Letter From The Chief Executive – Sam Howard
2012 is a momentous year for Rosetrees as we celebrate 25 years focused on supporting the best in medical research, enhancing medical progress and tackling some of the most critical issues of our time.
Rosetrees uses an entrepreneurial and business minded approach, pushing boundaries and carving out a space that others have overlooked. As Nat Rosenbaum the founder of Rosetrees said “if your path is blocked find a way to go around, over or under it” and that is what we do.
This year alone has seen Rosetrees make huge progress:
In October Rosetrees is holding a medical seminar at UCL to celebrate our 25th anniversary
Co Donors have bolstered Rosetrees’ donations to over £71m. In 2012/2013 we’re on target for £5m of partnered co-donations to major world class research, using Rosetrees’ expertise at no cost
Unique is how Rosetrees’ entrepreneurial approach has been described by Professor Molly Stevens nano-technology expert at Imperial. Molly says “Rosetrees is flexible, speedy and personally engaging with each researcher, no one else does this”
Royal College of Surgeons has received Rosetrees first major research award into best surgery practice and major awards will follow in other major areas of research
Rosetrees team is expanding to deal with nearly 200 research projects and 200 new applications
Rosetrees was part of the philanthropist action to prevent charitable tax relief from being reduced. Our Chairman Richard Ross spoke effectively to television and national newspapers
Overseas Enquiries about Rosetrees’ projects came from countries as diverse as USA, Israel, Australia, India, Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Japan and Brazil
5,000 New Visitors looked at Rosetrees website in 2011/2012 and we expect 7,000 new visitors in 2012/13
Molly Stevens says “my lab is really vibrant and a lot of fun” – see her interview later in the newsletter.
So the Olympics have arrived shining a beacon on the UK. Let’s hope Team GB continues to bring home the medals and Rosetrees will play its part in UK medical research leading the world.
A Voice for Philanthropy
The Government proposed to limit tax relief to £50,000 or 25% of income. Richard Ross spoke against this to Sky TV, ITV and Channel4, and his interviews were published in The Sunday Times, The Independent and The Telegraph.
Richard said the Government’s approach had ‘mixed apples and pears’. They have now withdrawn their ill thought idea but the prolonged discussion about philanthropy may be beneficial long term.
Well run charities have a lot to offer this country.
Royal College of Surgeons
The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) is undertaking research and clinical trials to assess best surgical practice in both new and existing procedures. In recognising the importance of this work we have made it Rosetrees’ first major research project costing £700,000.
The RCS / Rosetrees Trust Clinical Trials Programme will be the first of a series of clinical trials units that will materially benefit the health of our country. Rosetrees will follow up this flagship programme with other major projects benefiting the most important areas of medicine.
Co Donors with Rosetrees
Rosetrees received co donor support from a number of influential donors impressed by the quality of research Rosetrees supports.
In April, Lombard Odier Fondation Philanthropia committed to co-donate with Rosetrees, over a three year period, to Professor Naz Rahman’s childhood cancer research at the Institute of Cancer Research.
Rosetrees offers its expertise at no extra cost to co-donors and we are delighted that Lombard Odier has decided to work with Rosetrees.
Founded in Geneva in 1796, Lombard Odier & Cie is the city’s oldest firm of private bankers and one of the largest in Switzerland and Europe.
Rosetrees has supported Prof Naz Rahman for a number of years to identify children genes that cause or increase the risk of childhood cancer. She is part of a worldwide network of genetic scientists decoding our DNA, effectively looking for a fault in the 6 billion letters in human genome. Finding faults is crucial to finding genetically targeted drugs.
We received a donation of £5,500 from a donor who wished to remain anonymous and substantial co donations are under discussion and we hope to report very good news in the next newsletter.
Success with co-donors will materially help our leading Professors speed up their success, bringing early patient benefit.
Other Rosetrees News
- To celebrate our first 25 years we are holding a half day seminar at UCL on 17 October (pm) for 220 researchers, funders and potential supporters, to highlight translational research. A small number of leading plain speaking professors and industry leaders will speak about cutting edge medical research, which is one of the few areas where this country still excels and where London has world class research.
- Rosetrees is delighted to hear from Dr Sanjay Prasad that his young researcher Dr Ankur Gulati, who Rosetrees have funded, won a prestigious award from the Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance (SCMR).
- Since our last newsletter, funding as a result of Rosetrees’ support has increased from £60million to over £70 million and is well on our way to our target to bring in £100million by 2015 and £1 billion within 25 years.
- Rosetrees is currently supporting nearly 200 live projects, and is on target to donate £2 million this financial year. The graph below shows the number of these donations by the main illness types:
- One current project is a collaboration with New York Stem Cell Foundation to jointly support Professor Pete Coffey’s research into curing age-related macular degeneration.
Meet the Researchers
On 17th July we met with Professor Molly Stevens, Professor of Biomedical Materials and Regenerative Medicine at Imperial College London and one of Rosetrees’ leading researchers, when she explained what motivates her outstanding research.
Initially I was keen to discover more about science and the simple joy and curiosity of finding out how things work. Over time I have kept that same enthusiasm but now also really relish being able to research into slightly more applied areas that can have a huge benefit for human health.
I was the youngest professor ever in the 2 departments that I am affiliated with (the Department of Materials and the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College).
My route to regenerative medicine and bio medical materials was quite circuitous! I started off studying Pharmacy as an undergrad and then chose to do a PhD in single molecule Biophysics. At the end of my PhD I took at postdoc position at MIT in a lab that was pioneering this newer field of regenerative medicine (Prof Robert Langer, MIT).
My lab is a great place, really vibrant and a lot of fun. We are fortunate to get outstanding applicants from all over the world and so it is both a highly multicultural and multidisciplinary place. I enjoy taking on really smart students and postdocs and their backgrounds are very varied – we have engineers, cell biologists, chemists and even surgeons, amongst others on our team.
Our group is now well known in the field so we are always very oversubscribed in terms of terrific applicants. Many more good applicants apply than we can possibly host.
My group is currently working on the development and application of new biomaterials to many different areas. The two main fields are developing materials for tissue regeneration (bone, cartilage, ligament, heart) and developing materials in the fight against cancer and infectious diseases. Our approach is to produce the highest quality publications because the underlying science is very elegant and novel. Furthermore much of our research is designed so that in the end it will also be useful in improving human health both in developed and developing countries.
My main concern is to ensure that we ask clinically relevant questions and that the science we produce is of the highest possible quality. I want us to contribute genuinely new innovations to the research field that are a step-change from previous research in the field. Ensuring I have the best possible team is obviously key to achieving this. I place a lot of emphasis on recruitment and maintenance of an excellent team that is both cohesive, highly productive and very motivated by their research goals. It is also extremely important to me that people trained in my group secure great jobs in science and so far we have been really really successful with that!
I enjoy the fact that I am never ever bored – I think this is a true luxury in a job, to be able to look forward to your work! I find the science fascinating and I am also hugely grateful for the positive interactions that I have with the excellent researchers in my team and also my many collaborators. It’s also very motivating to be able to contribute to improving healthcare.
My advice for young researchers is work hard, think originally and do what you enjoy. Make sure you are focusing on the most important challenges and that you always perform science to the highest possible quality.
I first heard of the great work that Rosetrees was doing with Prof Polak’s group. We met to discuss potential areas of mutual interest and it progressed from there. I am now on the advisory panel to Rosetrees Trust and have even more insight into the incredible breadth of research they support – it is a fantastic charity!
Rosetrees has given tremendous support to us over the years. They first supported us in tissue engineering and now have also been helping us to push forward in the biosensing field (for early detection of diseases such as cancer). They have a unique profile and really aim to support the best research that will have the greatest impact on human health. They take a great deal of care in ensuring that their funds are put to the best possible use and offer a very fast and highly personal approach. Once we receive a grant it doesn’t end there, they are genuinely interested in meeting the researchers to see progress and the researchers really appreciate this.
I strongly believe in their objective of making sure the funds can achieve the best possible added value!
Focus on 2 Projects Rosetrees are Supporting
Viral therapy catching a ride on blood cells to deliver blow to Cancer
Researchers from the University of Leeds and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), have shown in patient trials how a promising viral therapy that delivers a double blow to cancer can sneak up on tumours undetected by hitching a ride on blood cells.
The work, reveals how the ‘hitch-hiking’ virus is shielded from antibodies in the blood stream that might otherwise neutralise its anti-cancer properties.
Dr Harrington at the Institute of Cancer Research and his team have shown the effectiveness of this reovirus in a study on patients. The study applies to Dr Harrington’s research into the treatment of cancer of the head and neck and melanoma, as well as bowel cancer used in the study to test the effectiveness of the virus.
The study involved 10 patients with advanced bowel cancer who were due to have surgery on tumours that had spread to the liver. All patients were given up to five doses of the reovirus in the weeks before surgery as outpatients.
Blood tests carried out shortly after treatment found the active virus associated with blood cells. Samples taken later showed that the hitch-hiking virus did not overstay its welcome with the cells and was cleared quickly from the system.
When researchers looked at pieces of tissue removed during surgery up to four weeks later, they found ‘viral factories’ and active virus in the tumour, but not normal liver. This confirmed that the reovirus had been delivered specifically to the cancer after being injected into the bloodstream.
Rosetrees has supported Dr Harrington since April 2011 in his research into treatment of head and neck cancers at ICR
Botox hope for 50 million worldwide sufferers of urinary incontinence
Experts have uncovered more evidence that Botox could be an effective treatment for an overactive bladder.
Rosetrees, along with Wellbeing of Women, is supporting Dr Douglas Tincello’s large clinical trial, to evaluate how effective and safe Botox treatment is in the long term for women who suffer from urinary incontinence caused by overactive bladder disease.
Dr Tincello’s research has shown that by injecting a tiny quantity of the toxic protein into the bladder wall of women with overactive bladder syndrome, it halved the numbers of times when women with moderate to severe urinary incontinence urgently needed the lavatory, or ended up having a little accident. It also cut the number of times they needed the bathroom by a quarter.
Rosetrees is excited to be supporting Dr Tincello’s research and hopes that this research will lead to a new treatment for this condition, which severely impacts quality of life.
Rosetrees’ UK Advisory Panel Under The Microscope
The work Rosetrees does in supporting in excess of 180 cutting edge medical research projects is backed up by the UK Advisory Panel, a six strong group of the UK’s leading researchers. They provide an invaluable source of guidance and advice and have enabled Rosetrees to support the best in medical research and build up a worldwide database of peer reviewers who review over 200 projects a year for Rosetrees.
The UK Advisory Panel provides the scientific and research expertise that is needed to anchor Rosetrees Venture Philanthropy Approach. The six members are all leaders in their field and we wanted to tell you a bit more about them. Our Advisory Panel, so ably led by Professor Patrick Maxwell (congratulations on his recent appointment as Regius Professor at Cambridge), also includes Professors Molly Stevens, Ian Cameron , Roger Barker , Norman Williams and David Katz, (who in addition provides invaluable advice throughout the year when all new applications are being considered).
Professor Patrick Maxwell
Professor Patrick Maxwell is the Chair of the Rosetrees Advisory Panel. Currently Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at UCL, he is a physician scientist who is trained as a specialist in Nephrology and General (Internal) Medicine. Patrick has recently been appointed as Regius Professor of Physic at Cambridge, with effect from 1st October 2012.
The Regius Professor of Physic is the Head of the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Cambridge and plays a key role in Cambridge University Health Partners, the Academic Health Sciences Centre for Cambridge.
Patrick is an integral member of the Panel and an invaluable source of advice to Rosetrees. We send him huge congratulations on his new role.
Professor Molly Stevens
Professor Molly Stevens is currently Professor of Biomedical Materials and Regenerative Medicine and the Research Director for Biomedical Material Sciences in the Institute of Biomedical Engineering. She was one of the youngest Professor at Imperial and in 2010 she was recognised by The Times as one of the top ten scientists under the age of 40. In 2012 she gave the Clifford Patterson Award lecture at the Royal Society and she is regularly in the media as one of the UK’s most outstanding researchers.
She has a large and extremely multidisciplinary research group of students and postdocs/fellows. Research in regenerative medicine within her group includes the directed differentiation of stem cells, the design of novel bioactive scaffolds and new approaches towards tissue regeneration. She has developed novel approaches to tissue engineering that are likely to prove very powerful in the engineering of large quantities of human mature bone for autologous transplantation as well as other vital organs such as liver and pancreas, which have proven elusive with other approaches. She has also pioneered the development of ultrasensitive biosensors using bio-functionalised nanomaterials.
Professor Norman Williams
Consultant colorectal surgeon Professor Norman Williams became President of the Royal College of Surgeons in July 2011. He is Professor of Surgery and Director of Innovation at the Academic Surgical Unit of Barts and The London, Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry.
His main clinical interests are sphincter preservation and reconstructive surgery, and his scientific interests are concentrated on GI motility and anorectal physiology.
Professor Williams has only recently joined the Panel and is looking forward to being part of the Rosetrees Trust’s work in funding medical research.
Professor David Katz
Professor David Katz is a member of the Advisory Panel and attends the two monthly Rosetrees Grant Committee Meetings where the recommendations of reviewers are received and final decisions made about which projects will be funded by Rosetrees. David is Emeritus Professor of Immunopathology at University College London.
His research career spans an era of increasing interest in the antigen presenting cell, and it is remarkable that the research questions which he recognised and worked on for several decades, and to which he made many notable contributions, are acknowledged today as being questions that are at the critical forefront of research into many serious diseases worldwide.
Professor Roger Barker
Professor Barker is the Professor of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge and an Honorary Consultant in Neurology at the Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn. His main interests are in the chronic diseases of the brain such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
He undertakes basic research looking at why cells die in these diseases as well as new treatments including cell therapies to help cure these conditions as well as clinical research which seeks to better understand why patients with apparently the same disease vary so much.
He sees patients as part of the NHS work he does and currently co-ordinates a big European initiative to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease with cell transplants.
Professor Ian Cameron
Professor Ian Cameron plays an integral role on the Advisory Panel and helps run the peer review process of the final reports that researchers must provide at the end of their projects. Professor Cameron was a Professor of Medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School, later becoming Dean of St Thomas’s and then Principal of UMDS ( the joint Guys/Thomas’s Medical School). He moved to Cardiff, first as Provost and then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales College of Medicine before retiring.
His special interests were in diseases of the chest and his research centered on the physiology of respiration and the adaptation to acid-base disorders. He is delighted to assist Rosetrees in supporting research of excellence and finds the review process a challenge and a stimulus to assimilating new ideas.
These outstanding professors take an overview of the research Rosetrees supports, providing encouragement for the most effective research, but also suggesting improvements so that the most productive use is made of both limited time and funds. As a result, the high quality of research funded is being optimised.