Silvia Santos heads up the Quantitative Stem Cell Biology Laboratory at the Crick. Her lab aims to learn more about how and why cells divide during human development to give rise to a complex embryo with several cell types.
Although the lab’s work might seem far from patients in a clinic, it has the potential to lead to new treatments or diagnostic tools in areas like fertility, inherited conditions, and cancer.
The Crick was designed to provide lab-based researchers like Silvia who would like to translate their research into patient benefits with the expertise and environment to take their ideas forward. Our dedicated clinical research team, led by director of clinical research Peter Ratcliffe, wants to increase interactions between lab-based researchers and clinicians to continue bridging the gap. Silvia took part in one of our initiatives designed to do this – CrickMed.
Led by our assistant research director focusing on clinical academic training and development, Veronica Kinsler, and clinical engagement manager Anna Lakey, CrickMed gives lab-based researchers from the Crick the opportunity to spend a week shadowing clinicians at NHS Trusts.
Researchers are connected to clinicians who have expertise that matches their own research interests, and the week’s schedule is tailored to allow each lab-based researcher to attend team meetings, ward rounds and clinics with relevant patients.
CrickMed aims to show lab-based researchers the context in which their research is taking place. “Following CrickMed, I would hope that Crick group leaders would have an increased understanding of the practical difficulties of working within the constraints of the NHS,” said Veronica. “For those interested in translational research, the formation of these new collaborations between clinicians and scientists will be highly beneficial to both parties.”
Silvia reflected on her experience, “Some of the patients that I saw really stayed with me, I find myself thinking about that week and about particular patients and cases. I feel very grateful to have had this opportunity.”
One of the other participants in March’s pilot CrickMed scheme was Julian Downward, whose lab studies faults in genes controlling cell division, with the aim of finding new anticancer treatments.
“I found it absolutely fascinating and enormously useful in understanding the clinical endpoint of the work that we do in the lab,” said Julian. “I think that it has given me much better insight into what goes on in the clinic and a much better understanding of the challenges facing the patients and their clinicians. It has certainly made me appreciate the severity of issues surrounding treatment-related adverse events and what a massive impact they can have on patients.”
As well as supporting researchers, CrickMed is designed to offer new opportunities to the clinical participants. “I found it really useful hosting and speaking to the lab-based researchers from the Crick,” said Reuben Benjamin, a haematologist from King’s College London who hosted Crick researchers this year.
“I think it’s vital that both clinicians and researchers see both sides of the spectrum and interact with one another right from the start of a project. Initiatives like CrickMed can help to start these conversations. In the long term, clinicians and researchers need to both have a stake in the broader research programme to drive forward the work and ultimately benefit patients.”
Clinicians and researchers are encouraged to continue the collaborations that are developed during CrickMed. Clinicians from our partner institutions can become members of the subject-specific interest groups at the Crick, collaborate directly with Crick scientists, attend many of our symposia and events or investigate clinical fellowships and clinical group leader roles and secondments at the Crick.
These opportunities and CrickMed form part of a programme of collaborative interdisciplinary initiatives by the Crick to bridge the gap between the lab and the clinic, including clinical doctoral fellowships, clinical postdoctoral fellowships, clinical group leaders, and clinical grand rounds.
CrickMed will be returning for more iterations in the future. Going forward, clinicians will also have the opportunity to take part in an exchange where they visit the Crick and shadow the researchers in their laboratories, encouraging further discussion and potential collaborations.