.
• The development and exploitation of polymer microarray technology for the identification and application of polymers for controlling and modulating cells - including the isolation of cancer stem cells
• In vivo catalytic chemistry - with a focus on Pd(0) in situ synthesis of cancer drugs.

OPTIMA2014 Cohort

Affectionately known as the "guinea pigs", these trail-blazing students are very much part of the team building OPTIMA. Their experiences and feedback are helping us shape our CDT into a responsive, student-centred programme.

Each project represents interdisciplinary research at its best: from a physicist developing gold nanorods as biosensors in melanoma diagnosis, to a medicinal chemist developing imaging techniques for extracellular vesicles in a lymphoma model. This cohort is the epitome of the OPTIMA vision - new eyes on old problems will create innovative clinical solutions and opportunities.

Ms Alisia Sim

I’ve joined the Optima CDT programme in September 2014 working on the detection of microcalcification in vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques using fluorescent probes under the supervision of Alison Hulme, Fabio Nudelman and Marc Dweck.
PET imaging using the bone tracer Na18F is currently employed to locate atherosclerotic plaques in a non-invasive manner. These plaques are often at risk of rupture and therefore can lead to myocardial infarction. A disadvantage of PET imaging is the limited spatial resolution, 4-5 mm, which limits the mechanistic information that can be obtained using this technique. New technology, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) and optical imaging techniques, can allow for much higher spatial resolution than PET. The combination of the currently used PET/OCT technique together with imaging techniques could allow us to obtain anatomical information on fibrous cap thickness, lipid core size and percentage lipid content which have not been attained before.
I have always been fascinated by chemistry and especially innovation. It never ceases to excite me how basic discoveries can become drivers of societal change, not just medicines, diagnostics, or ingredients of household goods. What attracted me to his CDT was the possibility of having access to the rapidly developing field of medical imaging and that my research could have potential medical and diagnostic applications that could be converted into a commercial product or service. Understanding how to translate science into a commercial reality and how to bring it to the market is the reason I applied for this PhD.

Mr Thane Campbell

Neutrophil elastase is the signature enzyme of our immune system’s first line of defence. Neutrophils are a ferocious white blood cell designed to rapidly disassemble agents of disease before the first symptoms. Unfortunately chronic immune states develop with excessive neutrophil activity, precipitating staggering collateral damage in the most common and incurable diseases. My research investigates the consequences of neutrophil recruitment in human lung cancer, atherosclerosis and ulcerative colitis. I will optically image neutrophil elastase presence and activity to both identify neutrophils and describe their biological effect using “SmartProbes”. SmartProbes are engineered to use a key biological step to activate coloured fluorescent light. Extracting the critical information with this binary signal simplifies complex biological processes like inflammation, relaying this information non-invasively, without ionising radiation and cheaply. Working with GlaxoSmithKline, I will iteratively develop and test these SmartProbes for their applications in drug discovery, patient stratification and real-time monitoring.
I chose the OPTIMA CDT because I value ambition. Optical imaging is an expansive and dynamic field that now describes living systems beyond the diffraction limit of light. The OPTIMA CDT places students at the cutting-edge of scientific endeavour and equips us to commercialize innovation there for the benefit of research, patients and the economy.

Ms Catherine Lynch

It has been known for some time that a number of cell types are capable of releasing membrane-enclosed vesicles into the extracellular environment in response to various stimuli. However the full scope of the function of extracellular vesicles is only beginning to be revealed. It has been shown that extracellular vesicles can cargo protein or genetic cargo, and may be tools of cell-to-cell communication. Production of extracellular vesicles can be upregulated in disease states such as cancer; so examining the burden and cargo of extracellular vesicles in patients could be beneficial for diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment indication.
The aim of my project is to examine the release of extracellular vesicles in a model of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Identifying plasma membrane surface proteins which are upregulated in cancer gives indications of possible proteins retained on the membrane enclosing the extracellular vesicle, and these can be used as targets for imaging using SERS. The ability to detect extracellular vesicles in the blood of patients without the need for an isolation step could potentially be beneficial for clinical use.
Having studied medicinal chemistry, I have always been interested in the practical health applications of scientific research, so Optima seemed like the right option for me. The business aspect of the course was something I’d never considered before, but it’s interesting to learn more about the processes behind commercialisation of scientific discoveries.

Mr Sam Stanfield

Doctors who want to gain an understanding about the physiological conditions within a patients lungs currently have two main options, an x-ray or a biopsy; the former provides little detail in information whilst the latter is time consuming and difficult.
I am working as part of the Proteus research group, who aim to develop an optical fibre-based healthcare technology to perform real-time imaging and sensing deep within the patient’s lungs. My research focusses on the sensing aspect of the fibre by developing Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) based nanosensors, which whilst attached to the tip of the fibre allow users to perform quantitative analyses of molecules and conditions present in blood and tissue, particularly redox potential and glucose concentration.
Nanoparticle surfaces can be functionalised with a variety of sensing molecules dependant upon requirement. Glucose sensors are designed with an affinity and specificity for glucose molecules over other interfering molecules. Peaks specific to the Raman spectrum of glucose can then be detected and its concentration calculated. For the measurement of redox potential, sensors are designed with a structure that reliably changes upon oxidation or reduction. This causes changes in the sensors Raman spectrum, which can be identified and used to calculate the redox potential.
I chose the OPTIMA CDT because I wanted the chance to learn how hard-won gains in scientific knowledge can be transferred from the research lab bench in to innovative technologies able to benefit society.

I’ve joined the Optima CDT programme in September 2014 working on the detection of microcalcification in vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques using fluorescent probes under the supervision of Alison Hulme, Fabio Nudelman and Marc Dweck.
PET imaging using the bone tracer Na18F is currently employed to locate atherosclerotic plaques in a non-invasive manner. These plaques are often at risk of rupture and therefore can lead to myocardial infarction. A disadvantage of PET imaging is the limited spatial resolution, 4-5 mm, which limits the mechanistic information that can be obtained using this technique. New technology, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) and optical imaging techniques, can allow for much higher spatial resolution than PET. The combination of the currently used PET/OCT technique together with imaging techniques could allow us to obtain anatomical information on fibrous cap thickness, lipid core size and percentage lipid content which have not been attained before.
I have always been fascinated by chemistry and especially innovation. It never ceases to excite me how basic discoveries can become drivers of societal change, not just medicines, diagnostics, or ingredients of household goods. What attracted me to his CDT was the possibility of having access to the rapidly developing field of medical imaging and that my research could have potential medical and diagnostic applications that could be converted into a commercial product or service. Understanding how to translate science into a commercial reality and how to bring it to the market is the reason I applied for this PhD.

Neutrophil elastase is the signature enzyme of our immune system’s first line of defence. Neutrophils are a ferocious white blood cell designed to rapidly disassemble agents of disease before the first symptoms. Unfortunately chronic immune states develop with excessive neutrophil activity, precipitating staggering collateral damage in the most common and incurable diseases. My research investigates the consequences of neutrophil recruitment in human lung cancer, atherosclerosis and ulcerative colitis. I will optically image neutrophil elastase presence and activity to both identify neutrophils and describe their biological effect using “SmartProbes”. SmartProbes are engineered to use a key biological step to activate coloured fluorescent light. Extracting the critical information with this binary signal simplifies complex biological processes like inflammation, relaying this information non-invasively, without ionising radiation and cheaply. Working with GlaxoSmithKline, I will iteratively develop and test these SmartProbes for their applications in drug discovery, patient stratification and real-time monitoring.
I chose the OPTIMA CDT because I value ambition. Optical imaging is an expansive and dynamic field that now describes living systems beyond the diffraction limit of light. The OPTIMA CDT places students at the cutting-edge of scientific endeavour and equips us to commercialize innovation there for the benefit of research, patients and the economy.

It has been known for some time that a number of cell types are capable of releasing membrane-enclosed vesicles into the extracellular environment in response to various stimuli. However the full scope of the function of extracellular vesicles is only beginning to be revealed. It has been shown that extracellular vesicles can cargo protein or genetic cargo, and may be tools of cell-to-cell communication. Production of extracellular vesicles can be upregulated in disease states such as cancer; so examining the burden and cargo of extracellular vesicles in patients could be beneficial for diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment indication.
The aim of my project is to examine the release of extracellular vesicles in a model of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Identifying plasma membrane surface proteins which are upregulated in cancer gives indications of possible proteins retained on the membrane enclosing the extracellular vesicle, and these can be used as targets for imaging using SERS. The ability to detect extracellular vesicles in the blood of patients without the need for an isolation step could potentially be beneficial for clinical use.
Having studied medicinal chemistry, I have always been interested in the practical health applications of scientific research, so Optima seemed like the right option for me. The business aspect of the course was something I’d never considered before, but it’s interesting to learn more about the processes behind commercialisation of scientific discoveries.

Doctors who want to gain an understanding about the physiological conditions within a patients lungs currently have two main options, an x-ray or a biopsy; the former provides little detail in information whilst the latter is time consuming and difficult.
I am working as part of the Proteus research group, who aim to develop an optical fibre-based healthcare technology to perform real-time imaging and sensing deep within the patient’s lungs. My research focusses on the sensing aspect of the fibre by developing Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) based nanosensors, which whilst attached to the tip of the fibre allow users to perform quantitative analyses of molecules and conditions present in blood and tissue, particularly redox potential and glucose concentration.
Nanoparticle surfaces can be functionalised with a variety of sensing molecules dependant upon requirement. Glucose sensors are designed with an affinity and specificity for glucose molecules over other interfering molecules. Peaks specific to the Raman spectrum of glucose can then be detected and its concentration calculated. For the measurement of redox potential, sensors are designed with a structure that reliably changes upon oxidation or reduction. This causes changes in the sensors Raman spectrum, which can be identified and used to calculate the redox potential.
I chose the OPTIMA CDT because I wanted the chance to learn how hard-won gains in scientific knowledge can be transferred from the research lab bench in to innovative technologies able to benefit society.

Ms Evita Ning

The aim of my project is to use specifically designed chemical probes as optical imaging tools showing spectral changes in response to the interaction with defined target molecules. Use chromospheres as the Raman labels to functionalised nanoparticles that can give strong, unique Raman responses. In this project we will develop new Raman-active chromospheres as highly sensitive surface enhanced Raman probes. The specific reporters will be designed such that they will display Raman responses upon interaction with the target. I will explore chromospheres that undergo change in their chemical structure when reacting with the target binding, such that their resonance Raman responses can be tuned.

The advantage of using Raman rather than fluorescence as the optical imaging technique is the molecular specificity of the optical response, however more importantly in this case, is the combination of surface enhanced spectroscopy and SOR (spatially offset Raman, SESORS) which allows detection of Raman signals at depth. In this project the specific Raman probes will be designed to target bacteria within biofilms and also deep in tissue with a view to use SESORS for detection at depth through the skin. I will use model systems in the lab with live bacteria in tissue phantoms before moving to in vivo experiment.

CDT OPTIMA is the UK first jointed PhD degree between Edinburgh and Strathclyde University. Unlike the conventional PhD, this fascinating programme is not only training you to solving scientific problems, but also, to help to identify your entrepreneurial potential, and make the scientific invention into innovation, which will be beneficial to the society.

Mr Joe Willson

Neutrophils are our first line of defence against invading pathogens and mediate the onset of inflammation. Neutrophils are unusual cells in that they are terminally differentiated and have a constitutive apoptosis response following ageing in the body which aids their clearance from inflamed sites and subsequence resolution of inflammation. Apoptosis of neutrophils is delayed on exposure to hypoxic oxygen tensions comparable to those found at sites of inflammation. There are also a number of functional consequences involved in this neutrophil hypoxic survival phenotype, such as changes in cell movement and release of cytokines. The study of neutrophil apoptosis and clearance at low oxygen tensions is essential in probing diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, where the degree of neutrophil persistence in the tissue corresponds with the severity of disease.

The aim of my project is to investigate the role of the neutrophil mitochondria in the context of neutrophil hypoxic survival and whether modulation of intracellular redox potential across different oxygen concentrations confers functional changes in the cell and the mitochondria, specifically. My project involves assessing mitochondrial function in normal and low oxygen through imaging the activity of a range of mitochondrial-specific functional dyes. I will also be using Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) to measure intracellular redox at different oxygen tensions.

The collaborative, multi-discipline aspect of the Optima CDT appealed to me greatly when applying and throughout the project has been invaluable in merging biological, chemical and physical aspects of the project into coherent, cross-discipline experiments.

Ms Holly Fleming

I joined the Centre for Doctoral Training in Optical Imaging in Sept 2014 aimed at developing fibre-based smartprobes and sensors for use in critically ill patients and am working the Bradley research team as well as being aligned to the EPSRC IRC Proteus. My research has two angles: (i). Creating nanoparticle-containing-polymers for use in SERS (surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy) and (ii). Looking into developing optical labels for an enzyme involved in inflammation. This will involve synthesising and investigating small molecule inhibitors of human neutrophil elastase (HNE) and the use of SERS and fluorescence in its detection.
Having studied medicinal and biological chemistry throughout my undergraduate time, I have always enjoyed learning about the applications of chemistry, particularly in healthcare. I joined the CDT because it offered an excellent opportunity to be a part of applied research, and to learn about the stages involved in taking science from a lab scenario through to commercialisation.

Mr Alastair Davy

Nobel metal nanoparticles have received a large amount of attention in recent years, as their biomedical applications become realised. Of the nanoparticles available, the gold nanoparticle has great potential for biosensing and cancer treatment applications.
One of the advantages of gold nanorods is that their optical properties lie in the far visible and near infrared. Coupled with their ability to be excited via two photon illumination and low cytotoxicity means that the gold nanorod can be used for non-invasive bio sensing applications. Another advantage of the gold nanoparticle is that they can be developed into radiosensitizers, which are able to increase the dose of radiation in radiotherapy. This allows for lower and safer levels of radiation to be used when performing radiotherapy.
The aims of the project is to develop gold nanorods for cancer detection and treatment. In collaboration with the Cancer research centre at Edinburgh’s Institute of Genetic and Molecular Medicine I aim to use zebrafish embryos as an in vivo model for testing these gold nanoparticle biosensors. Then working with the National Physics Laboratory, I aim to develop the nanorods into radiosensitisers.
In today’s world the boundaries between scientific disciplines are merging and it fills me with great pride knowing that with the Optima program I am training to help cross these disciplines and bring about discoveries that could not have been achieved before.

The aim of my project is to use specifically designed chemical probes as optical imaging tools showing spectral changes in response to the interaction with defined target molecules. Use chromospheres as the Raman labels to functionalised nanoparticles that can give strong, unique Raman responses. In this project we will develop new Raman-active chromospheres as highly sensitive surface enhanced Raman probes. The specific reporters will be designed such that they will display Raman responses upon interaction with the target. I will explore chromospheres that undergo change in their chemical structure when reacting with the target binding, such that their resonance Raman responses can be tuned.

The advantage of using Raman rather than fluorescence as the optical imaging technique is the molecular specificity of the optical response, however more importantly in this case, is the combination of surface enhanced spectroscopy and SOR (spatially offset Raman, SESORS) which allows detection of Raman signals at depth. In this project the specific Raman probes will be designed to target bacteria within biofilms and also deep in tissue with a view to use SESORS for detection at depth through the skin. I will use model systems in the lab with live bacteria in tissue phantoms before moving to in vivo experiment.

CDT OPTIMA is the UK first jointed PhD degree between Edinburgh and Strathclyde University. Unlike the conventional PhD, this fascinating programme is not only training you to solving scientific problems, but also, to help to identify your entrepreneurial potential, and make the scientific invention into innovation, which will be beneficial to the society.

Neutrophils are our first line of defence against invading pathogens and mediate the onset of inflammation. Neutrophils are unusual cells in that they are terminally differentiated and have a constitutive apoptosis response following ageing in the body which aids their clearance from inflamed sites and subsequence resolution of inflammation. Apoptosis of neutrophils is delayed on exposure to hypoxic oxygen tensions comparable to those found at sites of inflammation. There are also a number of functional consequences involved in this neutrophil hypoxic survival phenotype, such as changes in cell movement and release of cytokines. The study of neutrophil apoptosis and clearance at low oxygen tensions is essential in probing diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, where the degree of neutrophil persistence in the tissue corresponds with the severity of disease.

The aim of my project is to investigate the role of the neutrophil mitochondria in the context of neutrophil hypoxic survival and whether modulation of intracellular redox potential across different oxygen concentrations confers functional changes in the cell and the mitochondria, specifically. My project involves assessing mitochondrial function in normal and low oxygen through imaging the activity of a range of mitochondrial-specific functional dyes. I will also be using Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) to measure intracellular redox at different oxygen tensions.

The collaborative, multi-discipline aspect of the Optima CDT appealed to me greatly when applying and throughout the project has been invaluable in merging biological, chemical and physical aspects of the project into coherent, cross-discipline experiments.

I joined the Centre for Doctoral Training in Optical Imaging in Sept 2014 aimed at developing fibre-based smartprobes and sensors for use in critically ill patients and am working the Bradley research team as well as being aligned to the EPSRC IRC Proteus. My research has two angles: (i). Creating nanoparticle-containing-polymers for use in SERS (surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy) and (ii). Looking into developing optical labels for an enzyme involved in inflammation. This will involve synthesising and investigating small molecule inhibitors of human neutrophil elastase (HNE) and the use of SERS and fluorescence in its detection.
Having studied medicinal and biological chemistry throughout my undergraduate time, I have always enjoyed learning about the applications of chemistry, particularly in healthcare. I joined the CDT because it offered an excellent opportunity to be a part of applied research, and to learn about the stages involved in taking science from a lab scenario through to commercialisation.

Nobel metal nanoparticles have received a large amount of attention in recent years, as their biomedical applications become realised. Of the nanoparticles available, the gold nanoparticle has great potential for biosensing and cancer treatment applications.
One of the advantages of gold nanorods is that their optical properties lie in the far visible and near infrared. Coupled with their ability to be excited via two photon illumination and low cytotoxicity means that the gold nanorod can be used for non-invasive bio sensing applications. Another advantage of the gold nanoparticle is that they can be developed into radiosensitizers, which are able to increase the dose of radiation in radiotherapy. This allows for lower and safer levels of radiation to be used when performing radiotherapy.
The aims of the project is to develop gold nanorods for cancer detection and treatment. In collaboration with the Cancer research centre at Edinburgh’s Institute of Genetic and Molecular Medicine I aim to use zebrafish embryos as an in vivo model for testing these gold nanoparticle biosensors. Then working with the National Physics Laboratory, I aim to develop the nanorods into radiosensitisers.
In today’s world the boundaries between scientific disciplines are merging and it fills me with great pride knowing that with the Optima program I am training to help cross these disciplines and bring about discoveries that could not have been achieved before.

Ms Rachael Cameron

Cancer clinicians provide treatment to patients with the belief that they will be effective based on their diagnosis. Sadly treatments are not always as efficacious as we would hope for, and the underlying reason is generally unknown, as there is no way to directly image these drugs within a cell.
This project aims to elucidate the anticancer drug localisation within the cell, its retention time and metabolites, by attaching metal nanoparticles to the drug. This would help explain, by following downstream signalling pathways, why the treatment is failing. Additionally, it is hoped that the drug’s efficacy can be enhanced due to the concentrated delivery method of the drug to the cancer cells, by exploiting the large surface area of the nanoparticles. A decreased IC50 would have the obvious benefits of lessening any side effects of the medication and saving on treatment costs.
This will be investigated by creating 3D cell maps using a confocal Raman microspectrometer to conduct signal enhanced Raman spectrosocpy (SERS) of the drug-nanoparticle conjugate within the cell. To be complemented by reverse phase protein assays to characterise any changes in cancer cell signalling pathways to explain the biochemical effect and mechanism of action of the drug-nanoparticle conjugates.

The OPTIMA CDT programme has allowed me to retrain in a different area of science with attention to the applications of the research. This was made possible by the multidisciplinary team of medics, researchers and business experts, who run workshops from the first week of the PhD programme. They are supportive and help to broaden your horizons making you more employable. Towards the end of the four years, a three month work placement will differentiate you from others on the jobs market.

Cancer clinicians provide treatment to patients with the belief that they will be effective based on their diagnosis. Sadly treatments are not always as efficacious as we would hope for, and the underlying reason is generally unknown, as there is no way to directly image these drugs within a cell.
This project aims to elucidate the anticancer drug localisation within the cell, its retention time and metabolites, by attaching metal nanoparticles to the drug. This would help explain, by following downstream signalling pathways, why the treatment is failing. Additionally, it is hoped that the drug’s efficacy can be enhanced due to the concentrated delivery method of the drug to the cancer cells, by exploiting the large surface area of the nanoparticles. A decreased IC50 would have the obvious benefits of lessening any side effects of the medication and saving on treatment costs.
This will be investigated by creating 3D cell maps using a confocal Raman microspectrometer to conduct signal enhanced Raman spectrosocpy (SERS) of the drug-nanoparticle conjugate within the cell. To be complemented by reverse phase protein assays to characterise any changes in cancer cell signalling pathways to explain the biochemical effect and mechanism of action of the drug-nanoparticle conjugates.

The OPTIMA CDT programme has allowed me to retrain in a different area of science with attention to the applications of the research. This was made possible by the multidisciplinary team of medics, researchers and business experts, who run workshops from the first week of the PhD programme. They are supportive and help to broaden your horizons making you more employable. Towards the end of the four years, a three month work placement will differentiate you from others on the jobs market.

OPTIMA2015 Cohort

After a hectic few months of recruiting, our OPTIMA 2015 cohort have been chosen and they have dived headfirst into their first year. Find out more about their exciting projects here in their own words.

Mr Adeel Shafi

My research is centred around making bubbles. Microbubbles to be precise, they are extremely small - roughly the same size as our red-blood-cells. What's special about these microbubbles is that they can improve the grey-scale contrast seen during ultrasound imaging. Whilst in circulation, microbubbles which are sonicated act by absorbing the acoustic energy causing them to resonate, the amount of resonance depends upon a number of factors such as the frequency, acoustic power and size/composition of the microbubbles. Whilst resonating, they increase the scattering and reflection of the ultrasound waves, the ultrasound system picks up this extra information and it helps create a much clearer real-time image as there is detailed anatomical information for interpretation due to the excited microbubbles.

As there is the ability to control microbubble behaviour in vivo; what I am trying to develop is microbubbles which can act as contrast agents to enhance diagnosis, but at the same time have specific molecules attached on their surface that can stick to specific markers of vascular disease. This, therefore, can help in providing early diagnostic information as well as opening avenues for therapeutics as microbubbles can be functionalised to try and "attack" these specific markers which promote disease.

To understand microbubbles and learn more about their properties and potential in molecular imaging, I will be characterising them using an optical imaging methodology prior to testing them in preclinical ultrasonic in-vitro and in-vivo settings. I am also working on developing a new optical methodology which can enhance future microbubble investigations in vitro, meaning the microbubbles I make will not only be targeted to specific markers of vascular disease, they will also be fluorescent.

I chose to do my PhD as part of the OPTIMA programme because of the inter-disciplinary research it so strongly promotes. For example, my project involves an in-depth mix of materials science, medical physics and molecular biology! Through OPTIMA I also receive business training in health innovation and entrepreneurship, which I feel is vitally important in this day and age as it is giving me skills which will help my career progress after my PhD; regardless of whether I stay in academia, "go-solo" or work in industry.

Ms Helen Titmarsh

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer related deaths worldwide and many patients live for less than 12 months after diagnosis. This is often because patients are diagnosed with advanced/late stage disease. It is challenging to improve survival times because the earliest stages of lung cancer are difficult to definitively diagnose using simple non-invasive tests. It is also difficult to determine the best treatment options for each individual patient.

The aims of my research are to validate pre-existing and novel imaging agents for lung cancer. This work, along with that of a large team of biologists, chemists, physicists and medical doctors has the potential to lead to exciting developments in how lung cancer patients are diagnosed. The overall aims of our team are the produce and test fluorescence and radioactive probes which can be administered to patients. These probes interact with parts of cancer cells causing them to 'light up' on tests such as PET scans. This information can help doctors to detect where cancers are in the body, how far the cancer has spread and might provide information about how best to treat each individual lung cancer patient.

Ms Helen Parker*

Ms Lana Woolford*

My research is centred around making bubbles. Microbubbles to be precise, they are extremely small - roughly the same size as our red-blood-cells. What's special about these microbubbles is that they can improve the grey-scale contrast seen during ultrasound imaging. Whilst in circulation, microbubbles which are sonicated act by absorbing the acoustic energy causing them to resonate, the amount of resonance depends upon a number of factors such as the frequency, acoustic power and size/composition of the microbubbles. Whilst resonating, they increase the scattering and reflection of the ultrasound waves, the ultrasound system picks up this extra information and it helps create a much clearer real-time image as there is detailed anatomical information for interpretation due to the excited microbubbles.

As there is the ability to control microbubble behaviour in vivo; what I am trying to develop is microbubbles which can act as contrast agents to enhance diagnosis, but at the same time have specific molecules attached on their surface that can stick to specific markers of vascular disease. This, therefore, can help in providing early diagnostic information as well as opening avenues for therapeutics as microbubbles can be functionalised to try and "attack" these specific markers which promote disease.

To understand microbubbles and learn more about their properties and potential in molecular imaging, I will be characterising them using an optical imaging methodology prior to testing them in preclinical ultrasonic in-vitro and in-vivo settings. I am also working on developing a new optical methodology which can enhance future microbubble investigations in vitro, meaning the microbubbles I make will not only be targeted to specific markers of vascular disease, they will also be fluorescent.

I chose to do my PhD as part of the OPTIMA programme because of the inter-disciplinary research it so strongly promotes. For example, my project involves an in-depth mix of materials science, medical physics and molecular biology! Through OPTIMA I also receive business training in health innovation and entrepreneurship, which I feel is vitally important in this day and age as it is giving me skills which will help my career progress after my PhD; regardless of whether I stay in academia, "go-solo" or work in industry.

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer related deaths worldwide and many patients live for less than 12 months after diagnosis. This is often because patients are diagnosed with advanced/late stage disease. It is challenging to improve survival times because the earliest stages of lung cancer are difficult to definitively diagnose using simple non-invasive tests. It is also difficult to determine the best treatment options for each individual patient.

The aims of my research are to validate pre-existing and novel imaging agents for lung cancer. This work, along with that of a large team of biologists, chemists, physicists and medical doctors has the potential to lead to exciting developments in how lung cancer patients are diagnosed. The overall aims of our team are the produce and test fluorescence and radioactive probes which can be administered to patients. These probes interact with parts of cancer cells causing them to 'light up' on tests such as PET scans. This information can help doctors to detect where cancers are in the body, how far the cancer has spread and might provide information about how best to treat each individual lung cancer patient.

Ms Gillian Craig*

Ms Hazel Stewart*

Mr Tom Speight*

Ms Anastasia Kapara

Estrogen receptor (ER), is a transcriptional factor which is over-expressed in a variety of different cancers, including breast cancer. Although the treatment against ER overexpression is improving with less side effects, drug resistance remains one of the major clinical issue.

Overall, the aim of the project is to use sophisticated and sensitive technologies to address the molecular imaging of ER expression in breast cancer models. Determining the alterations in ER expression in response to novel anticancer drugs against breast cancer will lead to more effective drug selection, lower possibility of treatment failure and a clinically meaningful improvement in outcomes. Future prospective studies may involve long term monitoring of breast cancer patients, who are on endocrine therapy, by using a combination of molecular biology and nanotechnology for less invasive, targeted and rapid therapeutic approaches.

The OPTIMA programme places emphasis on interdisciplinary research as it combines the study of molecular interactions and structural dynamics with the development of a complete scientific business profile. I am confident that this PhD will improve my background knowledge and will contribute to achieve my personal goals which are to continue in the research field of molecular diagnosis and modern therapeutics.

Estrogen receptor (ER), is a transcriptional factor which is over-expressed in a variety of different cancers, including breast cancer. Although the treatment against ER overexpression is improving with less side effects, drug resistance remains one of the major clinical issue.

Overall, the aim of the project is to use sophisticated and sensitive technologies to address the molecular imaging of ER expression in breast cancer models. Determining the alterations in ER expression in response to novel anticancer drugs against breast cancer will lead to more effective drug selection, lower possibility of treatment failure and a clinically meaningful improvement in outcomes. Future prospective studies may involve long term monitoring of breast cancer patients, who are on endocrine therapy, by using a combination of molecular biology and nanotechnology for less invasive, targeted and rapid therapeutic approaches.

The OPTIMA programme places emphasis on interdisciplinary research as it combines the study of molecular interactions and structural dynamics with the development of a complete scientific business profile. I am confident that this PhD will improve my background knowledge and will contribute to achieve my personal goals which are to continue in the research field of molecular diagnosis and modern therapeutics.

Ms Jee Soo (Monica) Kim

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic and complex debilitating neurological disorder caused by inflammation and the inability to repair the damage on myelin sheaths. Myelin sheaths are lipid-rich structures made by cells called oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system, i.e. the brain and spinal cord. These cells wrap around the axons of neurons, the key signalling cells of the nervous system, to provide nutritional support and allow fast signalling conduction. MS cost the European economy €14.6 billion in 2010 alone with 540,000 sufferers. Current treatments are focused on dampening the damage and not enhancing their repair. My project is aimed at using medical optical imaging to create a high-throughput drug screening platform to find drugs that will enhance the repair of myelin sheaths in MS.

I joined the CDT OPTIMA programme because of its multi-disciplinary aspect. Although science is divided into different disciplines (biology, chemistry, engineering, physics, IT,…), I believe the best research is conducted when multiple, or even all, scientific disciplines are brought together. My project is allowing me to bring my biomedical sciences background to study the disease MS while incorporating the technology and knowledge from multiple other scientific disciplines. In addition, the programme is allowing the learning and development of how to take scientific ideas and research from the lab into the real-world, where they have the potential to make important societal impact.

Ms Kirsty Callan

The mineralocorticoid aldosterone plays a key role in sodium transport via the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR). Glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids have similar affinity for the MR, which can result in overstimulation of the receptor since glucocorticoids are present at much higher levels. This problem is avoided by the presence of the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (HSD2) which deactivates glucocorticoids. However, mutations can cause a lack, or inactivity, of HSD2. Lack of HSD2 results in a condition known as the syndrome of apparent mineralocorticoid excess (SAME) which is usually fatal in childhood. Deficiency of the enzyme has been shown to cause salt-sensitive hypertension. Currently, there is no clinical diagnostic test for HSD2 levels.

Nanoparticles are particles with at least one dimension less than 100nm. They have unique optical properties which make them useful in diagnostics. In particular, they can be used to increase the sensitivity of Raman spectroscopy by adsorbing the sample onto nanoparticles resulting in an enhanced signal (surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy). Furthermore, they can be functionalised with recognition molecules, such as DNA, for specific detection.

The aim of my project is to develop an assay for the detection of HSD2 mRNA based on nanoparticles and Raman spectroscopy. I was drawn to the OPTIMA program as I believe that the multidisciplinary nature of the program makes it different from other PhD programs and will be invaluable for a career in research.

Ms Katie Ember

Cholangiocarcinoma is a cancer of the bile duct that also affects the liver. Very little is known about the molecular basis for the disease and it has an extremely low survival rate – 95% of cases are fatal within 5 years. However, this could be significantly improved by novel diagnostic technologies. Raman spectroscopy is an optical technique capable of discriminating between tissue samples based on their molecular composition. It has proven a promising tool for cancer diagnosis and surgery but has never been applied to cholangiocarcinoma. I’m working with both the Campbell group of the School of Chemistry and the Forbes group of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine to develop Raman spectroscopy as a new way for sensing cholangiocarcinoma early and accurately. Such a tool could be implemented in diagnosis, surgery and investigating the efficacy of therapeutic drugs on cholangiocarcinoma. It could also greatly assist the elucidation of the underlying biomolecular mechanisms of this disease.

Optical medical imaging is where biology, chemistry and physics converge, and I’ve always found it difficult to choose one of the three sciences to focus on – they are all equally fascinating and many new technologies are arising from the conjunction between them. The interdisciplinary nature of the OPTIMA programme means that there are endless opportunities to learn new techniques and ways to approach problems, and Edinburgh and Glasgow are both fantastic places to do a PhD!

Ms Clara Vergez

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Heart attacks occur when a blood clot blocks the coronary artery, restricting blood flow to the heart muscle. Atherosclerotic plaques in the coronary artery walls cause heart attacks when they rupture and expose their pro-coagulant contents to the blood supply, forming a clot.

Research in the field currently focusses on detecting plaques which are prone to rupture (i.e. “vulnerable plaques”) in the hope that removing them from patients with coronary artery disease will lower their risk of heart attack. OCT (optical coherence tomography) is a relatively new medical imaging technique enabling precise visualisation of “vulnerable plaque” morphology (such as a thin fibrous cap, a lipid core, calcifications) in a similar way to ultrasound, using light instead of sound to create an image of the tissue. However, one key feature yet to be made visible with OCT is macrophage infiltration into the cap of the plaque.

Preliminary studies have shown that macrophage visualisation within plaques may be possible with OCT and my thesis project aims to enhance this visualisation. Along the course of my project I will be working on in vitro models (a model “phantom” artery and ex-vivo human arteries), in vivo animal models as well as a human clinical trial. If we can enhance the detectability of macrophages within atherosclerotic plaques with OCT we could potentially distinguish vulnerable plaques from non-vulnerable ones and thus vulnerable patients from non-vulnerable ones!

I came across OPTIMA completely by chance when I had not yet started my search for PhDs and I was hooked when I heard about their aims and ideals. Most importantly for me, all the projects having an optical medial imaging component are very clinically relevant and many boast a "bench to bedside" philosophy. The added interdisciplinary component is what makes this PhD program unique, perhaps more challenging but certainly fun! And finally the taught entrepreneurship component of the OPTIMA program teaches us the importance of knowing how to commercialise science, a invaluable skill for our future careers, whatever they may be...

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic and complex debilitating neurological disorder caused by inflammation and the inability to repair the damage on myelin sheaths. Myelin sheaths are lipid-rich structures made by cells called oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system, i.e. the brain and spinal cord. These cells wrap around the axons of neurons, the key signalling cells of the nervous system, to provide nutritional support and allow fast signalling conduction. MS cost the European economy €14.6 billion in 2010 alone with 540,000 sufferers. Current treatments are focused on dampening the damage and not enhancing their repair. My project is aimed at using medical optical imaging to create a high-throughput drug screening platform to find drugs that will enhance the repair of myelin sheaths in MS.

I joined the CDT OPTIMA programme because of its multi-disciplinary aspect. Although science is divided into different disciplines (biology, chemistry, engineering, physics, IT,…), I believe the best research is conducted when multiple, or even all, scientific disciplines are brought together. My project is allowing me to bring my biomedical sciences background to study the disease MS while incorporating the technology and knowledge from multiple other scientific disciplines. In addition, the programme is allowing the learning and development of how to take scientific ideas and research from the lab into the real-world, where they have the potential to make important societal impact.

The mineralocorticoid aldosterone plays a key role in sodium transport via the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR). Glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids have similar affinity for the MR, which can result in overstimulation of the receptor since glucocorticoids are present at much higher levels. This problem is avoided by the presence of the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (HSD2) which deactivates glucocorticoids. However, mutations can cause a lack, or inactivity, of HSD2. Lack of HSD2 results in a condition known as the syndrome of apparent mineralocorticoid excess (SAME) which is usually fatal in childhood. Deficiency of the enzyme has been shown to cause salt-sensitive hypertension. Currently, there is no clinical diagnostic test for HSD2 levels.

Nanoparticles are particles with at least one dimension less than 100nm. They have unique optical properties which make them useful in diagnostics. In particular, they can be used to increase the sensitivity of Raman spectroscopy by adsorbing the sample onto nanoparticles resulting in an enhanced signal (surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy). Furthermore, they can be functionalised with recognition molecules, such as DNA, for specific detection.

The aim of my project is to develop an assay for the detection of HSD2 mRNA based on nanoparticles and Raman spectroscopy. I was drawn to the OPTIMA program as I believe that the multidisciplinary nature of the program makes it different from other PhD programs and will be invaluable for a career in research.

Cholangiocarcinoma is a cancer of the bile duct that also affects the liver. Very little is known about the molecular basis for the disease and it has an extremely low survival rate – 95% of cases are fatal within 5 years. However, this could be significantly improved by novel diagnostic technologies. Raman spectroscopy is an optical technique capable of discriminating between tissue samples based on their molecular composition. It has proven a promising tool for cancer diagnosis and surgery but has never been applied to cholangiocarcinoma. I’m working with both the Campbell group of the School of Chemistry and the Forbes group of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine to develop Raman spectroscopy as a new way for sensing cholangiocarcinoma early and accurately. Such a tool could be implemented in diagnosis, surgery and investigating the efficacy of therapeutic drugs on cholangiocarcinoma. It could also greatly assist the elucidation of the underlying biomolecular mechanisms of this disease.

Optical medical imaging is where biology, chemistry and physics converge, and I’ve always found it difficult to choose one of the three sciences to focus on – they are all equally fascinating and many new technologies are arising from the conjunction between them. The interdisciplinary nature of the OPTIMA programme means that there are endless opportunities to learn new techniques and ways to approach problems, and Edinburgh and Glasgow are both fantastic places to do a PhD!

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Heart attacks occur when a blood clot blocks the coronary artery, restricting blood flow to the heart muscle. Atherosclerotic plaques in the coronary artery walls cause heart attacks when they rupture and expose their pro-coagulant contents to the blood supply, forming a clot.

Research in the field currently focusses on detecting plaques which are prone to rupture (i.e. “vulnerable plaques”) in the hope that removing them from patients with coronary artery disease will lower their risk of heart attack. OCT (optical coherence tomography) is a relatively new medical imaging technique enabling precise visualisation of “vulnerable plaque” morphology (such as a thin fibrous cap, a lipid core, calcifications) in a similar way to ultrasound, using light instead of sound to create an image of the tissue. However, one key feature yet to be made visible with OCT is macrophage infiltration into the cap of the plaque.

Preliminary studies have shown that macrophage visualisation within plaques may be possible with OCT and my thesis project aims to enhance this visualisation. Along the course of my project I will be working on in vitro models (a model “phantom” artery and ex-vivo human arteries), in vivo animal models as well as a human clinical trial. If we can enhance the detectability of macrophages within atherosclerotic plaques with OCT we could potentially distinguish vulnerable plaques from non-vulnerable ones and thus vulnerable patients from non-vulnerable ones!

I came across OPTIMA completely by chance when I had not yet started my search for PhDs and I was hooked when I heard about their aims and ideals. Most importantly for me, all the projects having an optical medial imaging component are very clinically relevant and many boast a "bench to bedside" philosophy. The added interdisciplinary component is what makes this PhD program unique, perhaps more challenging but certainly fun! And finally the taught entrepreneurship component of the OPTIMA program teaches us the importance of knowing how to commercialise science, a invaluable skill for our future careers, whatever they may be...

Mr Jamie Scott*

Mr Paul Cowling*

Ms Dawn Gillies*

Mr Scott Hoffmann*

OPTIMA2016 Cohort

We are now recruiting for the OPTIMA 2016 Cohort. For details of some of the projects that will be on offer to successful candidates - please see our Programme > Research section below.

Programme

OPTIMA has two key elements to its USP:
Projects at the interface of medical and physical science
Bespoke training in healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship

Integrated Study

Unlike other four year programmes, we want the integrated study portion to constantly inform and educate our students throughout their time with us. All of our students have innovative projects using cutting-edge technology to solve some of the most pressing issues in medicine today. We want our students to understand and appreciate the innovative leaps they are making and be able to capitalise on their discoveries. This trains our students to have a "Heart for Science and a Head for Business". When you have an academic research base that is commercialisation-aware and has real world nous - innovations will be fast-tracked and the leap from bench to bedside becomes a highway for cutting-edge healthcare.

Some of the courses that make up the integrated study portion of OPTIMA include:

• Optical Medical Imaging Grand Challenge.
• 3 month Industrial Placement
• Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurship
• Translational Study - Innovation and Entrepreneurship Masterclass
• Ethics and Regulatory Processes in Translating Innovation from Bench to Man
• Technology Commercialisation Workshop
• Build your own microscope workshop

Research

OPTIMA students can choose from a range of exciting and innovative projects that breakdown the barriers between physics, chemistry, medicine and engineering.

Please see below for the projects currently on offer with OPTIMA:

Imaging the onset of oncogenic splicing isoforms of CD44

Nanoparticle Imaging of Macrophage Polarisation through Galectin profiling

Multiplexed Bioaffinity Detection of Pathogens - Optical Antibiotogram for detection of multidrug resistant pathogens in the setting of Organ Transplantation

Fluorescent imaging of protein modifications caused by glucose in diabetes.

Supervisors: Dr Glenn Burley / Prof Ted Hupp

CD44 is a cell surface signaling receptor that influences cell motility, survival and proliferation. A distinct hallmark of breast, prostate and gastric cancers is the formation of different isoforms of CD44 as a result of changes in the way pre-mRNA is processed, known as alternative splicing. In this process, protein coding sequences (known as exons) can be retained or excised from pre-mRNA along with non-protein coding sequences (known as introns) to produce multiple mature RNA isoforms from a single gene catalyzed by the spliceosome. The deregulation of splicing patterns in cancer, and in particular CD44 is therefore considered a major determinant of tumorigenesis, however a major challenge in the oncology field is to understand and detect changes in splicing patterns as normal cells progress to a cancerous state.
The overall objective of this project will be to develop a platform to image changes in the expression of CD44. Initially this will involve the development of a splicing assay that exploits an RNA aptamer that binds to a green fluorescent dye. This aptamer, known as Broccoli activates fluorescence only when bound to the aptamer, therefore rendering fluorescence conditional to the presence (and hence transcription) of the fully-formed aptamer. A single-colour Broccoli-based system will be developed for CD44. Once established a dual-colour (e.g., red-green) aptamer platform by synthesizing red-conditional fluorophores will be developed to quantify the ratio of natural to oncogenic CD44. With this platform established in vitro, the student will road-test this platform in cancer cells with genetically defined differences in CD44 expression and splicing. The platform will provide proof of concept for measuring more global splicing changes, RNA editing, and novel fusion genes in human cancer.

Supervisors: Prof Duncan Graham / Dr Kev Dhaliwal / Prof Karen Faulds

Galectins are a family of carbohydrate binding proteins implicated in inflammation and in particular cancer with Gal-1 and Gal-3 most important. Gal-1 and 3 are attractive diagnostic targets for cancer and the ratiometric imaging/sensing of each of these would be beneficial to guide monocyte/macrophage profiling. Classically activated macrophages (M1) are high in Galectin 3 expression compared to alternatively activated macrophage (M2). NP’s functionalised with galactose containing disaccharides such as lactose will be used to target galectin-1. As Gal-1 is a homodimeric lectin it is possible to bind this type of lectin to more than one nanoparticle at a time. As a result nanoparticle aggregate structures can be formed in proximity to cells such as macrophages which can be imaged using surface enhanced Raman scattering. By functionalising NP’s with an arene dithiogalactoside or lactosamine-derivative it will be possible to selectively bind galectin-3 over galectin-1. Macrophages will be polarised in vitro to M1 and M2 and the differential activation states monitored with Galectin SERS imaging. This studentship will focus on developing nanoparticle based probes to differentiate between Gal-1 and Gal-3 and then be used to image using SERS initially simple fixed cells before moving to macrophages and live cell imaging.

Supervisors: Dr Alastair Wark / Dr Kev Dhaliwal

Patients who receive organ transplants are heavily immunosuppressed and at risk of catastrophic and life-threatening infections. Without a better diagnostic strategy for these patients, they receive broad-spectrum antimicrobials which often lead to side-effects and are dangerous for the patients and interact with immunosuppressive drugs and may jeopardise the transplanted organ
This project will involve developing a novel approach to detecting multi-drug resistant pathogens and their subsequent profiling by an optical touch antibiotogram. The distal end of an optical fibre will be embedded with a multispectral array of bio affinity chemical ligands targeting multi-drug resistant pathogens. The approach will involve the synthesis, characterisation and surface chemical modification of nanoparticle probes to bind to optical fibres and detect specific pathogens.
The core technology will revolve around exploiting size and resonance wavelength tuneable ultrasensitive nanorods that are targeted against bacterial species. Specific interactions will lead to the enhanced generation of Raman signals and the detection of single molecular events.
This technology will be implemented in time-critical areas where it is important to rapidly ensure that effective sterilisation of tissue/implants have been achieved, in particular in the setting of organ reconditioning and transplantation. The project will focus on developing sensors targeted against multidrug resistant respiratory pathogens in the setting of lungs peri-transplantation.
The chemistry student will be exposed to lung transplantation services, respiratory critical care and also clinical microbiology.

Supervisors: Dr Olaf Rolinski / Prof David Birch / Dr Shareen Forbes

We propose fluorescence lifetime imaging for non-invasive early detection of diabetes-related modifications in certain proteins, namely alpha-crystalline in the eye and human serum albumin in blood, as a result of increased glucose level.
Non-reversible modifications of proteins by metabolites are implicated in many disorders (e.g. inflammation, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases) an in human aging. Here we focus on non-enzymatic glycation, the multi-step process initiated by interactions of sugars with the free amino groups in proteins, which compromise the original proteins activities, cause their aggregation and lead to the formation of highly reactive and fluorescent advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Modifications in alpha-crystalline and HSA (both leading to complications of diabetes) can be detected by fluorescence methods, because both proteins and the related AGEs significantly change their fluorescence responses during glycation1, 2.
In this project we aim to chart the evolution of protein modifications induced by increased levels of glucose. We will use intrinsic fluorescence of proteins and AGEs to extract spectral, temporal and spatial information on glucose-induced glycation in environments mimicking physiological conditions. After the evolution in fluorescence responses is established, we will employ this knowledge to investigate the mechanisms slowing down glycation by selected inhibitors, thus pave the way to new research on prevention of diabetes complications. To achieve this, we will combine the new approaches in the time-resolved protein fluorescence measurements and analysis3, which are highly informative at the early stages of protein modifications, with fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy, reporting the evolution of the larger, μm-size, fibrillar structures. Alpha-crystalline and HSA modifications serve here as the model systems and may be extended to a range of other biomolecules and processes of medical, academic and industrial importance.

Optical Image Guided Surgery of Glioblastoma

3D Tissue Models to improve the drug development pipeline.

Imaging retinal metabolic changes with spectroscopic optical coherence tomography

Supervisors: Prof Mark Bradley / Dr Tom Vercauteren /Dr Kev Dhaliwal /Dr Paul Brennan / Ian Wilson

Despite aggressive treatment, the median survival of patients with glioblastoma multiforme remains poor. Optimization of the initial cytoreductive surgery, using fluorescence imaging to highlight tumors has shown promise in clinical practice.
This project will design, synthesise and test new optical imaging smartprobes that will accurately delineate the tumour margins of glioblastoma. The imaging agents will be designed to be delivered intravenously and with excellent penetration of the blood-brain barrier. The chemist will work closely with the team at UCL (based from Queen’s Square at UCL) who have both preclinical models as well as human tissue models. Targets will include the matrix enzymes as well as hepatocyte growth factor receptor – c-met which is ubiquitously expressed on glioblastoma.
The student will develop a new range of fluorescence life-time dyes that will provide temporal and spectral resolution for optical molecular imaging. The testing of the reagents will be performed at UCL with Tom Veracuteren’s team. It is expected that the student will spend a considerable amount of time at UCL collaborating and testing the agents.
This approach provides a clinically translatable molecular imaging approach with the potential to improve intraoperative glioblastoma identification and thereby maximize the extent of tumor resection.

Collaborative project between OPTIMA and The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training In Medical Imaging in UCL

Supervisors: Dr Colin Campbell / Dr Dave Hay / Dr Dominic Williams / Dr David Clarke / Dr Richard Goodwin

3D tissue models are attractive for evaluating the toxicity and efficacy of drugs. In particular, they better mimic the tissue microenvironment in vivo than monolayer culture of cells. In this project the student will develop a 3D model of liver (liver organoid) that can be imaged with both spatial and temporal resolution. The imaging studies will help us understand how different cell types condition their microenvironment, with a focus on how chemistry of the niche affects tissue performance and viability. We will carry out these studies using a combination of imaging methods including surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) using optical nanosensors, Raman imaging and mass-spectroscopy imaging. Subsequently liver organoids and imaging techniques will be used to screen libraries of drug candidates. This will be performed in collaboration with Astra Zeneca, with a view to improving the efficiency of the drug development process.

Supervisors: Dr Pierre Bagnaninchi / Prof Baljean Dhillon / Dr Colin Campbell

Oxygen metabolism plays a central role in major eye diseases such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy. Optical coherence tomography is an established clinical imaging modality to assess microstructural changes in retinal layers. It generally uses near infrared light to provide label-free deep imaging. In this proposal, we wish to explore in collaboration with Optos, a leading retinal imaging company, the potential of spectroscopic OCT to image retinal metabolic changes relevant to eye diseases.
The Ph.D. candidate will first develop a dual-modality OCT-fluorescence based on a spectral domain interferometer to facilitate its adoption to an existing instrument. Then she/he will use the new modality to image in depth (<2mm) molecular information from commercial fluorescent probes and pathological microstructure alterations from OCT in vitro. In addition, oxygen saturation measurements will be performed at each pixel of the 3D image by exploiting the crossover behavior of hemoglobin and oxyhemoglobin (HbO2) absorption coefficients around 800 nm. Novel metabolic signatures will be further investigated by Raman spectroscopy to help establish S-OCT findings. Finally, the Core Technology Research Group of Optos will help guide the project with direction on medical device compliance, retinal imaging and commercialisation.
The ability of S-OCT to generate depth-resolved fluorescence images (<2mm) of metabolic biomarkers will be validated by imaging stem-cell-based in vitro models of AMD developed by Prof. Baljean Dhillon’s team, and corroborated to fluorescent assays and Raman spectroscopy in Dr. Campbell’s lab. 3D mapping of oxygen saturation will be calibrated on bovine whole blood flow driven through microfluidic channels and correlated to blood analyser readings. The student will gain an interdisciplinary profile developing a smart diagnostic tool with physicists, clinicians and chemists to evaluate the system and push its translation into clinical diagnosis. She/he will benefit from the opportunity to undertake short internships at Optos to work on specific sub-projects .

Apply

OPTIMA will train 60 students in total.
Now is the chance for you to join the growing OPTIMA team

Join us

OPTIMA is looking for students ready for a PhD programme with a difference.

We need biologists, clinicians (medical / veterinary / dental), chemists, physicists and engineers to help us achieve a critical mass of trainee scientists ready for interdisciplinary research and bound for innovation.

The race is on to find the high-flying prospective PhD students for OPTIMA2016

Format

If you would like to apply to OPTIMA please submit a cover letter and a full up-to-date C.V. with names and addresses of two academic referees.

The cover letter should clearly state your eligibility and why you are interested in applying for a studentship with OPTIMA.

Send applications to imaging.cdt@ed.ac.uk

Please note OPTIMA studentships are subject to Research Council funding eligibility criteria. We do have a limited number of studentships for which EU nationals can apply. OPTIMA studentships cover fees and stipend for four years

Industry Partners

One of the strengths of OPTIMA is its strong links to the business community via its industrial partners.

BioQuarter

"This CDT perfectly aligns with our vision to support and foster innovation and entrepreneurial skills in science related to healthcare. We urgently need to expand our base of scientific entrepreneurs who understand the process and real human value of commercialization to deliver improvements in healthcare."
Dr Mike Capaldi, Commercialisation Director

Entrepreneurial Spark

"Entrepreneurial Spark enthusiastically supports ... CDT in Optical Medical Imaging. We would be pleased to host placement students.. The students would be constantly networking with entrepreneurs, financiers, support firms, policy makers and business experts"
Lucy-Rose Walker, Co-founder and Chief Solutions Officer

Royal Society of Edinburgh

"The RSE would offer the student an opportunity to work within our Policy Advice Unit, which provides public policy advice to the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the EU....we are excited by the interdisciplinary, translational training program that you have put together"
Dr Bristow Muldoon, Head of Policy Advice

NPL

"The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) being the UK's National Measurement Institute, is a world-leading centre if excellence in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards." "In it's effort to remain world-leading, the NPL is engaging with academia in line with its research priorities and interests" "The NPL is pleased to be able to support the..CDT in optical imaging" "Our interests are...strongly aligned with the theme of the...CDT"
Dr Alex Knight, Biotechnology Group - Analytical Science Division

"This CDT perfectly aligns with our vision to support and foster innovation and entrepreneurial skills in science related to healthcare. We urgently need to expand our base of scientific entrepreneurs who understand the process and real human value of commercialization to deliver improvements in healthcare."
Dr Mike Capaldi, Commercialisation Director

"Entrepreneurial Spark enthusiastically supports ... CDT in Optical Medical Imaging. We would be pleased to host placement students.. The students would be constantly networking with entrepreneurs, financiers, support firms, policy makers and business experts"
Lucy-Rose Walker, Co-founder and Chief Solutions Officer

"The RSE would offer the student an opportunity to work within our Policy Advice Unit, which provides public policy advice to the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the EU....we are excited by the interdisciplinary, translational training program that you have put together"
Dr Bristow Muldoon, Head of Policy Advice

"The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) being the UK's National Measurement Institute, is a world-leading centre if excellence in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards." "In it's effort to remain world-leading, the NPL is engaging with academia in line with its research priorities and interests" "The NPL is pleased to be able to support the..CDT in optical imaging" "Our interests are...strongly aligned with the theme of the...CDT"
Dr Alex Knight, Biotechnology Group - Analytical Science Division

Roslin Cells

"we are continually seeking to improve the processes with which we manufacture cell therapy products. Disruptive technologies, such as Optical Medial Imaging, will undoubtedly be part of our future and accordingly I would welcome the opportunity to support the activities of the...Centre"
Aidan Courtney, CEO

Knowledge Transfer Network

"Thank you for the opportunity to partner in your proposal for a CDT in this area of Imaging and sensing. This field is one of significant strength in the UK, which we need to retain with appropriate skills, but we also need to be open to new imaging modalities and your proposal for Optical Medical Imaging is very timely. Our KTN is addressing Priority Areas across medical technologies, diagnostics in its broadest sense and stratified medicine in which optical imaging and sensing will play an important role."
Sue Dunkerton, Co-Director HealthTech and Medicines KTN

Harrison Goddard Foote

"HGF works with clients across a range of medical technologies, and optical medical imaging is a growing area interest. The technology area thus matches with areas of our business. We strongly encourage the focus upon business skills and translation that the CDT intends to incorporate into its studies; it is in this area that there would be an opportunity to work with you and the students."
Douglas Drysdale, Patents Director

Edinburgh Research and Innovation

"The mix of scientific and business skills that the...Centre's students would possess would be highly relevant to ERI in areas such as opportunity assessment, IP due diligence and business proposal development" "Furthermore, we anticipate that by being a partner we may have access to a stream of graduates who combine a strong physical science background with a level of business acumen"
Grant Wheeler, Head of Company Formation and Incubation

"we are continually seeking to improve the processes with which we manufacture cell therapy products. Disruptive technologies, such as Optical Medial Imaging, will undoubtedly be part of our future and accordingly I would welcome the opportunity to support the activities of the...Centre"
Aidan Courtney, CEO

"Thank you for the opportunity to partner in your proposal for a CDT in this area of Imaging and sensing. This field is one of significant strength in the UK, which we need to retain with appropriate skills, but we also need to be open to new imaging modalities and your proposal for Optical Medical Imaging is very timely. Our KTN is addressing Priority Areas across medical technologies, diagnostics in its broadest sense and stratified medicine in which optical imaging and sensing will play an important role."
Sue Dunkerton, Co-Director HealthTech and Medicines KTN

"HGF works with clients across a range of medical technologies, and optical medical imaging is a growing area interest. The technology area thus matches with areas of our business. We strongly encourage the focus upon business skills and translation that the CDT intends to incorporate into its studies; it is in this area that there would be an opportunity to work with you and the students."
Douglas Drysdale, Patents Director

"The mix of scientific and business skills that the...Centre's students would possess would be highly relevant to ERI in areas such as opportunity assessment, IP due diligence and business proposal development" "Furthermore, we anticipate that by being a partner we may have access to a stream of graduates who combine a strong physical science background with a level of business acumen"
Grant Wheeler, Head of Company Formation and Incubation

BBI Solutions OEM Ltd

"BBI recognize that imaging diagnostics promise to be the most powerful and rapidly growing sector within the in vitro diagnostics sector and we are keen to develop strategic relationships with leading academics within this space. We are always in need of scientists trained in the commercial and clinical context of our products and indeed this unique ‘skills’ offering is rarely available."
Dr Pete Corish, Head of Business Development

Renishaw Diagnostics

"The area of focus for this CDT is of direct interest to our company. We have been in contact with you in regard to the skill sets we see as being of interest to us as a company for the next generation of researchers and development of scientists who could potentially join us"
Dr Graeme McNay, Project Leader

Touch Bionics

"Touch Bionics enthusiastically supports OPTIMA. As a partner, we would be pleased to host placement students as they would have an unrivalled experience in the commercialisation of leading edge medical technologies. While for us, this partnership means access to top quality scientists and developing entrepreneurs.”
Hugh Gill, CTO

ST Microelectronics

"We view initiatives such as this, which boost the UK pool of highly knowledgeable and qualified engineers, as a strategic benefit to our industry. In addition the unique business and clinical awareness that these graduates will have will bring e a major boost to the local 'skills pool'."
Lindsay Grant, Director - Imaging Division

"BBI recognize that imaging diagnostics promise to be the most powerful and rapidly growing sector within the in vitro diagnostics sector and we are keen to develop strategic relationships with leading academics within this space. We are always in need of scientists trained in the commercial and clinical context of our products and indeed this unique ‘skills’ offering is rarely available."
Dr Pete Corish, Head of Business Development

"The area of focus for this CDT is of direct interest to our company. We have been in contact with you in regard to the skill sets we see as being of interest to us as a company for the next generation of researchers and development of scientists who could potentially join us"
Dr Graeme McNay, Project Leader

"Touch Bionics enthusiastically supports OPTIMA. As a partner, we would be pleased to host placement students as they would have an unrivalled experience in the commercialisation of leading edge medical technologies. While for us, this partnership means access to top quality scientists and developing entrepreneurs.”
Hugh Gill, CTO

"We view initiatives such as this, which boost the UK pool of highly knowledgeable and qualified engineers, as a strategic benefit to our industry. In addition the unique business and clinical awareness that these graduates will have will bring e a major boost to the local 'skills pool'."
Lindsay Grant, Director - Imaging Division

Almac

“The aims of the Centre for Doctoral Training are of direct interest to Almac. In addition to training the next generation of molecular and physical sciences, in the context of clinically relevant projects, the training in business skills and entrepreneurship is particularly important. Developing PhD scientists with business acumen and an understanding of the commercial scientific environment is highly desirable and we support this initiative 100%.”
Dr Stephen Barr, President and MD for Almac Sciences

i2eye Diagnostics

“i2eye Diagnostics Ltd is pleased to support the CDT in Optical Medical Imaging. This scientific area represents an important technological field for innovation in health care as well as economic development. In addition we strongly encourage the training in business skills and translation that your CDT provides.”
Les Gaw, CEO

PA Consulting Group

"Optics and imaging are valuable capabilities which PA Consulting Group offers to its clients. They are also areas where it can be challenging to recruit graduates and early-career scientists with the appropriate depth of knowledge and skills, coupled with the right approach to working on fast-paced commercial projects and the ability to communicate effectively with senior clients. We are pleased that the CDT training programme has been designed to address these issues and believe it can make an important contribution to the development of these valuable skills."
Dr Mark Humphries, PA Management Group

GSK

"the combination of excellence in physical sciences married with entrepreneurial training and clinical awareness make this a unique and fertile training opportunity"
Dr Malcolm Skingle, Director - Academic Liaison

“The aims of the Centre for Doctoral Training are of direct interest to Almac. In addition to training the next generation of molecular and physical sciences, in the context of clinically relevant projects, the training in business skills and entrepreneurship is particularly important. Developing PhD scientists with business acumen and an understanding of the commercial scientific environment is highly desirable and we support this initiative 100%.”
Dr Stephen Barr, President and MD for Almac Sciences

“i2eye Diagnostics Ltd is pleased to support the CDT in Optical Medical Imaging. This scientific area represents an important technological field for innovation in health care as well as economic development. In addition we strongly encourage the training in business skills and translation that your CDT provides.”
Les Gaw, CEO

"Optics and imaging are valuable capabilities which PA Consulting Group offers to its clients. They are also areas where it can be challenging to recruit graduates and early-career scientists with the appropriate depth of knowledge and skills, coupled with the right approach to working on fast-paced commercial projects and the ability to communicate effectively with senior clients. We are pleased that the CDT training programme has been designed to address these issues and believe it can make an important contribution to the development of these valuable skills."
Dr Mark Humphries, PA Management Group

"the combination of excellence in physical sciences married with entrepreneurial training and clinical awareness make this a unique and fertile training opportunity"
Dr Malcolm Skingle, Director - Academic Liaison

Engage

OPTIMA does not exist in a vaccuum. If you like what you see and want to know more - please, engage with us.

Prospective students

If you are thinking of pursuing a PhD and are interested in what OPTIMA has to offer, please get in touch

Dr Jean O'Donoghue
OPTIMA Project Manager

Phone: 0131 242 9180 /0131 650 4812
Email: j.odonoghue@ed.ac.uk

You can also catch up with us on Facebook and Twitter

Industry

We are interested in expanding our list of industrial partners and creating the links that can help our students appreciate the entrepreneurial drive and innovative spirit present in Scotland and the UK as a whole and learn how to become the scientific entrepreneurs of the future.

Some of the ways in which our industrial partners can engage with us are

• Collaborating on research projects
• Hosting OPTIMA students on 3-month placements
• Participating in OPTIMA training events

For more information contact:

Dr Jean O'Donoghue or Dr Kirsty Ross

Public

We want to expand our list of community partners and create the links that can help our students appreciate the impact their research will have on the world and learn how to become the confident communicators of the future.

Some of the ways in which our community partners can engage with us are

• Collaborating on outreach projects, such as art installations, demos, and visits
• Hosting OPTIMA students on 3-month placements
• Participating in OPTIMA outreach events

For more information contact:

Dr Kirsty Ross (OPTIMA Outreach Officer)
Phone: 0141 444 7042
Email: kirsty.ross@strath.ac.uk

Twitter