Making Progress in the Research Environment for ME
ME Conference Week 2019 in London saw a week of multiple events organised by UK charity Invest in ME Research.
The charity organised five days and evenings of events and facilitated numerous other meetings and collaborations which have broadened and enhanced the foundations of international biomedical research into ME that we have laid for the last fourteen years. More details of each of the events are given below.
As usual, the charity spent ten months organising these events.
We are hoping that new developments being planned will augment the foundation of research which we have been able to establish and that
it will create the best opportunities for progressing research into ME.
Thinking the Future
The Thinking the Future - Young/Early Career Researcher network came together to participate in the full day TtF3 conference in London on 28th May.
Fifty-five delegates were invited to the forum representing USA, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Australia.
The NIH generously awarded travel grants to a number of North American young investigators. IiMER paid for all registration costs and dinners for the young investigators and also paid for them to attend the following BRMEC9 Research Colloquium over the next two days.
In this way we wanted to encourage collaboration and a sense of togetherness.
IiMER also contributed to funding of travel/hotel expenses for a number of young investigators including one from Edinburgh, from Sweden and from Finland.
We also had "experienced" researchers attending to add their weight to the meeting.
One of the first stories from the young investigators is here. We hope for more.
Our thanks to Drs Vicky Whittemore and Andrew Breeden from NIH in working so well with us to build the foundations for Thinking the Future.
The Colloquiums are unique and we are confident that this model is the correct one for making rapid progress for research into ME.
The two day Colloquium, now in its ninth year, had researchers from around the world discussing, sharing, innovating, collaborating on research into this disease which will help all ME patients and their families.
The atmosphere this year was again friendly and productive. One researcher said he had been at the Colloquium for just four hours and already had made five potential collaborations.
IiMER worked especially hard this year to facilitate collaborations and progress. We even invited two researchers from Nottingham University as we knew there were links already with Dr Ron Tompkins at Harvard, who was speaking at the Colloquium.
The charity also invited a new Dutch researcher to the Colloquium at the last minute after discussions with a Dutch supporter and EMEA Holland Frank Twisk.
As this researcher will be instrumental in helping the Dutch Health Council formulate policy in the Netherlands for ME
then we ensured that the Colloquium could be used to facilitate future collaboration.
We have now also made a good contact in the Netherlands and for the future.
Over 130 invites were sent to this year's Colloquium and almost one hundred had been accepted by the week before the Colloquium.
This was the largest gathering of researchers performing or planning biomedical research into ME - another fact that supporters of the charity can take credit for.
IIMEC14 - 14th International ME Conference
The public IIMEC14 conference was another wonderful event which had delegates from twenty countries.
Dr Ros Vallings has produced the first report of the conference - it can be seen here.
IiMER will produce the official report and the videos of the conference will be made available online via the charity's website.
The Anne Örtegren Memorial Lecture is dedicated in honour of the work of IiMER supporter and advocate Anne Örtegren from Sweden, who passed away in 2018.
This year's lecture was given by Professor Stuart Bevan from the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases, Kings College London.
Professor Bevan spoke about chronic pain. His work is focused on sensory transduction in neuronal and non-neuronal cells, the transduction and transmission of noxious and innocuous stimuli in peripheral sensory nerves and mechanisms of pain and analgesia.
Prior to the lecture the charity paid tribute to Anne and to Professor Jonas Blomberg who passed away this year.
Perhaps the highlight of the conference was the announcement by Professor Simon Carding from Quadram Institute of three new initiatives that have been formed at the Centre with Invest in ME Research.
- A new CCG fellowship scheme is being funded jointly by Quadram and IiMER which will see a doctor from the Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG spend a day each week at the research base in Norwich Research Park learning about ME and the research underway. We hope that this is an initiative that will be a model for the future and the charity will continue to support this.
- A clinical trial performed at the Centre which will see all elements in the Centre of Excellence model being utilised.
- A joint UK-Swedish PhD studentship which will see the long-standing collaboration between Norwich and Uppsala University continue. This was an initiative created by the charity in honour of Anne Örtegren. We had hoped that the research project would link with Professors Blomberg and Bergquist - but following Professor Blomberg's passing this year then this will be linked with Professor Bergquist, if possible. IiMER's first funded PhD student - Dr Daniel Vipond - had Professor Bergquist as his external examiner for his viva.
These developments at the Centre will continue developing the foundation of the Centre of Excellence for ME. More details will be added here.
Art and Science
An additional bonus this year was an exhibition by artist Yasmin Crawford. Yasmin has been filming at the Quadram Institute, photographing the IiMER-funded researchers and producing beautiful and intriguing views that blend science and art.
The display was well received.
For those who attended the conference and wish to provide feedback then there is a form that can be used and sent to us - we will then pass this on to Yasmin - download here
The Quadram recently highlighted Yasmin's work in this article - https://quadram.ac.uk/art-and-science-uncover-me/
Pre-Conference Dinner Presentation
The IIMEC14 Pre-Conference dinner presentation was given by Dr Ian Gibson.
Dr Gibson provides his vast experience of science and politics and how ME is entangled between the two.
The entire pre-conference dinner speech will be available on the Invest in ME Research web site as soon as editing has been completed.
Along with other documents produced for the conference week the Journal of IiMER was also given to all delegates.
It is available online at this page.
As we have mentioned before a small charity can achieve what we did in ME Conference Week 2019 because we have wonderful supporters and the progress made by the charity in helping researchers and other organisations is thank to those supporters.