"At the Botnar, I want our focus to be on the people and patients suffering with bone and joint disease, with our scientists and clinical academics working together to translate our research into patient care," says Prof. Jonathan Rees as he sets out his new strategy. "We want to deliver on the entire research pathway from discovery science in the laboratory to the patient bedside. This includes developing a better understanding of musculoskeletal diseases, discovering new treatments, testing them, finding new ways to deliver them, and involving patients in clinical trials. Our overriding mission is to transform the lives of patients through the research we do here at the Botnar Institute."
To deliver on this, Jonathan has announced four new academic divisions created within the Botnar, each headed by a new Divisional Director, and sitting within these are the academic themed sections and clinical trials units.
- Musculoskeletal Laboratory Sciences, headed by Professor Udo Oppermann, brings together a mix of basic science laboratory researchers to cover the major musculoskeletal disease areas. We will be further expanding this Division in 2023 with the opening of the Oxford Translational Myeloma Research Centre.
- Musculoskeletal Clinical Sciences, headed by Professor Matt Costa, incorporates clinical academics and surgeon scientists, and covers orthopaedic surgery, trauma ortho-plastics, rheumatology and rehabilitation. These clinical researchers run research programmes in the Botnar and Kadoorie Centre as well as running clinical practices and treating NHS patients at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and John Radcliffe Hospitals.
- Clinical Investigation and Translational Science, headed by Professor Duncan Richards, brings together statisticians, trial methodologists and health data scientists to design and run early and late phase clinical trials, providing the critical link between discovery and delivering new treatments to patients.
- Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, headed by Professor Eleanor Stride, has a focus on bioengineering science to discover and engineering new treatments and materials for bone and joint conditions.
Aligned with the new divisions are five new academic priorities in the Botnar, the first of which is building capability in health data science. "It was an area we were already building at the Botnar," said Jonathan, "But the pandemic has further confirmed to us the use and importance of large data sets and their ability to provide relatively rapid generalisable results. You need expert scientific teams in place to deal with the challenges that come with using such big data but the utility of this research is valuable to our entire Institute and we will be expanding our work in this area."
This will also help contribute to our next priority of enhancing integration between disciplines to support complex and more productive research proposals. By bringing together researchers from different disciplines across the Botnar and linking with our colleagues at the Kennedy Institute, we plan to design better, more efficient studies to answer more than one research question.
A third priority is to discover new disease targets, and design and engineer innovative treatments. While this has always been a goal of the department, our newly opened Marcela Botnar wing in 2022 will now house bioengineering colleagues from across the University, providing opportunities to develop and explore new technologies, materials and devices for drug delivery or treatments.
Our next priority is to develop early phase assessment of novel therapeutics and devices.
This encompasses several areas, one of the most recent with the arrival of Professor Duncan Richards is to build a clinical therapeutics theme within the Botnar. "The successful opening of the Oxford Experimental Medicine Clinical Research Facility (EMCRF), which now has NIHR badging, will support early phase trials designed by researchers from departments across the Medical Sciences Division," said Jonathan.
The final area is to promote translational research and build capability in clinical trial design and analysis. The Botnar being based alongside the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and the Kadoorie being based within the John Radcliffe Hospital provides a valuable co-location for our scientists to work hand in hand with clinicians to design local and national trials to accelerate the translation of research into patient treatment. This is a crucial part of our strategy.
"Enhanced integration across our academic divisions, alongside collaborations with other areas of the University, and external partners, will build our strengths to support a variety of musculoskeletal research work and enable us to further build our capabilities within the department to accelerate the research pathways for the benefit of patients," concluded Jonathan.