CF’s Got Talent 2018

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The Cystic Fibrosis Trust is once again bringing you the latest in cystic fibrosis (CF) research, straight from the scientists funded by your donations and fantastic fundraising.

From the lab to the stage… to your screens

At this year’s UK Cystic Fibrosis Conference (UKCFC), celebrity supporter Roger Black MBE will welcome five up-and-coming stars of CF research to the stage for ‘CF’s Got Talent’, to talk about the projects they are working on. The researchers will be looking to communicate their work in an engaging way you at home, watching via Facebook live or video catch-up. 

Live viewers will be able to vote for their favourite presentation, and the prize for the winner is the opportunity to attend the North American CF Conference.

This is the third year of CF’s Got Talent, with 850 tuning in to watch live last year, and a further 4,500 watching some of the presentations online later.

A whistle-stop tour of CF research

Each researcher is representing one of our Strategic Research Centres (SRCs) and will provide a snapshot of their specific research focus within that centre. This year, that means we’ll be treated to an overview of work on Mycobacterium abscessus, CF-related diabetes, distal intestinal obstructive syndrome (DIOS), gene editing and physical activity.

Who’s who? Names to watch

William McCarthy is a first-year PhD student at the University of Cambridge, who will summarise his research on ‘Mycobacterium abscessus: Novel approaches for novel antibiotics’. William said he finds working on a project with real-world impact motivating: "The idea of contributing to the eradication of an infection and improving the lives of thousands of people with CF is inspiring.”

Ryan Kelsey, a second-year PhD student at the University of Ulster, is working on a project entitled “Blocking the CFTR channel in mice causes Diabetes-like symptoms” as part of the CF-related diabetes SRC. Ryan said that “winning would be great, but I’m delighted to merely get the opportunity to showcase my work to the wider CF community. CF’s Got Talent presents a unique challenge of sharing my research in a jargon-free way and I’m already looking forward to getting started!”

When asked why he’s interested in the field of CF research, he told us “Over the last few decades, the life expectancy and the quality of life of people with CF has increased dramatically due to the incredible work by the CF community and I want my research to further contribute to this.” 

Bethan Hawley is a first-year PhD student at Bristol University. Her talk, ‘DIOS – let’s get things moving’ will explain her work as part of the ‘Restoring fluidity in the gut’ SRC

If she won CF’s Got Talent she would be proud of the achievement, but she says that “just taking part and being able to communicate the work that I am doing to individuals with cystic fibrosis and their families is an invaluable opportunity in itself”.

Afroditi Avgerinou, a second-year PhD student at the Institute for Child Health, Great Ormond Street Hospital, and is part of the gene editing SRC. She is working on ‘Cultivation and characterisation of human airway epithelial cells with potential for CFTR editing for the development of cystic fibrosis therapies.’ 

When asked what she’s most excited about in CF research, Afroditi said: “I am excited about the fact that so many researchers are working to find cures and therapies for cystic fibrosis. It is also a field where I feel scientists are really prioritising the interest of the patients and therefore are more willing to collaborate rather than compete.”

Dr Sarah Denford is a post-doctoral research assistant at the University of Exeter, working on the Physical Activity SRC. She’ll be talking about enhancing motivation for physical activity through individualised interventions. Sarah says: “We know physical activity has important health benefits. However, many young people with CF are not as active as they could be. The CF community is incredible, and a pleasure to work with. I’m excited that the importance of physical activity and exercise is starting to be recognised and promoted as much as it is.”

Stiff competition

We received 37 applications to take part in the competition this year.The summaries that researchers submitted were whittled down by a panel of people with CF and parents of children with the condition. They scored the researchers on how clearly they wrote about the aims and objectives, achievements and next steps of their research so far, and how well they explained its relevance to people living with cystic fibrosis. 

Dr Paula Sommer, Head of Research at the Trust, said: “The top five abstracts were chosen by lay people who either have CF or have children with the condition. The quality of work we received was great, and it’s inspiring to see so many bright and dedicated scientists focussing on beating CF for good. 

“I can’t wait for our early-career researchers to share their work with the people who will benefit from it, and the people who fund it, too.” 

When, where and how

This year, the conference is taking place at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham on the 10 September at 5pm. You can tune in on the Trust’s Facebook page to watch and vote for your favourite.  

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