Participant 2: The Queen’s University of Belfast (QUB), UK

PI: Noemi Lois

Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) is an international centre of academic excellence and is a member of the elite Russell group of leading UK research intensive universities. QUB engages in partnership with major businesses and with the public sector, for example Wellcome Trust and NI Health and Social Care Trusts. With more than 17,000 students and 3,500 staff, it is a dynamic and diverse institution, a magnet for inward investment, a patron of the arts and a global player in areas ranging from cancer studies to sustainability, and from pharmaceuticals to creative writing. QUB participates in more than 80 Horizon 2020 projects to date. These projects span many themes, and include 15 participations as coordinator, 20 MSCA Individual Fellowships and 3 ERC grants. The university was successful in 134 FP7 projects, including the coordination of 19 multi-partner projects, representing more than €45 million in research income. In 2018, the EC renewed the QUB ‘Excellence in Research Award’, in recognition of the systems and practices in place to support researchers’ careers and professional. QUB holds an institutional Athena SWAN Silver Award, recognising good practices for the advancement of gender equality. The School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at QUB is world-class and has been a cornerstone of the university since its foundation in 1845. The School has strong links with leading institutions across the world, including in China, Malaysia and the United States. The Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine (WWIEM) is the focal point for laboratory and translational research at QUB. It is multidisciplinary in nature with clinicians and scientists working collaboratively on translational research projects, inputting extensive expertise on basic cell and molecular biology, pathophysiology of disease, genetic analysis, protein chemistry and experimental animal models of disease (including diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration), structural (imaging) and functional studies (including psychophysics). The QUB ophthalmology programme holds a distinctive and important position in UK eye research, with its success being underpinned by synergy between basic scientists and clinicians who are focused on the same retinal diseases and through multidisciplinary teamwork drive innovation and impact. Our investigator profile consists of academic ophthalmologists, optometrists, surgeons, pharmacists, nutritionists, physicists and NHS consultants who work closely with basic scientists who maintain their core interests in vascular pathophysiology, stem cell biology, neural and glial degeneration and ocular drug delivery across discipline themes relating to angiogenesis, inflammation, metabolism and regenerative medicine. Together, these investigators have a track-record of working together to advance understanding of retinal disease and some of this discovery science has formed an essential foundation for follow-on local and international clinical trials. In the clinical realm, QUB academics have assembled unique cohorts of highly characterised patients, telemedicine infrastructure, national screening networks, and ophthalmic trial knowhow has resulted in Queen’s achieving unprecedented success in leading government and commercial-sponsored multicentre, international clinical trials. These clinical trials, combined with the eye-health pillar of the NI Cohort of Longitudinal Ageing (NICOLA), are led by Queen’s in partnership with the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust. Together they have already had impact on Northern Ireland healthcare with ~3500 patients receiving uniquely comprehensive ocular evaluation within NICOLA, and ~2500 patients being enrolled (nationwide) in AMD, DR and glaucoma trials thereby receiving significantly enhanced clinical care. The latter is facilitated by the Northern Ireland Clinical Trials Unit, the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Facility (NICRF) and collaboration with the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network which offers research nurse, optometrists and ophthalmic photographer as well as administrative expertise for the running of clinical trials.

QUB will participate in WP1, WP2 (WP co-leader), WP3, WP4, WP5, WP6, WP8 and WP 9 (WP co-leader)