Houston Methodist Research Institute (HMRI) is part of the Houston Methodist system which operates eight hospitals in Houston.
Its flagship hospital, Houston Methodist, is consistently ranked as one of the best hospitals in the US and has a global repuation for cardiovascular surgery, cancer, epilepsy treatment and organ transplantation.
The goal of HMRI is to quickly translate lab discoveries into treatments for patients which it does by building global collaborations and interdiscplinary teams. It has over 600 faculty, almost 2,000 researchers and over 4,000 physicians and in 2017 carried out over 1000 clinical trials and studies.
Research collaborations between academics from Swansea and HMRI have resulted in 18 joint publications since 2013 covering topics such as the biological effects of non-invasive radiofrequency electric-field cancer hyperthermia and benchmarking of drug delivery vectors.
Since 2012 the University has had a collaborative PhD programme with HMRI which allows students to spend years two and three of their PhD at HMRI.
Dr Matt Ware from Swansea was the first graduate of the programme and went on to work at Baylor College of Medicine, also a member of the Texas Strategic Partnership. While there he patented a new intra-operative device - the CorleyWare Device - to treat portions of cancer that, because of their location, cannot be removed by a surgeon’s scalpel. He was also intrumental in establishing the Summer Innovation Programme which allows Swansea students to spend 6 weeks at Baylor College of Medicine.
Matt is now a scientist at Celgene, an American biotechnology company that discovers, develops and commercializes medicines for cancer and inflammatory disorders.
Swansea PhD student Ricardo Bessa Castro is part of a team at HMRI whose research could transform treatment for retinal degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.
Ricardo, who is enrolled on the University's collaborative PhD programme with HMRI, was part of the team that developed new lab-on-a-chip technology that could quickly screen possible drugs to repair damaged neuron and retinal connections, such as those seen in people with macular degeneration.
Retinal degeneration is a leading cause of blindness that, together with glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, and age-related macular degeneration, will affect 196 million people worldwide in 2020.
The research, published in Science Advances in May 2018, created on a chip a sophisticated retina cell network that is modelled after a human's neural network and which can screen drugs fast than current technologies. Fast treatment is crucial as damaged retina cells can quickly cause neighbouring, previously healthy cells to die, with as many as 10, 000 cells dying in 24 hours. This breakthrough will aid researchers in finding the right drug to treat retinal diseases and could lead to the development of a new drug.