More than £100,000 was handed to top local researchers at the annual North Staffordshire Medical Institute awards evening.
The money will be used to fund groundbreaking studies into a range of health conditions, including childhood asthma and sleep apnoea, lung disease and brain injuries.
Experts in prostate and bladder cancer, bowel disease and health literacy will also profit from the charity’s funding injection.
Chairman Professor Shaughn O’Brien announced the projects that had made it through an exhaustive selection process at the Institute’s headquarters in Hartshill Road, Stoke-on-Trent.
He gave out the awards in front of invited guests including the cream of North Staffordshire’s scientific and medical community. Also present was Paul Williams, who is leading Stoke-on-Trent’s bid for UK City of Culture 2021.
Paediatrician Dr Will Carroll, based at the University Hospitals of the North Midlands (UHNM), was leading a study that received £19,244 to investigate the link between vitamin D deficiency and childhood asthma.
He believes it will show that children with healthy vitamin D levels are less likely to have asthma attacks.
He said: “As you know, vitamin D is the answer to everything and it’s as easy as going out into the sunshine. But to prove it we’re going to have to do a randomised controlled trial.”
His colleague Dr Martin Samuels, a fellow paediatrician, received £20,000 for his research into obstructive sleep apnoea in children.
He said: “We’re going to look at a very large database of several thousand studies to see if we can better find out how to make the diagnosis.
“There’s a lot of controversy about this at the moment and whether children need to have their tonsils and adenoids taken out.”
Dr Paul Campbell, a disease control expert from Keele University, collected £14,769 towards a study into public health literacy.
He said: “What we want to do is to identify people who have got low levels of health literacy within general practice. We want to find an algorithm to flag up to a GP that they may need to change their consultation.
“We’re going to look at a medical records data set and thankfully the medical institute have pump-primed us to do that.”
Researcher Dr Abigail Rutter received £18,000 towards a study into pleural effusion – known as ‘water on the lungs’ – which can be a symptom of a wide range of health problems. She plans to analyse the fluid using cutting-edge SIFT-MS technology.
She said: “We’re going to take the fluid and effectively ‘smell it’ and hopefully we will be able to make a non-invasive diagnosis from the results.”
Mark Kitchen, a urology lecturer at Keele University, received £4,200 towards designing a urine test for prostate and bladder cancers.
He said: “We’re effectively looking for non-invasive biomarkers for cancers.”
Awards of just almost £26,000 in total were announced for the winners of the new Institute Firelighter Awards, held in collaboration with the Research and Development Department at UHNM.
Staff at the Trust were invited to submit their research ideas to a Dragon’s Den-style panel of experts who would then award grants of up to £10,000 for the best projects.
Consultant gastroenterologist Adam Farmer collected the awards on behalf of the three winners – doctors Arun Kurup, Stuart Harrison and Jackie Mclennan.
He said: “We invited applications from across the trust and I’m pleased to say that we awarded three prizes for projects which we felt would have a direct clinical impact in the near future.”
Dr Kurup will be researching bowel disease, Dr Harrison traumatic brain injuries and Dr Mclennan nosebleeds.
The North Staffordshire Medical Institute is a medical charity funded by public donations and the revenue from its purpose-built conference facilities.
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