United Kingdom Belfast

Queen’s University Belfast

Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine

Brief Overview

The Wellcome-Wolfson Insitute for Experimental Medicine, Queen’s University Belfast is a leading research institute in respiratory medicine research. We focus on understanding the mechanisms of disease and developing innovative new treatments to improve patients’ outcomes. We work on the cross-talk between respiratory pathogens (Klebsiella, Burkholderia, Legionella, Pseudomonas, RSV and Rhinovirus), and its host, through our established expertise in innate and adaptive inflammatory responses in infection, and autoimmunity. We lead translational respiratory research (asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, and acute respiratory distress syndrome) and mechanistic insights into the molecular and cellular events underlying these diseases. We have a leading expertise on clinical trials, and the evaluation of clinical outcomes.

Research Areas

Acute Lung Injury (ALI)\Asthma\Cystic fibrosis\Immunology\Infection

Host center eligibility

Global fellowships (return phase only)/European fellowships – in line with current status

Research infrastructure/facilities

Infrastructure includes facilities for isolation and culture of primary cell culture and stem cell work. Models available are the ex vivo lung human and pig lung perfusion model challenging functional whole lungs, 3D organoids, and the LPS human volunteer model. Clinical research is undertaken in the Wellcome-Wolfson Northern Ireland Clinical Research Facility. Additional capabilities include a MALDI-TOF-TOF, flow cytometry core (multicolour cell acquisition and sorting capabilities, mass cytometry), histology, and equipment for assessing cell and tissue metabolism (Seahorse), an imaging unit (including IVIS system, laser dissection, confocal microscopy), single-cell genomics and NGS services with bioinformatics.

Research funding/Resources

WWIEM has received in excess of £29M competitive, peer reviewed funding, in the last 5 years in respiratory medicine. Projects include “iABC – Inhaled Antibiotics in Bronchiectasis and Cystic Fibrosis”, funded through the EU IMI; the only UK stratified asthma project funded by MRC “United Kingdom Refractory Asthma Stratification Programme”; BBSRC and MRC support to investigate multidrug resistant infections, consolidating WWIEM teams as UK leaders in this area. Our portfolio of clinical trials, funded via NIHR competitive calls, in the period includes trials on ICU respiratory failure and intubation; and efficiency of current care on bronchiectasis treatment.

Links to non-academic sector

The industrial partners of our projects have an important role in our industrial portfolio. Our industrial partners include leading industrial actors as: GlaxoSmithKline; Pfizer; AstraZeneca; Novartis Pharma; Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma; Basilea Pharmaceutica; Randox Laboratories. Fellows benefit from support from the Graduate School, which offers a complete program of training for pathways to commercialization for researchers. Additional support (e.g. Lean Launch programme) is offered through the Commercialisation team, Research and Enterprise, for researchers to get out of the lab and validate their commercially-promising research in the market place, and the possibility to pitch their projects to stakeholders.

Experience hosting international researchers, career development & training programmes, outreach activities

WWIEM hosts 330 staff, from 33 nationalities. WWIEM successfully participated in RESPIRE2, with excellent outcomes in terms of scientific production and career development for the fellow. We have ongoing MSCA actions (ITNs and IFs). In 2016, WWIEM launched the second Postdoctoral Career Development Committee (PCDC) in the UK, with a focus on maximizing postdoctoral researchers’ scientific, professional and employability opportunities. The PDC conducts every year a multi-faceted programme to provide practical and meaningful training and career development support to Postdoctoral researchers. The programme, delivers on strategic areas of focus such as Career Development Seminar Series, Postdoctoral Community; Development & Empowerment; Fellowship Application Support; or Mentoring. Our PCDC led to create a Postdoctoral Development Centre at Faculty level. This Centre now delivers comprehensive programmes to support the training and career development of Postdocs right across the Faculty and has allowed the WWIEM PCDC diversify its activities for its upcoming year.

HR Excellence in Research – EU award