EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Smart Medical Imaging at King's College London and Imperial College London

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Imaging & Biomedical Engineering

Abstract

Medical imaging has made major contributions to healthcare, by providing noninvasive diagnostics, guidance, and unparalleled monitoring of treatment and understanding of disease. A suite of multimodal imaging modalities is nowadays available, and scanner hardware technology continues to advance, with high-field, hybrid, real-time and hand-held imaging further pushing on technological boundaries; furthermore, new developments of contrast agents and radioactive tracers open exciting new avenues in designing more targeted molecular imaging probes. Conventionally, the individual imaging components of probes and contrast mechanisms, acquisition and reconstruction, and analysis and interpretation are addressed separately. This however, is creating unnecessary silos between otherwise highly synergistic disciplines, which our current EPSRC CDT in Medical Imaging at King's College London and Imperial College London has already started to successfully challenge. Our new CDT will push this even further by bridging the different imaging disciplines and clinical applications, with the interdisciplinary research based on complementary collaborations and new research directions that would not have been possible five years ago.

Through a comprehensive, integrated training programme in Smart Medical Imaging we will train the next generation of medical imaging researchers that is needed to reach the full potential of medical imaging through so-called "smart" imaging technologies. To achieve this ambitious goal we have developed four new Scientific Themes which are synergistically interlinked: AI-enabled Imaging, Smart Imaging Probes, Emerging Imaging and Affordable Imaging. This is complemented by a dedicated 1+3 training programme, with a new MRes in Healthcare Technologies at King's as the foundation year, strong industry links in form of industry placements, careers mentoring and workshops, entrepreneurship training, and opportunities in engaging with international training programmes and academic labs to become part of a wider cohort. Cohort building, Responsible Research & Innovation, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, and Public Engagement will be firmly embedded in this programme. Students graduating from this CDT will have acquired a broad set of scientific and transferable skills that will enable them to work across the different medical imaging sub-disciplines, gaining a high employability over wider sectors.

Planned Impact

Strains on the healthcare system in the UK create an acute need for finding more effective, efficient, safe, and accurate non-invasive imaging solutions for clinical decision-making, both in terms of diagnosis and prognosis, and to reduce unnecessary treatment procedures and associated costs. Medical imaging is currently undergoing a step-change facilitated through the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, in particular deep learning and statistical machine learning, the development of targeted molecular imaging probes and novel "push-button" imaging techniques. There is also the availability of low-cost imaging solutions, creating unique opportunities to improve sensitivity and specificity of treatment options leading to better patient outcome, improved clinical workflow and healthcare economics. However, a skills gap exists between these disciplines which this CDT is aiming to fill.

Consistent with our vision for the CDT in Smart Medical Imaging to train the next generation of medical imaging scientists, we will engage with the key beneficiaries of the CDT: (1) PhD students & their supervisors; (2) patient groups & their carers; (3) clinicians & healthcare providers; (4) healthcare industries; and (5) the general public. We have identified the following areas of impact resulting from the operation of the CDT.

- Academic Impact: The proposed multidisciplinary training and skills development are designed to lead to an appreciation of clinical translation of technology and generating pathways to impact in the healthcare system. Impact will be measured in terms of our students' generation of knowledge, such as their research outputs, conference presentations, awards, software, patents, as well as successful career destinations to a wide range of sectors; as well as newly stimulated academic collaborations, and the positive effect these will have on their supervisors, their career progression and added value to their research group, and the universities as a whole in attracting new academic talent at all career levels.

- Economic Impact: Our students will have high employability in a wide range of sectors thanks to their broad interdisciplinary training, transferable skills sets and exposure to industry, international labs, and the hospital environment. Healthcare providers (e.g. the NHS) will gain access to new technologies that are more precise and cost-efficient, reducing patient treatment and monitoring costs. Relevant healthcare industries (from major companies to SMEs) will benefit and ultimately profit from collaborative research with high emphasis on clinical translation and validation, and from a unique cohort of newly skilled and multidisciplinary researchers who value and understand the role of industry in developing and applying novel imaging technologies to the entire patient pathway.

- Societal Impact: Patients and their professional carers will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the new imaging technologies created by our students, and by the emerging cohort of graduated medical imaging scientists and engineers who will have a strong emphasis on patient healthcare. This will have significant societal impact in terms of health and quality of life. Clinicians will benefit from new technologies aimed at enabling more robust, accurate, and precise diagnoses, treatment and follow-up monitoring. The general public will benefit from learning about new, cutting-edge medical imaging technology, and new talent will be drawn into STEM(M) professions as a consequence, further filling the current skills gap between healthcare provision and engineering.

We have developed detailed pathways to impact activities, coordinated by a dedicated Impact & Engagement Manager, that include impact training provision, translational activities with clinicians and patient groups, industry cooperation and entrepreneurship training, international collaboration and networks, and engagement with the General Public.

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