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APAM 2024

The Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland (AoPGBI) Annual Meeting celebrates the latest and very best of translational medicine

Here, the AoPGBI committee members explain how their annual conference will highlight the scientific advancements shaping the translational medicine landscape

In May 2024, Newcastle will play host to the AoPGBI Annual Meeting (APAM), a conference celebrating the latest and very best in translational medicine. It is the first time in 30 years that APAM has been held in the city, which is renowned for its translational research and clinical expertise. Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University, feels particularly proud to bring together world- class experts and emerging researchers for this unique conference.

“I’ve been doing medicine in Newcastle since 1985 and I ran the medical school for ten years, so I have a real passion for wanting people to come here and visit,” he says. “I’m excited to bring the world of British and Irish academic medicine to Newcastle after so long, to experience translational science with a Newcastle flavour.”

APAM 2024 ties in with the overall aims of the AoPGBI, namely to engage the wider scientific and public community to raise the profile of interdisciplinary translational research, to develop the careers of translational researchers and to share ideas and knowledge. The programme has been carefully chosen by the committee to represent the biggest health and medical problems currently faced by society, with themes including ageing and multimorbidity, rare diseases, novel therapies and diagnostics, and population health and data science.

The co-occurrence of physical and/or mental illness in an ageing population represents a major challenge to health systems. This symposium welcomes abstracts on topics that address a greater understanding of shared pathophysiological mechanisms, novel therapeutic approaches and the design of more efficient care pathways to manage older people or those with multimorbidity across the life course.

Though individually rare (usually defined as affecting no more than 5 per 10,000 people), their sheer number (6-8000) means that rare diseases represent a major public health concern, affecting around 30 million EU citizens. This symposium invites abstracts on topics that include the diagnosis and management of rare diseases, including novel approaches to therapeutic studies and overcoming the issue of equitable access to service and research.

Increasing appreciation of disease heterogeneity, coupled with increasing financial pressures upon the NHS, mandate novel, personalised approaches to disease management. This symposium welcomes abstracts that address either novel diagnostic or therapeutic approaches to disease.

Preventative approaches to improving population health, including the deployment of effective behavioural interventions, are an essential strategy in creating a national “health”, rather than a national “disease”, system. This must address major health inequalities that pervade our society. The effective use of data science represents a critical tool in our armament to improve population health. This symposium invites abstracts on any aspect of population health, including the innovative use of data science approaches.

The Association warmly welcomes a wide range of themes under its ‘open theme’ category.

I’m excited to bring the world of British and Irish academic medicine to Newcastle after so long, to experience translational science with a Newcastle flavour

Professor Chris Day
Professor Chris Day Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University

State-of-the-Art science

The committee is excited to see the range of presenters, which range from ‘homegrown’ researchers in Newcastle to world-class, international level speakers. Promised highlights include Newcastle alumnus Patrick Chinnery, head of neuroscience at the University of Cambridge and head of the Medical Research Council, who will be discussing his route into genomics, as well as developments on the malaria vaccine from Sir Adrian Hill, Family Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford and an honorary Consultant Physician in Infectious Diseases.

Professor David Burn, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle, is particularly looking forward to the section on ageing. “I’m interested to see more on this and long-term conditions,
because I think it’s a very neglected area,” he says. “It’s something that really does demand attention for us all going forward as researchers and as clinical colleagues, in terms of the best management of
patients with these conditions. It is also something we are excelling in at Newcastle.”

As one of the key speakers herself, which she describes as “ a real honour”, Professor Sophie Hambleton, Professor of Paediatrics and Immunology at Newcastle University, will be presenting on rare diseases in paediatrics. Her area of particular expertise is in inborn errors of immunity, a collection of disorders that cause problems for the functioning of the immune system. “In my clinical practice, we see babies and young children who are often experiencing really severe infections or catastrophic autoimmunity, and in my research, we try to find out the genetic reasons why.” She is very passionate about both the clinical and research-based aspects of her work, as, she says, it exemplifies the power of molecular medicine. “We are so lucky that we have an array of different types of therapy to support these children informed by our understanding of molecular-level causes of their problems, whether stem cell transplants, gene therapy, precision or small molecule medicine or cellular therapy. 

That’s what I’m going to be talking about.” Prof. Hambleton adds that this is an exciting time for precision medicine. “We talk a lot about precision or personalised medicine – and now we have an opportunity to make this real; this is an example of how we can carry it through by studying the patients, working out the underpinning molecular mechanisms, and then working on correcting them.”

She also believes that although the diseases she focuses on are individually very rare, her research offers applications beyond the paediatrics field. “The way of thinking about patient problems, the challenges, are shared among many rare diseases, and the learning can be applied to other areas of medicine.”

There is also an ‘open themes’ category to welcome cutting edge science from other areas. “The standard at AoP meetings is phenomenally high, and we would hate to think that top-level science is being excluded because it didn’t fit within the other themes,” says Prof. Burn.

I’m Interested to see more on this and long-term conditions, because I think It’s a very neglected area

Professor David Burn Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Medical sciences at Newcastle
Professor David Burn Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Medical sciences at Newcastle

Cross-discipline research

Like Prof. Hambleton, Prof. Burn also believes that there is real value in sharing research across disciplines. “Often, I think there is commonality between conditions; for example, in mechanisms of disease, and possibly even transferable therapeutic approaches,” says Prof. Burn. “One of the beautiful things about attending a meeting such as the Association of Physicians meeting is that colleagues are exposed to research in other areas and it can stimulate their thinking.” Professor David Burn Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle I’m interested to see more on this and long-term conditions, because I think it’s a very neglected area 2 Prof. Day agrees, as someone who has benefited personally from the cross-discipline approach that AoP offers. “As an emerging clinical researcher myself studying liver disease, I used to come to these meetings and hear clinical science going on in other disciplines, science I’d never thought of before and could take back into the hepatology field,” he says. “It’s still the only meeting where you can go and hear high-level, medical science across disciplines from a mix of world experts and emerging clinical researchers – coming to the AoP’s Annual Meeting will remind you of the excitement of the rest of medicine.”

Sharing lessons for ECRs

The committee is particularly passionate about the benefits of attending for emerging clinical researchers. “I think one of the problems of training in clinical academic medicine is that quite early on, you have
chosen your area of clinical practice and you necessarily focus on one specialism,” says Prof. Day. “But I think at those early stages, trying to maintain a broader awareness of and learning from other disciplines is a real advantage – you may just take home some lessons that benefit your own research.” “We would hope that by attending the APAM conference, attendees will learn, for example, about new developments in diagnostics or therapeutics, giving them chance to aspire to greater things in their own research and practice,” adds Prof. Burn. “Plus, there’s also the networking opportunity it provides, which is utterly invaluable – it is so exciting for people to make new contacts and build new collaborations when they realise the work others are doing overlaps with their own.”


There are also practical benefits to presenting at APAM, Prof. Hambleton points out. “I think in all forms of research and training, but perhaps particularly in clinical academia, it’s really important to develop the skill of presenting and communicating your work to other people,” she says. “ The beauty of this meeting is that it’s small enough to really converse and get up close with people who are true experts in your field, people who are genuinely interested in training and supporting others along the path they’ve already trodden. It essentially allows you to lean in, stand up and defend your ideas, and become part of that bigger conversation.”

Prof. Burn is also keen to encourage more ECRs to make the move into academia. “We know from research by the Medical Research Council that the number of clinical academics in the UK are steadily declining,” he says. “But if, through this meeting, we could enthuse young researchers with clinical backgrounds to want to pursue academia, that would be a fantastic outcome.”

We talk a lot about precision or personalised medicine – and now we have an opportunity to make this real

Professor Sophie Hambleton Professor of Paediatrics and Immunology at Newcastle University
Professor Sophie Hambleton Professor of Paediatrics and Immunology at Newcastle University

A patient-first focus

Multi-disciplinary as it may be by nature, the organisers recognise that people working in translational medicine are united by several common drivers besides curiosity, a love of learning, and a desire to improve their knowledge. “Yes, being a so-called translational scientist means we love doing the science, we love being in laboratories or sitting at our computers, analysing data sets,” says Prof. Day. “But we’re all largely, if not entirely, driven by making a difference to our patients, asking how we take great science from our labs into patient care. That’s the common bond that will bring everybody in that room together.”

For Prof. Day, hosting the conference in Newcastle is particularly poignant. He was the local organiser of AoPGBI thirty years ago, the last time it was held in the city. “Back in 1994, I was in my early 30s, an emerging clinical researcher who had just been awarded the MRC Clinician Scientist Fellowship,” he explains. “I was asked by the boss to put together the abstracts and the posters and work with the other organisers – so to be coming back 30 years later as the Vice Chancellor, and to be able to show the world what has happened in medicine in Newcastle since, is a fantastic privilege for me.”

Professor Chris Day
Professor Chris Day Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University

“We are very much looking forward to welcoming you all to our wonderful city to hear about the latest in translational medicine with a Newcastle “flavour”. The meeting will be held in our recently opened Frederick Douglass Centre on the Helix Site, adjacent to the iconic St James’ Park and named after the social reformer and abolitionist whose freedom from slavery was paid for, in part, by a donation made by a family in Newcastle.”

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