On 10th October 2019, I and another member of our clinical research team, Charlotte Jones, visited Science World in Leicester, run by ThermoFisher.
It was a day where members of the scientific community from around the West Midlands descended on to the Leicester Tigers Rugby Ground to learn about the various scientific suppliers that exist and the products they produce.
It was a great chance for myself and Charlotte to discover the wide array of products currently on the market and the specialities of each of the companies present, which will then be of use when looking at laboratory supplies and equipment in the future, as well as aiding our general understanding of how a laboratory functions.
But the day wasn’t all too serious. There was the opportunity to view Prof Hal’s Bigger Bang, a show produced by Prof Professor Hal Sosabowski of University of Brighton, which travels the UK to show the fun and entertaining side of science. Alongside this was the Boiler Boys who were using liquid nitrogen to produce instant Ice Cream and Dragon Breath Meringues.
The day was perfectly topped off by the final key note speaker, Dr Hannah Critchlow, named one of the Top 100 UK Scientists by the Science Council. Her talk was based on how a revolution of technologies is helping us to unravel and understand the mind. It was a highly captivating talk discussing how consciousness is generated and how much free will we actually have. This was alongside demos into how we can bypass the brain signals to cause body movement, and what benefits or implications this may have in the future.
On the 19thof June chief operating officer or COO, Rukhsana Malik and CEO and medical director Dr Mohmmed Kamran attended the University of Birmingham’s 13th annual research poster conference, which is considered by the university as one of their flagship events. It was a brilliant event and the talent of the researchers was evident, the graduate school did a brilliant job and we were grateful to be invited. The event hosted over 100 research abstracts that summarised research activities carried out by the doctoral candidates across multiple disciplines ranging from arts, and law, environmental, dental, physical, and life sciences. One of these candidates was Yiran Ai.
Yiran Ai is a doctoral candidate at the University of Birmingham. Her research
is based on gender perspectives in feminist films with Western directors and those in Hong Kong exploring the interpretations of feminism in the two cultures. The Western feminist films Yiran is studying include The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993) and About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999), she is also studying Summer Snow (Ann Hui, 1995) and Centre Stage (Stanley Kwan, 1991), which are by directors from Hong Kong. The focus of the study is gender identity as well as relationships between males and females.
One thing that stood out in Yiran’s research was the fact that a feminist film in no way equates to women’s cinema, they don’t have to be about women’s issues, they shouldn’t just be aimed at women, rather it should be about destroying the image that there are limitations to gender roles. Gender shouldn’t be a defining characteristic that prevents character development. Yiran was also keen to point out that directors of
feminist films didn’t have to be female, the films she is studying are directed by men and women. The feminist aspect is far more about female character development from passive to “active, aggressive and independent”.
Yiran poses that diversity and equality are vital, feminist films should show intersectionality and question not only gender roles but prejudices in ethnicity and race.
The connection between a feminist film expert and a company working in clinical research may seem tenuous but we were so enthused by Yiran’s passion in her plea for social equality and we couldn’t help but hear the echoes of her work throughout our own. Future Genetics has always been about empowering people to take part in clinical trials to improve health equality and outcomes for themselves. It is equally important for us, at Future Genetics, to see equality improve in every aspect of our lives.
Healthcare and social injustice have often gone hand in hand. The 1980s saw one of the most frightening epidemics in recent history, AIDs spread quickly throughout gay communities across Europe and America with no immediately apparent cause. This led to a campaign of fear and isolation by homophobic groups leading to sufferers being refused treatment and research being delayed and ultimately resulting in thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Gender and racial inequality can themselves take their toll on an individuals mental and physical health. Ethnic minorities are three times more likely to be refused entry to a bar, restaurant or club and women are far less likely to progress to Executive roles within their companies, only 7% of FTSE 100 companies are run by women. Social and professional isolation can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety which themselves are as much a risk factor for mortality as high blood pressure obesity and smoking.
Yiran’s work could have massive implications on these issues, if we see an increase in equality within the media, if we see a rise in the production of feminist films we can change the narrative and see our society reach a position where women and minorities can reach positions of power and the situation you are born, work and live in will no longer pose a risk to one’s health.
Inequality is rife but so is empowerment, we are moving towards a society of acceptance and equality for all, we are starting to check our privilege and use that to further each other’s causes. The world has come on in leaps and bounds even in the past 30 years and the work that Yiran is doing will have implications, not only on producers in Hollywood but on minority groups and women working in all sectors, the true equality that Yiran looks for will be vital in the coming years to create an interesting and prosperous society.
On the 2nd of July our clinical researcher lead, Kash Arfan and I attended the Healthcare Aspirations event at Aston University.
The event was aimed at secondary school students aged 14-17 who are aiming to go into healthcare related careers so we leapt at the opportunity to show them what a career in genetics could be like. For some students this was the first they’d heard of clinical trials and their relation to healthcare, many had arrived at the event with the aspirations of a career in primary care but came to realise that perhaps they’d like the more lab based career that companies such as Future Genetics offer.
Students from all across Birmingham came to the city centre university to discuss their futures. Staff from many healthcare professions as well as from Life Sciences courses at several Birmingham-based universities, congregated in Aston’s great hall and we loved sharing our work with people in our field as well as answering the various questions the students had. We enjoyed answering an eclectic range of questions on the effects of clinical trials on the general population, what they thought of health inequality and even how the budding scientists could follow a career in genetics and clinical research.
After a successful morning discussing our work Kash was invited to speak on the panel ‘What Does it Take to Pursue a Career in Healthcare?’ along-side Karen Newberry, a senior lecturer in the occupational health department at the University of Derby. This was a great opportunity to s
hare what we love about our work, the challenges we’re presented with and how, and why it’s all worth it. Mrs Newberry informed the students that one of her favourite things about being an occupational therapist was seeing the affects her work has in helping people live a normal, pain-free life. I think, in this, she summed up our ethos, she could empower people to work and enjoy themselves around their pain and improve their quality of life.
We were also glad to be able to empower the students to take charge of their future, we hope we gave them the tools to investigate their options further. Some were the first in their family hoping to go to university; some knew exactly what they wanted to do but needed to know how to get there; some of them knew they were interested in healthcare but were shocked by the diverse nature of the sector. We were delighted by the interest everyone showed in the possibility of a career in genetics as well as the enthusiasm they showed for ending the health
inequality we discussed. We found it reassuring that they were outraged by the issue and were interested in how we’re working to solve it.
We’re celebrating the Teams at the Postgraduate Enterprise Summer School, so we’ve put together some photos of each team from the event, congratulations to everyone involved. Here is the team that was voted 1st place – Alice
We’re celebrating the Teams at the Postgraduate Enterprise Summer School, so we’ve put together some photos of each team from the event, congratulations to everyone involved. Here is the team that was voted 2nd place – Alice
We’re celebrating the Teams at the Postgraduate Enterprise Summer School, so we’ve put together some photos of each team from the event, congratulations to everyone involved. Here is the team that was voted 3rd place – Alice
We’re celebrating the Teams at the Postgraduate Enterprise Summer School, so we’ve put together some photos of each team from the event, congratulations to everyone involved. Here are the teams that were voted 4th place – Alice
According to students, this course came highly recommended by those who participated in the past, so we were excited to get involved.
Each team, comprised of six students, was asked to come up with a solution to the challenge that Future Genetics has been working to solve: How can we tackle inequality in healthcare?
Saba, an immunology PhD candidate stated that she took part in the summer school as she wanted to diversify her skill set, her research is heavily lab- based, and she wanted to try something more ‘out the box’. She added that she liked how the summer school has offered her a real-world problem that required applying the problem-solving skills she has learned throughout her scientific education. Arooj, a cultural heritage and museums PhD candidate, pointed out ‘As someone from Oman this project has really made me think about the distributions of medicines and their context, it’s made me question how many medicines are designed and made in the west for Caucasian populations’. The students that took part came from many different academic backgrounds, their subjects ranged from linguistics to life sciences but everyone found something they could relate back to their studies, whether that was simply putting the skills they’ve acquired into practice or using their knowledge to think of innovative solutions. One law student was particularly interested in the impacts our work could have on government policy in the future, whether we could use it to incentivize people to take part or whether it would one day be mandatory to have representative clinical trials.
When setting the project, we informed the students of the extent of health inequality in the UK. The overwhelming majority of people within clinical trial groups are Caucasian and between 18 and 65. This leaves a huge proportion of the population either underrepresented or entirely excluded. There are genetic differences between every population no matter how similar they appear, for example, the genetic variant that cause the lung condition cystic fibrosis is much more prevalent in the white Irish population than in the rest of the European Caucasian population. Studies have shown that 2.23% of genes are different across 18 Indian populations, although this seems low, in genetic terms it is a sizable difference that could have massive effects on the way they react to medication (Papiha, 1996).
We were delighted to discover that when asked what they would take away from the project almost every student commented on the fact that this is an
incredibly important issue that needs more awareness, many remarked that they were shocked that it was an issue, some knew there was healthcare inequality among different groups but were alarmed at the true extent of the under-representation.. They were all enthused by the idea of working in multidisciplinary, and aptly, multicultural teams with people hailing from all over the world. One liver disease and drug safety student referred to
himself as a ‘one-man band’ when working in a lab and remarked on how nice it was to be working in teams that were all heading towards the same goal.
As you may be aware the problem we set is the problem Future Genetics was created to tackle, health inequalities in minorities is a massive issue in the UK and one we are set on solving. 14% of our population is unrepresented in the health care system. That’s not to say there has been no attempt to solve this issue, for example, the yellow card scheme has been set up by the government to help tackle adverse drug reactions in patients. It gives an easy to use platform to report problems with a drug whether that be a safety concern, for example overheating of E-cigarettes, or a medical concern such as a drug not working. (Yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk, 2019) This scheme is vitally important in the healthcare system, but it’s massively underused, the MHRA (the governing body that runs the yellow card scheme) says “ADRs themselves are thought to occur in 10-20% of hospital in-patients, and one study found that over 2% of patients admitted with an adverse drug reaction died, approximately 0.15% of all patients admitted” (Assets.publishing.service.gov.uk, 2019) this shows quite how dangerous they can be but only 0-5% are reported in the UK, shockingly this drops to 1% within Europe
Future Genetics is proud to empower people from different backgrounds to get involved in clinical trials and take charge of their health and seeing the interest and enthusiasm from the range of participants in this summer school makes us positive that our study will make a massive difference.
We’d like to thank the University of Birmingham for the collaboration and the students who all agreed to be photographed and interviewed
My name is Alice and I am a Research Scientist at Future Genetics.
In keeping with the ethos of empowerment at Future Genetics, Dr Mohammed Kamran, who is the CEO and Medical Director of the organisation, will be participating in a panel discussion being held at the University of Birmingham, titled ‘Insights into Science: in and out of Labs’. The event is being held on Wednesday the 30th of January.
This provides an opportunity for students at the University of Birmingham to gain insights into the career opportunities that are available to them and capture the experiences and perspectives of the panel speakers. The speaker panel consists of 6 members, that include 2 patent attorney and trademark specialists, an application team manager, a business engagement manager, a life sciences recruitment consultant, as well as Dr Kamran, who will provide insights into his academic, clinical trials and research and development experiences.
This event compliments another event that Dr Kamran spoke at, which was the Aston University Careers Event in December 2018. For those who are interested, please click the link below.
Mental health is a topic that has only very recently come into the forefront after an incredibly long period of silence. It is often something that people prefer not to address, or feel is not relevant to them and can in turn be a misunderstood subject. The negative stigma and discrimination around mental health can be driving force in stopping people with mental health disorders seek help. Therefore, it is important that we all contribute to raising awareness of the reality of mental health and its importance in people of all ages and backgrounds.
My name is Sabrina and I am a Research Scientist at Future Genetics. From January 1999 to December 2017, the NHS carried out major surveys of the mental health of children and young people in England and published a report of the findings on the 22nd of November of this year. A number of different types of disorders were assessed for with ‘rigorous, detailed and consistent methods’. Amongst these disorders were; emotional disorders, behavioural disorders, hyperactivity disorders and less common disorders.
Overall, the results showed that one in eight (12.8%) of 5 to 19 year olds have at least one mental health disorder, primarily being emotional disorders, as you can see by this bar chart (Figure 1). This also represents the rise in rates of emotional mental health disorders as age increases.
Figure 1: Rates of different types of disorder in 5 to 19-year olds by age. (NHS Digital, 2018)
Mental Health and Gender
From ages 2 to 10, boys were more likely than girls to have a disorder, with boys aged 5 to 10 being almost twice as likely than girls of the same age to have a mental health disorder. Amongst the 11 to 16-year olds, girls and boys were equally likely to have a disorder. However, girls between the ages of 17 and 19 were more than twice as likely as boys to have a disorder.
Compared with any other demographic group, rates of emotional mental disorders and self-harm were reported to be the highest in young women aged 17 to 19, as presented in the NHS survey. Over half (52.7%) of these girls reported to have self-harmed or had attempted to commit suicide. 5.6% of the girls identified with Body Dysmorphia (BDD) and 1.6% had an eating disorder.
Associations of Mental Disorders
There are multiple influences that can increase the onset of mental health disorders in children, with one being the functioning of the child’s family. In some cases, however, mental health disorders may be the cause of problems within families, which therefore forms a vicious cycle. A child’s mental health can also be affected by their parent’s mental health, the child’s support network, how much they participate in their social surrounding and adverse life events (e.g. Parental separation and/or financial struggles at home).
Other factors that can influence a child’s mental health is their physical well-being and daily social media use. Children aged 11 to 19 with a mental disorder were 10% more likely to use social media daily compared to children of the same age without a disorder. A growing problem linked to social media is the impact it has on young people’s self-esteem, as they are constantly comparing themselves to the perfect picture and consequently thinking less of their own lives.
This survey showed that 1 in 4 children (24.1%) with a disorder had no professional or informal support. This support is critical and can prove to be life-saving in some cases. It is important to acknowledge that regardless of what their age is, we should all be thinking about improving and supporting the mental health of children and young people and raising awareness of this issue.
If you need any help or information regarding child mental health, please phone or visit any of the numbers or sites down below.
Written by Sabrina K Bolia (Future Genetics Research Scientist)