Rosalind Smyth - Biography#

Professor Smyth has made important contributions to understanding of respiratory disease in children in three main areas:

1. Immunopathology of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) bronchiolitis. This programme, was developed by her in Liverpool and quickly came in international prominence.

2. Systematic reviews and clinical trials: As co-ordinating editor of the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and Genetic Disorders Group, 1995-2010 she oversaw the activities of 109 reviewers in 18 countries. These reviews have led to important new information and identified the need for new clinical trials.

3. Medicines for children: In 1994 Professor Smyth was the first person to report a cluster of children with CF, who required surgery for colonic strictures, prompting a flurry of similar reports worldwide. She hypothesised that colonic strictures were related to the use of a new formulation of high strength pancreatic enzyme supplements and led an epidemiological study, published in The Lancet, which confirmed the hypothesis. As a result of this study and subsequent regulatory action, this complication is no longer reported in the UK. Since then she has pursued her interest in the development of safe and effective medicines for children and has been principle and co-investigator in a number of clinical trials in cystic fibrosis.

She has extensive experience in academic leadership, locally, nationally and internationally.
In Liverpool, Professor Smyth headed Child Health (2001-10), School of Reproductive and Developmental Medicine (2008-10), Director of Clinical Research, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences (2010) and Executive Director of Liverpool Health Partners (2011) As one of three Faculty academic leads she had a senior strategic position supporting the Executive PVC. Her remit included establishing an Academic Health Science System, Liverpool Health Partners, with founding partners, University of Liverpool and six NHS Trusts. This was established in 2011; she was Executive Director. Achievements included a Joint Research Office, between the seven partners, reorganisation of clinical academic training and seven new clinical academic programmes.

Despite these demanding leadership roles in Liverpool, she established one of the most internationally recognised paediatric research groups in the UK, with strengths in clinical trials, systematic reviews and immunopathology of RSV bronchiolitis. Collaborations with Pharmacology have led to the MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science (2008), NHS Chair of Pharmacogenetics (2007) and training posts in paediatric pharmacology (7 ACF, 2 ACL and six clinical PhD fellowships). She is a fellow (2006-) and previous Council Member (2009-11) of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an inaugural (2008-) NIHR Senior Investigator (renewed 2011) and worked closely with the MHRA as a member of the Commission on Human Medicines and Chair of its Paediatric Medicines Expert Advisory Group.

Professor Smyth's most important contribution to the health of children has been to establish and direct NIHR Medicines for Children Research Network (MCRN). In 2005, she led a consortium, which was awarded the tender to become the Co-ordinating Centre for the NIHR MCRN. MCRN transformed paediatric research in England and from 2007, the MCRN Co-ordinating Centre co-ordinated the Paediatric Speciality Group and thus all paediatric clinical research in England. She led the NIHR MCRN Co-ordinating Centre in Liverpool (around 25 staff), six local research networks (appointed by the Co-ordinating Centre) and overall responsibility for several hundred MCRN staff across England. Thirteen Clinical Studies Groups reported to her via their chairs. The international panel, which reviewed the MCRN in 2009, stated that their performance was “outstanding,” and that they had established “the best network of its kind in the world”.

Since October 2012,, she has been Director of the UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH) . ICH, with its clinical partner Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) forms the largest grouping of biomedical research dedicated to children outside North America. When she became Director of ICH, she worked with colleagues to develop a new academic strategy. She visited, with senior colleagues, in the early part of 2013, six world-leading Child Health Academic Centres; Sickkids Toronto, Boston Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Stanford University Department of Pediatrics with Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital, Necker Enfants-Malades Hospital, Paris and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia. They also developed memoranda of understanding with the largest Children’s Hospital in China, Chongqing Children’s Hospital at Chongqing Medical University, China and the Department of Pediatrics, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.

The academic strategy of the ICH was launched in March 2014, and is based around five programmes of academic activity: (Genetics and Genomic Medicine, Developmental Biology and Cancer, Developmental Neurosciences, Infection, Inflammation and Immunity and Population Policy and Practice) and four underpinning principles (Interdisciplinarity, Accelerating Translation, National Partnership and Leadership and Developing Academic Leaders). Early achievements include more than doubling research grant income, £22M (2011-12), to £50M (2013-14) per annum, with the research quality of ICH-GOSH publications, as average citation impact, increased from 1.59 to 1.77, which was top in the world (compared with 1.48 for Boston Children’s Hospital).

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