Issue 3 – Winter 2012/13

Posted on: February 13th, 2013

Rosetrees Celebrates 25 Years Support for Cutting Edge Medical Research

Highlights of 2012:

  • Rosetrees Symposium at UCL for 250 researchers, funders and media to hear cutting edge research in layman’s English. Described by many guests as ‘one of the best ever’ events.
  • Nearly £100m to major research from our seed corn funding.
  • Co Donations of Nearly £5m with Rosetrees ranging from £1k to £4m.
  • ‘Unique’ is how Rosetrees Panel of Advisory Professors describe its research / philanthropy contribution.
  • ‘Significant Player’ is how Wellcome Trust described Rosetrees’ contribution to new ideas.
  • ‘Essential’ was the support for Dr Sam Janes at the start of his career.
  • Rosetrees’ Researchers featured in high profile publications such as Nature.
  • Rosetrees and Royal College of Surgeons link up to research best surgical practice.

A Word from Rosetrees’ Chief Executive

Sam Howard, Rosetrees Chief Executive

2012 was a momentous year for Rosetrees as we celebrated 25 years of supporting cutting edge medical research, enhancing medical progress and tackling some of the most critical issues of our time.

As we enter 2013, and we all write down our new year’s resolutions, mine are twofold: 1) to build upon 2012 by continuing to fund the best in medical research, using an entrepreneurial and strategic approach and 2) to find more people who can support medical research, whether through partnering with Rosetrees, or by directly supporting outstanding researchers.

I am often asked what I mean when I say Rosetrees employs a strategic approach and my answer is simple; that our charity was founded by a businessman and is run along commercial principles. We are looking for measurable returns from our support. It is not profit we search for but significant returns in terms of research achievements, value for money and unlocking further funding. Rosetrees has just made its first ever film that we hope reflects the work that Rosetrees does, more details and a link to this are in the ‘Rosetrees’ Film’ section later in the newsletter.

I hope this newsletter gives you a good sense of what Rosetrees has achieved in 2012, and provides a flavour of our exciting plans for 2013. 2012 was a great year for Great Britain and for Rosetrees, reflecting what we do best in the Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee and indeed medical research. But it is about looking forward and not back and we still have a huge amount more to achieve.


Rosetrees 25th Anniversary Event

Richard Ross' Presentation

Richard Ross asking the audience whoever had received funding from Rosetrees to raise their hands. There was a sea of raised hands in the auditorium followed by applause.

On a sunny day in October, Rosetrees held a half day seminar at University College London to celebrate 25 years of support for medical research. 250 guests including Rosetrees’ researchers, co-donors and industry experts, squeezed into the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre to hear presentations on different aspects of translational medical research. We heard from world leading experts in the field of medical research such as Professor Steve Jones, Professor Molly Stevens, and Professor Martin Birchall, as well as George Freeman MP giving a personal view on the Government’s stance for funding for medical research as well as his own experiences of setting up a biotech start-up. Clive Cookson (Financial Times Science Editor) gave us a fascinating and frank talk on how the media reports on medical research developments.

Following the presentations we held a networking reception, which gave the researchers and other industry guests a chance to network and also see posters displayed by Rosetrees’ researchers. We know of at least 3 potential collaborations that have started between either researchers from different universities or between industry and researchers.

The flavour of the day came from these comments:-

“Unique bringing together different aspects of translational medicine”

“Stimulating and informative and making me feel positive about science”

“Even within an institutions such as UCL there are many people I hadn’t met before and the day has enabled us to build interactions and talking about problems from different angles”

“The Networking opportunities are amazing”


More information can be found through the link on our website home page, and you can click on the box below to view a short film of the day.


12 Rosetrees Projects Receive £4.3million

Rosetrees offers at no cost to co-donors, Rosetrees’ expertise in sourcing, evaluating and monitoring world leading cutting edge medical research across all the main areas.

In 2012 Rosetrees worked with an overseas Trust to support medical research. The Trust indicated areas of interest and Rosetrees sourced the best researchers in these areas whom Rosetrees have worked with for many years. Following peer review, Rosetrees arranged meetings between the researchers and representatives of the Trust. The Trust reviewed many alternative research projects but decided to support 12 major Rosetrees projects at an average of £370,000 over 3 years for each project. The areas supported included, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, regenerative medicine, eye disorders, lung cancer, head and neck cancer and childhood cancer. The quality of the researchers and Rosetrees’ expertise were crucial factors in co funding with Rosetrees.

This level of funding will make a major difference to the Rosetrees’ researchers providing significant funding to progress their research by paying for costs of young researchers, consumables and other project related costs.

It was an absolute pleasure working with the representatives of the overseas Trust who had a passion for supporting the best in medical research.


Rosetrees Offers its Expertise to Other Donors

In the last year 3 other sources who previously knew nothing about Rosetrees were impressed by Rosetrees’ expertise that together with the overseas Trust have also committed to supporting Rosetrees, bringing all co-donation projects to nearly £5m. Rosetrees is ideally suited for those individuals or Trusts who want to support specific medical research projects in areas of interest to them, but don’t have the infrastructure to source, evaluate and monitor their own projects. By using Rosetrees expertise at no cost donors can support the best in medical research and be as hands on or not as they like in the running of the project. In essence Rosetrees can be their outsourced medical research foundation without the hassle, time and cost of setting up their own.


Rosetrees’ Film – Rosetrees In Action

For 2013 we wanted to find a way of communicating a compelling vision of what Rosetrees does and is trying to achieve. We decided on making a short film. The idea came when we shot some footage of the 25th Anniversary Event and one of the researchers said the event made her feel positive about science. Watching it back I felt the medium of film was incredibly powerful as the viewer could see her expression and hear her tone of voice.

Please click on the box below to watch the short film. Please feel free to share this with anyone who may be interested and we would love to hear any feedback you may have.




Targeting £100m in Funding for Medical Research

Rosetrees’ strategic approach to philanthropy through its carefully selected seed corn funding has brought in over £92m of Major Grants and co-donations to medical research (up from £70m reported in the last newsletter). We are confident that 2013 will be the year that Rosetrees hits the £100m target.

Our ultimate target is to bring in £1bn to medical research by 2037.


New Addition to the Rosetrees Team

Berwyn with Richard Ross and John Samuels

Berwyn with Richard Ross and John Samuels

Rosetrees is delighted to welcome Berwyn Rutherford to its team as its sixth member. Berwyn is a practising osteopath in Hampstead, North West London and has an understanding of the science underpinning the research undertaken by Rosetrees researchers. Her experience and enthusiasm will support Rosetrees rapidly increasing live medical research portfolio.

Berwyn is an avid swimmer, cyclist and runner and although this constantly makes the Rosetrees team feel unhealthy, she is a great addition to the team. Welcome Berwyn.



Royal College of Surgeons / Rosetrees’ Clinical Trials Programme

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) with its lead funder Rosetrees Trust and partners including the National Institute of Health Research and Cancer Research UK has launched a project to set up five new surgical trial centres across the UK, which will save thousands of lives by assessing new surgical techniques and discovering surgical breakthroughs”.

Five Surgical Trial Units have now opened at Oxford, Bristol, North West Surgical Trials Unit (Manchester/Liverpool), Birmingham and London.

The surgical trial units will enable surgeons to learn more about how to deal with a range of conditions, assess new surgical techniques and discover surgical breakthroughs Currently, less than two per cent of government funding for medical research goes into surgical areas, despite the fact that a third of hospital admissions involve surgery. The programme, which is now seen as a priority for the NHS, will look to recruit a minimum of 2000 patients to take part in the new surgical trials within the first four years of the scheme. Critically once research has established best practice for each type of operation, all surgeons across the nation will be trained to operate at the same high standard.


Other Rosetrees News

♦ Rosetrees was delighted to hear that Rosetrees funded researcher Dr Nidhi Sofat of St George’s, has been awarded the esteemed Michael Mason Prize. The prize is awarded for excellence in clinical or scientific research in the field of rheumatology.

Rosetrees has supported Dr Sofat since 2011 in her research into hand osteoarthritis.

Dr Sofat said “I would like to thank Rosetrees Trust for continuing to support my work, since your support has led us to be able to do much of the research that this award has recognised”.

♦ Rosetrees wishes huge congratulations to The 2012 Rosetrees Essay Prize Winner, Mr Neil Barua, who was given his award at the Royal College of Surgeons Diplomates Day on 23 January. Mr Barua’s research is into direct delivery of drugs to the brain. This is a novel strategy for treatment of Parkinson’s Alzheimer’s Disease, with a clinical trial currently underway for Parkinson’s Disease

Rosetrees Prize research fellows 2012

Richard Ross with prize winner Neil Barua (left) and runners up Major Arul Ramasamy and Christopher Ray

♦ Rosetrees has this financial year to date managed over 250 live projects, and is on target to donate in excess of £2m.



Focus on 2 Projects Rosetrees are Supporting

Chordoma is a rare cancer occurring in the vertebral bodies (bones of the back), the sacrum and coccyx, and base of skull. The risk of recurrent disease is high following surgery and chordoma does not respond to chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Survival on average for patients is less than 10 years from diagnosis.

Professor Adrienne Flanagan

Professor Adrienne Flanagan, funded by Rosetrees, led a team of scientists at University College London (UCL), Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH), and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and found that over 95% of European chordoma patients have a single letter variation in the DNA sequence of a gene called brachyury.

This new research, published in Nature Genetics (November 2012) shows that patients with chordomas are five times more likely than the general population to have this genetic variation.

“Our finding is remarkable in cancer genetics, as almost all other genetic variants associated with cancer cause only a modest (less than two-fold) increase in risk”, says Professor Flanagan.

“This study makes a strong case that this particular genetic variation in the brachyury gene contributes significantly to the development of chordoma in nearly all patients. It is a major step forward in our understanding of how chordoma develops, and can open the door to the development of an effective, targeted treatment.”

The importance of this genetic association with chordoma is underscored by their other studies which have shown that brachyury acts as a master regulator of a network of molecules that results in uncontrolled growth of the chordoma cells”.

Professor Flanagan believes that ‘switching off ‘ brachyury in chordoma make this gene a therapeutic target, and with funding from Rosetrees, their efforts are focused on developing a treatment which involves ‘silencing’ brachyury, in chordomas in patients.


Professor Lotery makes major breakthrough in fight to cure blindness

Professor Andrew Lotery

Professor Andrew Lotery

Rosetrees is supporting Professor Andrew Lotery’s research at Southampton University into whether the corneal limbal stromal cells have stem cell properties that could be grown to create retina cells to replace the damaged ones causing blindness.

Professor Lotery has found that corneal limbal stromal cells have stem cell properties that could be grown to create retina cells to replace the damaged ones causing blindness. The work was published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.


The next stage involves investigating whether these cells could be taken from the front of the eye and be used to replace diseased cells in the back of the eye in the retina.

This could lead to new treatments for conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa or wet age-related macular degeneration – a condition which is a common cause of vision loss in older people and will affect about one in three people in the UK by age 70.

Professor Lotery, who is also a consultant ophthalmologist at Southampton General Hospital, said: “This is an important step for our research into the prevention and treatment of eye conditions and blindness.

Rosetrees has supported Professor Lotery since August 2011 in his research into eye disease.

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