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Students get ‘foundation’ in colorectal research

More than fifty University of Leeds students are getting their first taste of biotechnology research and commercialisation, through the new HTC Foundation (HTCF), which launched on November 17.

The HTCF is a student-led affiliation of the Colorectal Therapies HTC, set up to provide students from different scientific disciplines with an opportunity to work together.

Junior doctor and Leeds Medical School graduate, Stephen Chapman, who sits on the HTFC steering committee, explains:

“Medical students rarely get to engage with students in chemistry, physics or engineering, but our future work is likely to involve collaboration with these disciplines. The number of students attending the launch surpassed our expectations and proved there is a real appetite for opportunities like these. We were also really pleased to attract some students from product design and business – both important disciplines in technology development and commercialisation.”

Colorectal Therapies HTC Director, Professor David Jayne, Nanotechnology Theme Lead, Professor Stephen Evans and Programme Manager, Dr Neville Young gave presentations at the launch about the work of the HTC. Students were then put into multi-disciplinary groups and tasked to design concepts for tackling an unmet clinical need: anastomotic leaks. These occur after sections of bowel are removed during surgery and the two ends reconnected. When the connection doesn’t seal properly, leakage from the bowel can cause life-threatening complications.

The seven groups formed at the launch have been given ten days to work up their ideas for prevention, diagnosis or treatment of anastomotic leaks in preparation for a dragons’ den’ style pitch to a panel of judges. The best idea will be further developed over the next twelve months by the HTCF, with all students getting involved. Educational workshops during 2016 will facilitate interactive design of the biotechnology, including product design, intellectual property, funding and finance.

“All of the groups are very motivated and engaged and working hard on their ideas in preparation for the dragons’ den,” said Stephen Chapman. “We thought the HTCF committee might need to step in and help out – but there’s so much enthusiasm amongst the students, this hasn’t been necessary.”

The best idea, developed further throughout the next twelve months, will be presented at the Colorectal HTC’s annual meeting in November 2016.