Cross Innovation Hub launches with successful matching event

On Wednesday 30 November, we held the first meeting of our Cross Innovation Hub at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology (IoO): a matching event designed to bring clinicians and researchers together to foster new collaborations in vision research.

The evening included talks on successful examples of cross-site partnerships between researchers from UCL IoO and clinicians from Moorfields Eye Hospital, as well as a ‘speed matching’ session aimed at planting the seeds of future partnerships. The event was a great success, with around 35 people attending from both sites, as well as from Moorfields Eye Charity, whose Innovation Grants help to fund projects that will benefit Moorfields, its patients and the NHS.

"The Cross Innovaiton Hub is an opportunity for us to work together... It's a way in which we can ask questions, whether it's about a scientific problem or some element of pragmatics about ethics or accessing data."

Phil Luthert, Professor of Pathology, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology

Group of people talking and drinking at the Cross Innovation Hub matching event at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology

About the Cross Innovation Hub

The Cross Innovation Hub has been set up by the NIHR Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) to encourage collaborations between clinicians at Moorfields Eye Hospital and researchers at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. Its aim is to break down barriers between the two sites and make biomedical research more efficient by fostering collaborative working towards shared goals. Ultimately, we hope it will lead to speedier outputs that bring tangible benefits to patients, the public and the NHS.

About the matching event

The evening began with an introduction from Dr Alice Davidson about her experience of cross-site partnerships. Professor Pete Coffey then gave us an overview of The London Project to Cure Blindness, including an insight into the importance of having direct access to clinicians, with their direct knowledge of patients and the real impact of macular degeneration on their lives. What began as an experimental breakthrough in the laboratory – the use of stem cells to grow new retinal cells – was translated into the first trial of retinal transplants in living patients. Prof. Coffey and his team were able to prove that not only could this cutting-edge treatment have a life-changing effect on patients, but also that it was safe and cost-effective. This would not have been possible without close collaboration between leading scientists at UCL and the world-class clinicians at Moorfields, facilitated by the physical proximity of the two sites.

For the final talk, Helen Khan, Communications Lead for the NIHR Moorfields BRC, delivered an update on the Cross Innovation Hub and its future developments, including a dedicated website and further networking events, both online and in person. Helen then introduced a video made by Prof. Phil Luthert, who described how the Hub will help solve some of ophthalmology's Grand Challenges, including inherited eye disease, macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Prof. Pete Coffey giving at the Cross Innovation Hub matching event at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
Helen Khan giving a talk at the Cross Innovation Hub matching event at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology

"If we're going to really address these Grand Challenges head-on, we need to work in teams: we need clinicians who understand the diseases and how they affect the patients; we need those working in the lab understanding normal physiology of the eye and disease mechanism; we need those who have skills in the development of new therapies that can ultimately be used for patients in the clinic."

Prof. Phil Luthert

After the talks, drinks were served and attendees circulated in five-minute mini-sessions, ‘matching’ with people from the other site (Moorfields or UCL) to discuss their respective challenges and whether they could help each other. Afterwards, fresh pizzas arrived and the evening concluded with an hour of general networking.

Feedback from the event was very positive, and we are already planning the next Hub session for early February at Moorfields. Anyone at Moorfields or UCL IoO with an interest in cross-site collaboration is encouraged to attend, including those who came to the first event; we hope everyone will bring their teams and any colleagues who missed the first event.

We look forward sharing upcoming Hub events and news, so keep an eye on out for details via email and on social media. In the meantime, for further information about the Hub or to get involved, please contact Helen Khan: h.khan@ucl.ac.uk