Research and innovation
Joint academic/NHS appointments are strongly encouraged but NHS time provision overall must be sufficient to cover the clinical workload of two whole-time equivalents. Most immunologists (irrespective of whether they are partly or wholly academic/university funded) are actively involved in ethical committee-approved research projects, often collaborating with other specialties where immunopathology is common (eg renal medicine, rheumatology, dermatology, neurology, infectious diseases).
The local immunology diagnostic laboratory is also often a focus for research and is clinically directed by consultants in immunology. It receives and (with consent) stores precious patient samples for diagnosis and disease monitoring. The laboratory skills and equipment often help form the basis of audit and research collaborations. The majority of consultant immunologists have research experience, sometimes from prior to applying for STG3 specialty clinical training. Completion of an MD or PhD degree in immunology is encouraged. There is a close relationship between research and subspecialty expertise. Non-academic immunologists also participate in research in a variety of ways, including:
- contributing to national and international databases
- studying families with rare or novel diseases in the UK 100,000 genome project
- directing opportunities provided by the diagnostic immunology laboratories, eg the ESID registry (European Society for Immunodeficiencies), which lists detailed genetic diagnostic information and clinical features of rare immunodeficiencies.
University links facilitate innovation and development of new laboratory methodologies in collaboration with medical school based academics. Specialist accreditation mandates participation in regional or national networks such as the UK Primary Immunodeficiency Network (UK PIN) which provides patient care guidelines and information for patients, offering further opportunities for national projects. An example is a national audit of practice and pitfalls associated with diagnostic blood testing for bee and wasp venom anaphylaxis which led to updated practical guidelines.