International Women’s Day: Some of the researchers who inspire us
Wednesday March 8, 2023
International Women’s Day (8 March) is a time to celebrate the achievements of women across the globe.
At Newcastle Health Innovation Partners (NHIP), we work with a multitude of inspirational female researchers across our partnership every day. Here is a snapshot of just some of the many outstanding women researchers across our area for International Women’s Day:
Dr Amy Vincent, Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research at Newcastle University
Amy joined the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research at Newcastle University in 2013 and completed her PhD in May 2017, before going on as a post-doctoral scientist in the Centre.
In 2019, she was awarded a Sir Henry Wellcome Fellow. Her fellowship aims to understand how mitochondrial DNA deletions clonally expand with age and disease, with a focus on the impact of skeletal muscle biology. She also supervises and works on a range of projects investigating mechanisms of mitochondrial dysfunction in skeletal muscle and mitochondrial disease progression.
Why this work is important: Mitochondrial DNA mutations and mitochondrial respiratory chain deficiency arise in a mosaic pattern within the skeletal muscle of patients with mitochondrial myopathy. However, they are also found in a number of other myopathies and in aging skeletal muscle. Amy’s work looks to investigate mitochondria dysfunction and associated pathogenic mechanisms in both mitochondrial and other myopathies. Her team are doing this in a number of ways:
- Attempting to understand how mtDNA mutations accumulate in skeletal muscle and the impact of this process on disease progression with age.
- Looking at the interactions between mitochondrial structure and function and muscle structure and function
- Looking to understand the impacts of exercise intervention.
Muzlifah Haniffa FMedSci, Professor of Dermatology and Immunology at Newcastle University and Associate Faculty at the Sanger Institute
Professor Muzz Haniffa is a Wellcome Senior Research Fellow, Professor of Dermatology and Immunology at Newcastle University and a Faculty member at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. As well as these roles, Muzz is also the Biological Network Co-Coordinator for the Human Cell Atlas and the Deputy lead PI for the Immunology and Inflammation theme at Newcastle University.
Muzz’s research is focused on studying human development – primarily the developing human immune system and skin to inform stem cell therapy, tissue engineering and adult pathology. The Haniffa team leverages cutting edge single cell genomics, computation, stem cell culture systems including the generation of skin organoids as experimental models to study human development.
Her research is also focused on personalised therapy including target discovery for immune-mediated inflammatory diseases primarily focused on skin.
Michela Guglieri, MD Senior Clinical Lecturer and Consultant Neurologist at Newcastle University and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Michela has a specific interest in care, management and translational research in inherited neuromuscular disorders. She obtained her medical degree at Milan University where she also completed her neurology residency, before moving to Newcastle specifically to develop expertise in translational research and clinical trials.
Currently, Michela is the research lead at the John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre, one of the leading sites in the world for clinical research in neuromuscular diseases. Michela is involved in several clinical trials in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and other neuromuscular disorders, including the first gene therapy trial for DMD in the UK. Michela has been the study chair of two large international clinical trials in DMD, the FOR DMD study and Vision DMD and is currently leading the DMD Hub and DMD Care UK, two national programs developed in close collaboration with patient organisations to increase clinical trial capacity and care delivery for DMD across the UK. Michela is the chair of the TREAT-NMD Global Data Oversight Committee (TGDOC), a global network of disease specific patient registries aiming to harmonise clinical data collection to support clinical trial readiness.
Michela strongly believes in the integration of clinical research into clinical practice, which can be achieved through strong collaborations between clinicians and academics. Her interest is supporting improvement of care and treatment for patients with neuromuscular disorders as well as drug development and translational research.
Dr Meena Choudhary, Senior Consultant in Reproductive Medicine at Newcastle Fertility Centre
Dr Meenakshi Choudhary is a leading Clinician in Reproductive Medicine at the internationally renowned Newcastle Fertility Centre and clinical lead for the Newcastle Fertility Centre’s egg donor program. She is also in charge of the new mitochondrial donor program for the world-first licensed treatment for mitochondrial replacement techniques.
She is the clinical lead for the Paediatric and adolescent Gynaecology service and also oversees the NHS England specialist service commissioned congenital gynaecology anomaly service at Newcastle which is one of the 11 trusts in the country to offer this. She is the
named gynaecologist for the multidisciplinary input in the regional Cloaca clinic.
Creation, storage and use of embryos including research is subject to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act and regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Dr Choudhary oversees the ethical and regulatory aspects of the research program at Newcastle Fertility Centre as the named Person Responsible for research for the HFEA. She is also affiliated to Newcastle University and Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research.
She is also an elected member on the National Institute for Health Research and Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Prioritisation Committee advising on development of research topics related to mental health, women and child health and has been co-applicants on several multicentre NIHR HTA funded RCTs.
Dr Choudhary has published a number of publications in the field of human reproduction and have received several awards, the latest being the Asian Women of Achievement Award 2020 Finalist.
Alison Bray, Lead Healthcare Scientist at Newcastle Hospitals
Alison specialises in medical device development at Newcastle Hospitals. One of her key roles is to support and advise colleagues in the NHS, academia and industry in the regulatory aspects of developing and evaluating medical devices. She oversees a group based in clinical engineering that aims to demystify and guide others through this.
She is currently involved in the development of a new medical device for breast cancer detection. In some women, who have mammographically dense breast tissue, mammograms are hard to read because both a cancer and the normal tissue appear white. In the UK’s breast cancer screening programme for women aged 50-70 years, around 30% have quite dense breasts, and a further 10% have very dense breasts. Alison and colleagues are working with a local company called Kromek, specialists in radiation detector technology, who are developing a new technology called ‘ultra low dose molecular breast imaging’. This is a nuclear medicine-based technique that doesn’t suffer from the issue due to breast density, so should be more accurate in these women. Alison and the team have just secured new funding from Innovate UK to continue the project, and plan to run the first human studies of the new device in 2025 at Newcastle Hospitals.
Dr Katarzyna Mickiewicz, Lecturer in Microbiology at Newcastle University and holds a prestigious UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship
Dr Mickiewicz joined Newcastle University as a Research Associate and moved into a Faculty Fellow post in 2019. She now holds a prestigious UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship.
She works to understand the roles that certain bacteria play within disease, focusing specifically on their contributions to antibiotic resistance.
Why this is important: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is considered by the World Health Organization as one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity. Dr Mickiewicz’s research focuses on an understudied mechanism of antibiotic evasion, called L-form switching. Almost all bacteria are surrounded by a structure called the cell wall, which protects them against environmental stresses and helps with regular division and many of our commonly used antibiotics, such as penicillin, target this structure.
Dr Mickiewicz has developed novel approaches using cutting-edge technologies to study L-form switching using advanced fluorescent microscopy and genetics.
Dr Vicki Grahame, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) and Clinical Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University
Vicki is the Clinical Lead for the Complex Neurodevelopmental Disorders Service (CNDS), at CNTW’s Walkergate Park. The service provides consultation, advice and second opinions for children and young people who may have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other complex mental health difficulties. Vicki continues to work as both a clinician and researcher. She has a vision that every autistic child and their families should have access to evidence based mental health interventions.
Vicki recognises the strengths of autistic children and is passionate about developing supportive interventions that deliver concrete improvements in everyday life. Much of Vicki’s research work has focused on developing early interventions that are developmentally appropriate for autistic children, adolescents and their families.
Vicki was recently awarded £1.3 million by NIHR Health Technology funding to evaluate the clinical and cost effectiveness of a parent group intervention to support parents to recognise and understand autistic children’s repetitive behaviours. This study is one of only a handful that managed to successfully stay open and support families during the pandemic. The study team are now planning how they will share the key takeaways from their research with autistic individuals, families and key stakeholders. It is hoped that this new intervention can be rolled out across the NHS into everyday clinical practice and provide early support to families in need.
Professor Annette Hand, Professor of Nursing and Clinical Academic
Annette began her nursing career in 1991 studying at the Northumbria School of Nursing. After meeting a patient who was involved in a drug challenge involving a now well-known medication
for Parkinson’s, she became interested in this field. She went on to become a Parkinson’s research nurse before becoming a Parkinson’s nurse specialist. Annette has remained passionate about Parkinson’s ever since.
In her current role as Professor of Nursing and Clinical Academic – one of the first of its kind in England – Annette works jointly between Newcastle Hospitals and Northumbria University.
The impact of Annette’s research has been to improve the care, outcomes and quality of life for people with Parkinson’s, and their families. Her research has been published in multiple articles and she has presented results at both national and international level.
She currently leads a team of researchers in Northumbria and is Chief Investigator for a two-year nationwide research project – The USP project – which aims to gain a better understanding of the role of specialist nurses who support patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Professor Amy O’Donnell, Professor of Applied Health and Social Care Research at the Population Health Sciences Institute, Newcastle University
Having been awarded a NIHR Advanced Fellowship, Amy’s work focusses on optimising global health and social care systems to better support people with multiple long term conditions, with a specific focus on co-occurring substance use, mental and physical ill-health.
Alongside her Advanced Fellowship, she is Co-investigator and Implementation Lead on several NIHR-funded evaluations of new models of care in the substance use and mental health fields, including the £1.7m NIHR Health and Social Care Delivery Research-funded Alcohol Care Teams evaluation, and part of a Newcastle University collaboration with the University of Edinburgh’s Advanced Care Research Centre (funded by Legal & General). Previously, she held a NIHR School for Primary Care Research Post-doctoral Fellowship, a Newcastle University Medical Faculty Fellowship and a Visiting Implementation Science Fellowship at Linkoping University, Sweden. She was one of only two Newcastle University academics to be named in the Knowledge Mobilisation/Implementation Science theme of the successful NIHR Applied Research Collaboration: North East and North Cumbria application. She has published over 70 papers to date, has been awarded £7.2m in grant income, and is an Associate Editor for the journals Alcohol & Alcoholism. Amy has supervised four Masters dissertations and one PhD to completion, and is currently supervising one MPhil and four other PhD students.