Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals are committed to supporting the training and development of staff so that they can carry out pioneering and world-class research into heart and lung diseases. In partnership with the research office, the Charity launched a fellowship in 2019 for non-medical health professionals, which awards staff with up to £50,000 in funding, allowing them to undertake up to 12 months of research in order to develop their research skills and produce data to win further funding. 

The four successful candidates were selected by a panel of clinical experts and lay advisors who looked at several factors including: patient benefit, scientific advancement and training plans. 

The awardees for 2020 are Timothy Jenkins, Specialist Physiotherapist, Ali Nuh, Senior Biomedical ScientistCharlotte Wells, Paediatric Physiotherapist and Thomas Burgoyne, Senior Paediatric Scientist. We spoke to Thomas about his role at Royal Brompton and goals for the grant.  

How long have you been working at the Trust? 

I have been working at the Trust for just over four and half years. 

How did you become interested in this area of scientific research? 

During my PhD at Imperial College, I collaborated with the group that I now work with at the Trust. When they introduced me to their research, I quickly became interested in primary cilia dyskinesia and developing better ways to understand and diagnose the disease. I felt my expertise in imaging were well suited and that I could make a difference in this field of research. 

What does your job entail? 

My job involves lots of imaging using an electron microscope to look at patient samples and writing computer software to help improve and speed up the diagnosis of primary ciliary dyskinesia. I also spend time helping with the management of an ongoing research project and setting up new projects. 

What is the most rewarding part of your job? 

There are many aspects that I really enjoy that include formulating research ideas, making new discoveries and spending time with other scientists as well as clinicians and diagnostic personal to discuss our field of work. It also means a lot to me, to know that the work that we do can benefit patients and their families. 

What do you hope to achieve with this grant? 

I hope to create a tool to reduce the time to make a diagnosis of PCD by automatically collecting images on the electron microscope. This will help to enhance the artificial intelligence work that we are doing, by providing images and leading to further improvements in the diagnosis of PCD. Once developed I will make the tool freely available so that it can be downloaded and used by other UK and worldwide diagnostic centres. 

Why is it difficult to diagnose PCD at the moment? 

PCD is a complex disease caused by a range of genetic mutations. This means there are a range of different indicators of the disease that need to be checked when making a diagnosis. In images taken from PCD patient samples some of these indicators can be very subtle and difficult to detect often requiring a large amount of time as well as a high level of expertise and experience. 

How is AI currently used to benefit patients? 

AI can exist in medical apps or software to help provide information or assess the patient when they are unable to see a doctor or to provide reassurance and data that can be used for treatments at a later date. There are a range of other benefits of AI including medical devices that learn to better understand the patients' needs for those that are disabled as well as look for patterns or correlations in medical results to discover more about diseases and new ways to treat them. 

How do you feel about receiving this grant? 

I am delighted to have got this grant, as it provides an excellent opportunity to progress my research career and to pursue my passion for developing improved methods to diagnose PCD. 


Our CEO Gill Raikes said, “The Charity team is very proud of this modest support we give to people who are starting out on a journey to change the world!” 

Read more about the fellowship on the Trust’s website