A VIEW ON ROSETREES BY DR RACHEL TRIBE
Dr Rachel Tribe (King’s College London) and her colleagues (Dr Iain Greenwood, St George’s University of London and Dr Laura McCallum, King’s College London) have recently completed a project that was directed at discovering a new class of drug to stop preterm labour. They focussed on potassium channels, proteins which form pores on muscle cells that control the ability of the human uterus to contract.
Funding from the Rosetrees Trust has enabled the team to successfully identify a specific family of potassium channels (Kv7) that play an important role in regulating uterine muscle contractions in labour. Their research demonstrated drugs that target these channels (Kv7 channel activators) relax the uterus and have the potential to inhibit labour. This novel research is timely in that pharmaceutical companies are actively pursuing the use of Kv7 channel activators in the treatment of other conditions such as epilepsy and pain. The team published several key research articles on their findings and have now proposed that this type of drug could be used to treat preterm labour.
On the basis of their work, the team have secured substantial additional funding from the Medical Research Council (~£743,000) with the ultimate aim that Kv7 channels be used in clinical situations when women present in threatened preterm labour. Without the initial funding from Rosetrees Trust (and their co-funder Action Medical Research), this important advance would not have been made.
Dr Tribe has said about Rosetrees:
“We have formed a very interactive relationship with the Rosetrees Trust. I have met regularly to discuss progress and it is clear that they are enthusiastic and fully engaged with the aims of our research. It is important to the Trust that our work has definite potential to improve outcomes for pregnant women.”
“The Trust has a unique outlook for a funding body, as they are happy to support research in all important areas related to illness and actively support promising young researchers early in their careers. The opportunity to apply for short-term funding is excellent as it allows us to develop novel research ideas prior to approaching larger funding bodies for substantive funding. This ‘seed-corn funding’ is a lifeline in times when medical research funding is difficult to obtain. I am impressed with the breadth of support the Trust provide and the desire to maintain and develop relationships with high achieving researchers in many areas of medical research.”
“I particularly like the Trust’s business based approach to supporting and monitoring research; they ask for a six monthly report which is good for project management and productivity. I involve my staff in writing these reports as it instils in them as sense of responsibility for project outcomes and prepares them for the world outside the laboratory.”
Dr Tribe is a Senior Lecturer based in the Women’s Health Clinical Academic Grouping, King’s Health Partners in South London (http://www.kcl.ac.uk/medicine/research/divisions/wh/index.aspx).
She is a physiologist by training, who focuses on translating basic science in order to improve outcomes for pregnant mothers and their infants.