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A Strategy for Renal Research

SWT Institute for Renal Research Strategy April 2021 

The primary goals of the SWT Institute for Renal Research are to carry out high quality research and deliver post-graduate education in the field of renal pathology and associated disciplines. The Board is responsible for the financial, ethical, academic and research governance of the Institute. The research strategy is developed in accordance with good research governance, defined as the broad range of principles and standards of good practice that ensure high quality research. 

The aim of the strategy is to develop knowledge for the benefit of patients. 

The Nature of research: “bench to bedside”.  

The purpose of translational research is the efficient rendering the results of basic scientific research to clinical application. The Institute continues to focus on basic and translational research.  

The first strategic goal is to more closely align the work of the Institute with clinical work and research of the nephrologists at Epsom & St Helier and St George’s hospitals. This includes, transplantation, sodium handling, diabetic kidney disease and acute injury. Renal pathologies are often associated with diabetes and hypertension. The understanding and diagnosis of renal disease involves the work of chemical pathologists. Consequently, the work of the Institute should also consider the interests of other clinical disciplines related to nephrology.  

Fields of research 

The complex nature of renal pathologies implicitly suggests that successful renal research should be interdisciplinary.  

The second strategic goal is to develop an interdisciplinary approach using the strengths of the Institute aligned to research strength of collaborators in areas most relevant to the needs of patients.  

The Institute has an established record of research in intracellular signalling, matricellular communication, epithelial cell biology and fibrosis. The academic and industrial networks the Institute participates in offer valuable opportunities to develop further productive collaborations. 

The third strategic goal is that the Institute develops research in biomarkers that has relevance to research active clinicians of Epsom & St Helier and St George’s hospitals.  

The Institute has a strong record in biomarker research. It has developed novel biomarkers from a strategy of “mediators as markers” of disease and by collaborations with other academic and commercial organisations. Closer working with practicing clinicians will help focus this work in an impactful way. 

Organisational structure for research: 

The research structure at St George’s University of London offers a useful organisational model. The SGUL model has made it highly rated for research impact nationally despite its relative size.   

SGUL has 3 Institutes overseen by the Deputy Principal (currently Professor Jonathan Friedland), each covering a research theme. Each Institute has a director and is made up of groups, with their own heads, focused on specific topics. Another useful model, The Institute of Child Health, UCL, demonstrates the potential advantages of scientist leading research with clinicians to deliver high quality, impactful research.  

The Board of the Institute is currently chaired by Professor Bruce Hendry and is made up of NHS clinical and non-clinical staff, senior academics, and patient representatives. It oversees the governance of the Institute, including external auditing. It facilitates the working of the Institute by identifying areas that can be improved by developing new partnerships. The medical director is a senior research active nephrologist who enables collaborative work with the renal team.  

The fourth strategic goal is to include other research active senior nephrologists from both St Helier and St George’s on the Board. This will allow broader clinical/translational research collaborations. Importantly, this will also give the Board a perspective for future developments in the Institute’s research and management. 

The Board of the Institute has ultimate financial responsibility for the Institute. The Institute is well placed to attract funding from a diverse range of sources; however, it is limited by its size.  

The fifth strategic goal is to develop the broad base funding model and to work with colleagues at SGUL and other HEI to open new sources of funding. The Institute has obtained funding from national charities, national and local government and industry. There are opportunities to increase revenue though collaborations with industry. There are also pathways to obtaining UK Research Council funding, this will require closer, structured collaborations with eligible organisations. A closer more integrated relationship with SGUL is one possible route that will be explored. 

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