Since arriving in Birmingham in 2002 Professor Charles Ferro's research interests have continued to expand and now centre on the following key fields.
Together with his close collaborator, Professor Johnathan Townend, Professor Ferro has continued his research in cardio-renal medicine. Together they obtained their first grant from the British Heart Foundation in 2004 funding a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial into the cardiovascular effects of spironolactone in patients with chronic kidney disease. This grant also allowed them to explore the use of cardiac magnetic resonance to closely explore the structural and functional cardiovascular changes that happen early in the course of chronic kidney disease.
In the last few years, in close collaboration with Dr Davor Pavlovic, he has been able to take his research back into the laboratory to investigate the pathophysiological mechanisms behind the cardiovascular disease associated with chronic kidney disease. This has opened up very exciting avenues for future research opportunities as well as drug development.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
Together with his close colleague Professor Paul Cockwell, Professor Ferro has set up the Renal Impairment in Secondary Care Study (RIISC) funded by a grant from The JABBS Foundation. The primary aim of the study was to produce an infrastructure to explore why patients with high-risk chronic kidney disease have poor clinical outcomes. They have established a study that allows accurate bio-clinical phenotyping of a tightly defined group. The first patient was recruited in October 2010 and the last in December 2015. Follow-up will continue for 10 years through to December 2025.
Large Population Cohorts
Professor Ferro's interest in using large population cohorts started in 2008 with a grant award from Kidney Research UK in collaboration with the London School of Topical Medicine and Hygiene. Since then he has collaborated with academics supervising several large cohorts including:
- the MRC 1946 study
- Chilean National Health Surveys 2003-04 and 2009-10
- the National Institute of Cardiovascular Outcomes Research
- the Lothian Birth Cohort.
Medical informatics / Simplifying clinical trials
Since Professor Ferro's arrival at University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust he has been involved in evolving the patient electronic health records and has been developing its capacity for research. This resource has been rapidly expanding and in 2014 he set up the Birmingham Renal Informatics Group (BRIG) to manage the expanding capability and coordinate the funding streams.
Providing Renal Research Infrastructure within Birmingham Health Partners
• He has been the co-lead for the development of clinical renal research in University Hospital Birmingham such that it is now the largest single renal service recruiting into clinical trials in the NHS
• The service recruits around 25% of all patients recruited at UHB into clinical trials. The team has 20 people (many full time) currently focused on clinical research. It works on >30 clinical trials and supports recruitment for major nationally funded clinical trials, working to support research active colleagues in other major centres.
• This infrastructure has supported NHS consultant nephrologists and transplant surgeons in Birmingham to develop major academic profiles. He has developed an academic clinical model that focuses on providing research opportunities and development opportunities for trainees
• The broader impact is a continuing contribution to the evidence base in many areas of practice, including CKD, transplantation, auto-immune mediated kidney diseases, vascular access. It is consistent with the aims of clinical research in the UK renal community.
Research Groups and Centres
Birmingham Cardio-Renal Research Group
European Renal and Cardiovascular medicine (EURECA-m) Working Group of the European Renal Association