Pint of Science Festival welcomes rare disease!

Pint of Science Festival welcomes rare disease!

CRDN hosts a rare disease themed pub for the annual international pint of science festival…

Pint of Science is a non-profit organisation that brings some of the most brilliant scientists to your local pub to discuss their latest research and findings with you.

In 2012 Dr Michael Motskin and Dr Praveen Paul were two research scientists at Imperial College London. They began by organising an event called ‘Meet the Researchers’. It brought people affected by Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis into their labs to show them the kind of research they do. It was inspirational for all involved.

They thought “if people want to come into labs to meet scientists, why not bring the scientists out to the people?” And so Pint of Science was born.

In May 2013 they held the first 3-day festival in Cambridge, London and Oxford.

Our events manager, Jo Balfour, co-hosted the Cambridge Neuroscience pub that first year in collaboration with Dr Hannah Critchlow, author of Ladybird Expert Series book, Consciousness.

Pint of Science quickly took off around the world and now happens in nearly 300 cities covering all manner of scientific topics.

We were delighted to be given the opportunity to host a rare disease themed pub in Cambridge during the festival!

The chance to host a pub, at an international festival with 19,500 twitter & 21,000 facebook followers, helped us put rare firmly on the menu

We hosted two evenings at Cambridge’s trendy drinking hole, Thirsty.  Both nights were sold out and we packed into their back room to hear about exciting research into rare disease taking place on our doorstep and personal stories of living with rare disease. Our speakers ranged from well know Cambridge rare disease expert Dr Lucy Raymond to emerging shining light, PhD student Patrick Short.  A huge thank you to all of their speakers for their fascinating talks, their personal stories and for getting involved in the fun.

For the full line up, speaker bios and talk synopses click on the links below.

Treasure Your Exceptions

Rare Disease: The Genomic Revolution, Searching for Cure for the 1 in 17

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - Pint of Science Festival welcomes rare disease! 3
Cambridge Rare Disease Network - Pint of Science Festival welcomes rare disease! 4

Rare Disease Day 2018 – CRDN/NIHR lecture event

Rare Disease Day 2018 – CRDN/NIHR lecture event

CRDN and NIHR Cambridge Bioresource team collaborate to host a Cambridge rare disease day lecture event #ShowYourRare

Rare Disease Day takes place on the last day of February each year. The purpose is to raise awareness amongst the general public and decision-makers about rare diseases and their impact on the lives of those affected.

Since its launch by EURORDIS and its Council of National Alliances in 2008, thousands of events have taken place throughout the world reaching hundreds of thousands of people and resulting in a substantial of media coverage. 

Following on from 2017, the theme for RDD is once again research. There has been great progress in rare disease research, often driven by effective collaborations between companies, researchers and patient advocacy groups.  Click here to find out more about the vital role patients play in the research process.

Together, CRDN and the Cambridge NIHR Bioresource team created a programme of short talks to showcase some of the ground-breaking research  being undertaken in Cambridge into a range of rare conditions.

 

The theme of rare disease day 2018 is research.
The best research translates findings into meaningful health outcomes and  involves patients  at all stages.

#showyourrare                   #whywedoresearch

 
Cambridge Rare Disease Network - Rare Disease Day 2018 - CRDN/NIHR lecture event 5

Snow didn’t stop play…

Despite the snow and chilly temperatures calling for a cosy evening in on the sofa, the rare disease community came out in force to celebrate Rare Disease Day 2018 at the Uni of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, William Harvey Lecture theatre.  Dr. Mike More, Chair of Cambridge University Hospitals, opened the evening for an exciting mix of attendees: those living with rare disease and their family members; young health professionals and students; clinicians; company and charity representatives working in related fields and the curious. Those gathered were treated to excellent presentations about current research from a wide range of speakers based on the Cambridge Biomedical campus and in the city. See the agenda opposite for info on speakers and their talks.

We used Glisser technology at the event to encourage the audience to get involved and engage with speakers by posing questions, responding to polls and sharing slides via social media. For the speaker responses to delegate questions please see here 

CRDN trustee helps new mums learn genomics from home

CRDN trustee helps new mums learn genomics from home

Dr Gemma Chandratillake, CRDN trustee and East of England Genomics Education Lead, attended the No Isolation AV1 avatar breakout workshop at the CRDN Summit 2017 in October.

Like others attending she quickly began to see applications for the robot beyond its original purpose, to reduce isolation for children living with long-term, chronic illness.  At the summit, Mio Kristiansen, from No Isolation, gave the audience an opportunity to see the robot in action as it sat on the stage during the afternoon talks, controlled from Edinburgh by Rare Disease carer, father and advocate John Wallace.

John was unable to leave his family to travel to the event so joined us via AV1, watching the action live on his laptop at home, and on one occasion, heckling the speaker and being told to be quiet!

So how did this inspire Gemma to help her students?

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - CRDN trustee helps new mums learn genomics from home 6
Image above from Cambridge Independent newspaper
Cambridge Rare Disease Network - CRDN trustee helps new mums learn genomics from home 7
Screenshot above from C4 news  website
Read this article in the Cambridge Independent newspaper, and watch the recent Channel 4 news footage from Jon Snow.

CRDN Inaugural Summit: Tackling the rare disease conundrum with passion, innovation and investment

CRDN Inaugural Summit: Tackling the rare disease conundrum with passion, innovation and investment

Tackling the rare disease conundrum with passion, innovation and investment

Article by Paul Tunnah, Pharmaphorum

Passion

The level of passion for making a difference among all those working in rare diseases is incredible, but it is no doubt led by the patients and their families themselves, each with their own unique story. But it is the ability for these individuals to truly empower themselves and cross the bridge from patient/carer to researcher, communicator and innovator that never ceases to amaze me. 

Take the example of Matt Might whose response to his son’s initially undiagnosed condition was to secure funding for his entire genome sequencing and identify a completely new rare disease cause by a mutation in the NGLY1 gene. Since then, he has built a global community (NGLY1.org), which has so far identified 39 patients around the world, accepted a Visiting Professorship at Harvard Medical School and is now actively leading the race to find a drug that can be used as an effective treatment.

His opening keynote set the tone for the entire day and his experience is reflective of many others who are taking the same proactive steps and not waiting for others to bring the medicine to them. Nick Sireau, one of the CRDN founders and Chairman of the AKU Society and Findacure, is another good example in the work he has done to identify a treatment for his two sons, who have alkaptonuria (AKU), also known as black bone disease.

Innovation comes in many forms, but drug development is at the core of it

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - CRDN Inaugural Summit: Tackling the rare disease conundrum with passion, innovation and investment 8
Professor Gregory Winter – Cam Uni and Cambridge Antibody Technology (right), Dr Tim Guilliams – Founder and Chair CRDN (left)

 Innovation

Such passion needs to be combined with innovation to help find solutions to the problems that rare disease patients and their families face. Innovation comes in many forms, but drug development is at the core of it and the Summit featured several notable scientific researchers sharing their experiences.

 Professor Sir Greg Winter, cofounder of Cambridge Antibody Technology and local to Cambridge as Master of Trinity College, explained the science of synthetic antibodies and their critical role in treating diseases where the genetic pathways are well understood, including their developing application in rare diseases. His current focus is on bicyclic small peptides, which could hold the same therapeutic potential as antibodies, while being able to permeate cells more easily owing to their small size and being cheaper to produce. A later speech by Professor Steve Jackson, also locally based with his work at The Gurdon Institute, presented equally dazzling science into the mechanisms of DNA-repair pathways. Although early application has been in cancer treatment (Jackson was a founder of KuDOS Pharmaceuticals, which developed olaparib and was later acquired by AstraZeneca), the potential is much broader and his work touches on rare diseases such as ataxia.

Innovation also comes in how the rare disease community is connected to help elevate disease awareness and aid in bringing such great science to patients. Eurordis, the ‘voice of rare disease patients in Europe’ has been at the forefront of activities here and clearly has ambitions to expand into a more global role. Denis Costello, RareConnect Project Leader, provided a sneak preview of what the new RareConnect.org information platform will look like, which appears to be very much like a Google for rare diseases, including translation into multiple languages. With launch anticipated in the next couple of months, watch this space!

Passion and innovation is impossible to translate into front-line treatment without sufficient funding

Investment

Innovation also comes in how the rare disease community is connected to help elevate disease awareness and aid in bringing such great science to patients. Eurordis, the ‘voice of rare disease patients in Europe’ has been at the forefront of activities here and clearly has ambitions to expand into a more global role. Denis Costello, RareConnect Project Leader, provided a sneak preview of what the new RareConnect.org information platform will look like, which appears to be very much like a Google for rare diseases, including translation into multiple languages. With launch anticipated in the next couple of months, watch this space!

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - CRDN Inaugural Summit: Tackling the rare disease conundrum with passion, innovation and investment 9
Herman Hauser – speaker 

 One topic for the day was the idea of ‘repurposing’ – taking existing drugs for more common conditions and securing approval for them to be used as a rare disease therapeutic. This has been a core focus for the work of the aforementioned champions like Matt Might, but more systematic initiatives are now underway with platforms like  www.cureaccelerator.org. Dr Bruce Bloom, President of Cures Within Reach, the organisation behind Cure Accelerator, also outlined how they are trying to work with the generics industry as a whole to support drug repurposing.

While charities such as MRC Technology are working tirelessly to help fund the transition from research to treatment and there is a sense that more funding is flowing in the direction of this area (something also covered by Professor Steve Jackson), there is a clear need to explore novel funding mechanisms. This was covered during an interesting session on ‘alternative funding strategies’, which included crowdfunding and the growing area of impact investing, where investment is made not just on the basis of expected return financially, but also what ethical impact the work will have. 

Could we see ‘social investment bonds’ help drive future rare disease research?

Paul Tunnah

Ultimately, it is clear that the involvement of commercial companies in rare diseases is critical to accelerate the race to find cures. Financial incentives are part of the solution here, but also needed is the realisation that a rare disease indication can provide a good ‘foothold’ for approval as a precursor to approval in a broader range of indications. In addition, the experience gained from working in the microcosm of rare diseases could also have much broader benefits, as personalised medicine holds the potential to ultimately segment common conditions into clusters of rare diseases.

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - CRDN Inaugural Summit: Tackling the rare disease conundrum with passion, innovation and investment 10
Professor Stephen Hawking provided a video keynote 

A closing video keynote from none other than Professor Stephen Hawking reminded us all of the importance of continued activity in tackling the challenges of rare diseases. Hawking, who was diagnosed at a young age with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a motor neurone disease, has defied the odds in staying alive, but how many brilliant minds have been lost too early under similar circumstances? I would challenge any health economist to calculate the benefits of investing in rare disease treatment in that context