Researchers at University of Birmingham awarded over £1 million for latest technology for immune regulation

Immune cells under the microscope

Researchers at the University of Birmingham have been awarded £1.15 million by the Wellcome Trust and the University of Birmingham to fund cutting edge equipment for in-depth imaging of human tissue samples, aiding the development of new immunotherapies.

The bid builds on previous funding from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity, alongside investment from the University, establishing Birmingham as a key site of expertise in digital histology approaches.

This latest technology will capitalise on this expertise, introduce the most advanced platforms, and start to apply Artificial Intelligence approaches to develop automated algorithms for assessing levels of key markers in the body.

These efforts will help researchers understand the mechanisms that underlie diverse diseases, and discover what processes determine whether patients respond to a given treatment.

The machinery, which will be housed in the Institute of Translational Medicine, will impact the latest fundamental research of tissue microenvironment biology.

Researchers will be able to simultaneously assess the levels, location, interactions, and function of crucial cell types, metabolic processes, and key receptors, providing a basis for then devising new therapies and defining patient groups best placed to benefit from existing therapies.

This vital funding will increase the understanding of immune regulation, and control of metabolic processes, as well as catalysing development of novel immunotherapies for diseases such as cancer and chronic inflammation.

Grant lead Professor Ben Willcox, from the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy, said: “This funding will help us establish a nationally-leading facility, using the latest imaging platforms to analyse the rich biology of human tissues. In an era of increasingly powerful data analysis approaches, including artificial intelligence, the facility will create a step-change in our understanding of disease progression, response to treatment, and emerging therapeutic targets.”

Theme leads for Metabolism and Immunotherapy Development, respectively, Professors Chris Buckley and Wiebke Arlt, agree: “Access to this new infrastructure will have transformational impact on many of our research projects.”

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