Exemplary Seed-corn Projects

Mr Dean Harries

Title: Raman Spectroscopy: towards early diagnosis in colorectal cancer.

Funding: St David’s Medical Foundation Seed-Corn Grant 2013-2014.

Update: Colorectal cancer often presents at an advanced stage despite minimal symptoms. The aim of the research was to develop a minimally invasive test to detect the presence of colorectal cancer markers based on the scientific principle of Raman spectroscopy. The research is being conducted in conjunction with the Centre for Nano Health in Swansea University and the St David’s Medical Foundation funding has been used to optimise the nanoparticle: antibody pairing prior to clinical application. The Seed-Corn support has led to a £99k three year PhD grant award from Cancer Research Wales to develop the application of this novel diagnostic method, which will also be able to detect recurrent disease at very early stages and plan early rescue treatments. 



Dr Owain Howell.

Title: Cortical demyelination, meningeal inflammation and epilepsy in early Multiple Sclerosis.

Funding: St David’s Medical Foundation Seed-Corn Grants 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common disabling neurological disease of midlife with a typical age of onset of 30 years. People with MS can experience a rapidly worsening condition marked by substantial disability, a poor quality of life and an early death. As yet, it is not possible to predict how rapidly someone’s MS will evolve. We have shown that damage to the brains cortical grey matter (the wrinkled structure on our brains surface) is associated with inflammation of the meninges, which cover the brain. Our work has focussed on the immune-mechanisms driving brain injury and have gathered novel findings on how the innate immune system is key to this type of pathology. Moreover multiple sclerosis patients can suffer from seizures and we are searching for biological markers for such complications. This work has also opened the way for the use of new drugs that are effective in controlling immune induced brain inflammation in patients with drug resistant epilepsy.



Dr Jeff Davies.

Title: Ghrelin and Neuronal Development. 

Funding:  Waterloo Foundation.

Title: Can stomach hormones be used to develop a therapy for human Parkinson's Disease?

Funding: St David’s Medical Foundation Seed-Corn Grant 2013-2014.

We are testing the hypothesis that the stomach hormone, ghrelin, and ghrelin-like drugs, protect human nerve cells that are lost in Parkinson’s Disease, the second most common degenerative brain disorder and for which there is no treatment available to stop the progressive nerve cell loss.  An effective therapeutic is urgently required. We have shown that the stomach hormone, ghrelin, protects dopamine neurones in rodent in-vitro and in-vivo toxin models of Parkinson’s Disease, thereby identifying a key mechanism linking energy balance with brain function. Our ongoing work is to delineate the changes in the cell that explain this beneficial effect - and already we have found that one of the cell’s energy sensors is activated by the hormone. This work has been presented British Neuroscience Association meeting in Edinburgh.  We have also published initial findings that  ghrelin triggers neural stem cells to become neurones in the adult brain and that this results in improved memory function (Kent et al.2015):




Menna Brown / Professor Ann John.

Title: Champions for Health: Adaptation and pilot evaluation of a web-based health and wellbeing resource for Graduate Entry Medical (G.E.M) students

Funding: St David’s Medical Foundation Seed-Corn Grant 2019-20.

Champions-for-health.swan.ac.uk is a health and wellbeing website designed to support public sector staff to make positive changes to their lifestyle. The project will adapt the resource for G.E.M students. A participatory design approach, employing focus group discussions and co-design workshops, will enable students to shape the resource and develop scenarios which reflect their experiences. A pilot evaluation will be conducted.



Dr Sarah Prior at al: 

Title:  Investigation of an exercise-induced alteration of the ghrelin axis and its implications in prediabetes.

Funding: St David’s Medical Foundation Seed-Corn Grant 2019-20.

The aim of this project is to see if a home-based exercise trial could help blood sugar levels in overweight people.  Work done within the group has shown that a certain protein within the body can alter how your body stores its fat. We think that exercise could change your levels of this protein. This is important, as how your body stores your fat can have a big impact on how we respond to sugar. Looking at this step-by-step process we could be able to find a way to stop people who are overweight from moving onto Type 2 diabetes.



Dr Gillian Conway et al:

Title: Investigation of the antineoplastic efficacy of plant derived bioactive compounds in a three dimensional (3D) in-vitro glioblastoma multiforme model.

Funding: St David’s Medical Foundation Seed-Corn Grant 2019-20.

The aim of this project is to establish a more realistic and physiologically relevant in vitro three-dimensional (3D) glioblastoma (GBM) model. This model will be used to test the efficacy of naturally derived bioactive compounds to overcome current GBM therapeutic resistance.