Physics of Life Network+ (PoLNet3)

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

The 'Physics of Life' (PoL) is both a current Grand Challenge research theme for EPSRC, and (since 2018) a priority topic for UKRI Strategic, Research Fund. The growing UK Physics of Life community has been supported since 2013 by two successive Network+ grant, demonstrating a growing and potentially sustainable programme of research. This, third phase of the Network has been stimulated by five evidenced opportunities:

(1) The hugely over-subscribed and high-quality response to the first call for major PoL grant
(2) The continuous demand for workshops on life-science/physical science topics, and from people newly-engaged in the Network.
(3) The increased opportunity and interest in biomedical/physics collaborations, including the participation of MRC in the UKRI SRF, the expression of interest by the Rosetrees Foundation in co-supporting PolNet, and the relevance of a number of pressing biomedical challenges
(4) The growth in demand from the UK ECR community for places on the PoLNet summer schools.
(5) The new 'Technology Touching Life' (TTL) cross-council initiative.

PolNet3 will respond to these challenges by:

Supporting the existing and future cluster of PoL UKRI projects by networking and punp-priming research, and working to mainstream UK national PoL funding.
Stimulating a regular series of agenda-setting and community-creating workshops
Expanding engagement with PoLNet to a wider medical science community, with the support of relevant funders (MRC, Rosetrees, CRUK, Wellcome) and the TTL networks.
Continuing to provide graduate interdisciplinary PoL education through summer schools and other activities, including the development of an ECR-community management role.
Working to engage a wider mathematical and computational community of researchers.
Developing stronger international links to other such networks worldwide

Planned Impact

As well as academic beneficiaries and the UK research funding community, where constructive impact is anticipated, there is considerable impact anticipated in clinical research and in industry.

Major funders of clinical research including the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation increasingly recognise the key role that physics plays, not only in developing novel technologies, but also in bringing the physics paradigm to bear on major medical and biological research questions. This is exemplified by the NIHR Physical Sciences Oncology initiative (physics.cancer.gov) and the more recent Cancer Research UK Multidisciplinary Award Scheme.

There is also an increasing experience within related UK industry in a number of sectors (personal care, pharmaceuticals, medical engineering products, instrument manufacturing, etc.) that bringing the methodologies and techniques of physics together with biology can be transformation in developing new business and improving existing products.

A key feature of the translational strategy of PoLNet2 will be the inclusion of clinical research funders, clinical academics (drawing on their extensive clinical researcher networks funded by NIHR and others and institutes such as JIC and Crick) and industry. The intention is to develop translational research programmes linked to key themes in PoLNET2 including leveraging funding from industry for multidisciplinary focussed workshop events linked to cognate strategies (for example, Cancer Research UK "Grand Challenges")

PolNet3 will develop the portfolio of industry partners established in PoLNet2 by building on existing industry networks where appropriate; for example, those available via the Innovate UK Precision medicine Catapult and the NIHR Health Technology and Diagnostic Evidence Cooperatives and Biomedical Research Centres (the latter with an estimated portfolio of more than 500 companies ranging from SMEs, biotech to major pharma and medical technology companies.

Major strategic infrastructure investments in linked and curated molecular and deep phenotypic data sets, including, for example, the MRC Centre for Medical Bioinformatics in Leeds and the Farr and Turing Institutes and the York BioMedical Institute offer the prospect of building and testing theoretical models developed by PoLNet3 partners.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description In the first year of this network, new partnerships have been made between life and medical scientists and physical scientists have been made. Research questions in neuroscience and brains, and in the science of protein misfiling diseases, have been indentified.

in the second year, we have held several workshops online, some in collaboration with the embedded Rosetrees funded 'Physics of Life and Medicine' (see project website). We have also supported the new cohorts of researchers funded through the first round of UKRI SRF grants, as well las supported preliminary work for second round applications.
Exploitation Route The current work of the Network is moving on from the first round of SRF grants to working on a 'roadmap' for further UK funding of Physics of Life grants, using the same novel 'Co-PI' system as very successful in the first round.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Education,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

URL https://www.physicsoflife.org.uk/polnet3.html
 
Description The network has already brought clinical medics and interdisciplinary academic teams together around underpinning questions of brains and protein diseases. It has also established a collaboration between such networks in the UK and USA The collaboration with Rosetrees on the Physics of Medicine tranche of the projects has continued to bring clinicians into contact with new ideas in physics (see website)
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Education,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Cultural,Policy & public services

 
Description The Physics of Medicine; building a network at the interface between medicine and the physical sciences
Amount £77,132 (GBP)
Funding ID PGS19-2 10092 
Organisation Rosetrees Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2020 
End 04/2023
 
Description Large go to Biological Physics Meeting 
Organisation British Biophysical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Physics of Life are working with IoP BPG and BBS to plan for an attempt to organise a large go to UK biological Physics meeting to further support and grow UK critical mass and community.
Collaborator Contribution We have established buy in from IoP BPG and BBS.
Impact This is an ongoing series of meetings to establish plans.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Large go to Biological Physics Meeting 
Organisation Institute of Physics (IOP)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution Physics of Life are working with IoP BPG and BBS to plan for an attempt to organise a large go to UK biological Physics meeting to further support and grow UK critical mass and community.
Collaborator Contribution We have established buy in from IoP BPG and BBS.
Impact This is an ongoing series of meetings to establish plans.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Physics of Medicine Network 
Organisation Rosetrees Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Physics of Life Network have developed a new arm to the network titled 'Physics of Medicine' to further develop critical mass with reserachers working in medically realted fields and clinical settings.
Collaborator Contribution The new partnership between the Rosetrees Trust and Physics of Life is intended to significantly enhance clinical participation into the Physics of Life network. The aim is to create a sustainable, clinically-focused, Physics of Medicine network community - as part of the wider Physics of Life network by delivering a 3-year programme of multidisciplinary workshops linked to major clinical and biological challenges. Physics of Medicine will therefore deliver a short series of 'Rosetrees Interdisciplinary Challenge Workshops' over the next 3 years covering key clinical challenges from the perspective of the Physics of Life, including but not limited to; Neurodegenerative disease (Feb 2021) Metastasis and resistance (Coming in Autumn 2021) Anti-microbial resistance (Coming in early 2022) Gut disorders (Autumn 2022) Joint degeneration and Heart disease
Impact Physics of Life and Physics of Medicine work closely together to develop new worlshops and collaborations. This collaboration is multi disciplinary, involving physics, biology and medicine.
Start Year 2020
 
Description @PhysicsOfLifeUK Twitter 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact @PhysicsofLifeUK now boasts over 1500 followers. The twitter account is regularly updated to keep the community and those connected up to date with the latest activities related to Physics of Life.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
URL https://twitter.com/physicsoflifeuk?lang=en
 
Description Biophysics and evolution: improving models to predict influenza vaccine effectiveness 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This workshop discussed new interdisciplinary approaches to aid influenza vaccine strain selection through an improved understanding of the biophysics of influenza virus surface proteins.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.physicsoflife.org.uk/biophysics-and-evolution.html
 
Description Launch meeting: Physics in Life and Medicine 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This launch meeting brought together the well established Physic of Life community to launch the third phase of the Physics of Life Network (PoLNET3; 2020-2023) together with the new Physics of Medicine arm (2020-2023). This interdisciplinary meeting introduced the new ambitions of the network, hosted funders and speakers from a diversity of related disciplines and invited panellists to help direct and answer questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.physicsoflife.org.uk/launch.html
 
Description Physics of Brains 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact There is increasing and intense interest in the physical science, and mathematical modelling of aspects of brain and mind that animate most multicellular species. Electrophysiology of neurons and nerves, on the one hand, and modelling and application of neural nets, on the other, are examples of long-standing research programmes at or motivated by the molecular level of structure. Similarly the field of psychophysics has developed sophisticated non-invasive methods for investigation of perception, memory and learning in humans. Yet there is also huge scope for the application of methodologies both experimental and theoretical, from branches of science not currently associated strongly with neuroscience. Advanced imaging, electromagnetic methods, adaptive optics are experimental examples, statistical mechanics and stochastic non-linear systems are promising theoretical tools. The application of novel methods from the physical sciences to brains was identified strategically by the EPSRC Life Science Interface, and has remained a strategic imperative, included in the Roadmap for Physics of Life produced by PoLNet under the key theme of 'information flow in biological systems'. Yet this workshop represents the first PoLNET workshop to focus on neuroscience. The workshop is also the first of a series of interdisciplinary workshops, supported by the Rosetrees Trust and embedded within PoLNET, which focus on key clinical challenges (see Physics of Medicine). The overall question is, what current challenges in brain science could be met by bringing new physical science methods, experimental and theoretical, to bear, together with biomedical, psychological and biological science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.physicsoflife.org.uk/physics-of-brains.html
 
Description Physics of Life Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The Physics of Life website disseminates information to the community about network activities, funding opportunities and how to stay in touch.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
URL https://www.physicsoflife.org.uk/
 
Description Physics of Life mailing alerts 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Physics of Life send a monthly mailing alert to members who have signed up to receive these. It is free for anyone to sign up (see; https://www.physicsoflife.org.uk/contact-us.html). The community enagagement is excellent, the newsletter aims to keep members up to date from all the very latest from Physics of Life. This serves to sustain and support the UK's growing Biological Physics community. We currently have over 800 members signed up to recieve these monthly mailing alerts. Members are mainly UK based but we are also growing in attraction to international members.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
URL https://www.physicsoflife.org.uk/contact-us.html