News Archive - 2020



WHRF Newsletter December 2020


Impact of WHRF funding - ROR2 blockade as a therapy for osteoarthritis

In a new study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the William Harvey Research Institute have developed a prototype drug that can heal cartilage and simultaneously help with pain. In this research Q&A Dr Anne-Sophie Thorup from the Centre for Experimental Medicine and Rheumatology explains why the findings are significant. Bringing this research closer to becoming a medicine is the result of a large grant from FOREUM, which followed on from work enabled by the William Harvey Research Foundation. 

Dr Anne-Sophie Thorup Q&A

Science Translational Medicine


Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation grant award

Title: ‘New therapeutic targets for treating the failing heart in arthritis.’

Supervisors: Professor Mauro Perretti and Dr Dianne Cooper

Location: William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London.

Cost: £94,008

Duration: 3 years

Start date: Autumn 2020  

Partner: William Harvey Research Foundation

Why study this?

People with rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of dying due to cardiovascular disease.  They are particularly susceptible to a type of heart failure, which means their heart does not relax and refill properly after beating. It is not clear whether current successful treatments for alleviating joint problems reduce the risk of developing heart failure.

What will the student be doing?

The student will identify the link between the systemic inflammation that arises as a result of rheumatoid arthritis and alterations in cardiac structure and function that lead to heart failure. The student will be using a newly developed arthritis model with similar heart failure features as those seen in humans to assess the effects of anti-inflammatory biological therapies on the heart at different stages of disease development and identify new targets for treatment through genetic screening.

What do they expect to achieve?

Heart disease in rheumatoid arthritis has not been a major focus of research in the past, but this study aims to identify whether heart failure can be prevented by existing treatments, as well as identification of potential new targets for drug development.

What could be the impact?

Identifying existing treatments that can help heart disease in rheumatoid arthritis would provide an immediate help for people with rheumatoid arthritis. New targets could open avenues for future treatments specific for the heart failure that typifies rheumatoid arthritis.


Laura Deelen wins William Harvey Research Foundation Lay Communications Prize 2020

Laura Deelen has won the William Harvey Research Foundation Lay Communications Prize 2020.  Laura successfully engaged our panel of expert judges in her persuasive written submission and final presentation on, “The development of stem cell therapy for heart failure”.  Laura is a British Heart Foundation Research MRes Student at the Centre for Microbiology under Professor Ken Suzuki.

On finding out she had won Laura said:

“I found the Competition a great opportunity to communicate my work to a wider audience. It allowed me to practice and support public engagement, and gave me a better insight in how our society perceives our research. As the need for improved treatments, knowledge and services increases, this way of communication hopefully underlines the importance of investing in medical research.”

Post-doc, Chris Smith from the Centre for Endocrinology, came close second with his creative poem, “Skin; Lets Break It Down.”

“I really enjoyed rhyming words with complex biological processes but my research itself and sharing it in an understandable way is very important to me and why I took part in the competition. Without investment in medical research, not only would I not be able to discuss my work in rhyming couplets, but my findings wouldn’t help those who live with the disease every day, and that’s the real importance of investing.”

Professor Rod Flower FRS, WHRI Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology and Competition Judge observed:

“Overall I thought that the standard was high.   It was difficult to pick the winner because of the excellent quality.  I think that one area where there was some confusion was exactly how much ’science’ to put into the presentations.  Some students grit about right, others either had too much or too little.”

In its second year, the popular WHRF Lay Communications Prize tasks WHRI competitors to submit a description in lay language of work they involved in at WHRI such that it can be understood by and enthuse somebody with no more than high school science education.  Finalists then delivered a two-minute elevator pitch to the judges as if trying to convince Bill Gates to fund their research.

Competition Judge Clare Parsons, Chair and Co-Founder of international PR and Communications agency Lansons was highly impressed by the WHRI entrants:

“I am always swayed by a well-structured submission, with a strong headline, a compelling introduction, the big picture that sets the scene, some drama or tension in the writing, and a conclusion that excites me. We had some interesting submissions that achieved this.  The candidates remind us that just around the corner in a hidden part of London, are the best of global health researchers, talented PhD students conducting exceptional work, in ground-breaking areas.  The shortlisted candidates were concise, compelling and deserve the investment, they are now well-briefed to find a Bill Gates to meet in a lift and pitch to them!”

All five finalists will have professional produced short films added to the Foundation website and used for marketing and development purposes.

As winner, Laura will receive £400 towards scientific meeting expenses and a certificate confirming the award of the Prize, and Chris as runner-up collects £300.  Laura will be awarded her prize at the WHRI Annual Review on 24th June 2020.

William Harvey Research Foundation Lay Communications Prize Finalists 2020:



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