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Robert A Watson


NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow

I work as an Academic Clinical Fellow within Ben Fairfax’s molecular oncology group and my research focuses on the genetics of immune cells in patients with melanoma. I’m also a clinician and I combine laboratory research with clinical practice.

In the last 5 years, the treatment of cancer has undergone a paradigm shift and the increasingly widespread use of immunotherapies has created a new field within oncology and cancer research. There is a high degree of variability in response to checkpoint inhibitor therapy, and whilst many patients receive clear benefits from these treatments, a subset have adverse side effects or may not respond at all. We currently have a poor understanding of why there is such inter-individual variation.

By using clinical samples from patients with melanoma who are undergoing treatment with immunotherapies, we are hoping to try to unpick and understand the mechanisms at play.

The techniques I am currently using range from flow cytometry, to immune receptor profiling and single cell gene sequencing. The amount of data generated is vast and requires good computational skills to analyse.

I currently work one morning a week in the cancer clinic and following my period of research will return to full-time clinical training. I am employed on an NIHR scheme which aims to give clinicians the chance to gain research experience and build clinical academic careers. As such, I aim to gain skills and data in this research period, to enable me to apply for PhD/DPhil funding in due course.

As well as this, I am Director of Graduate Entry Medicine at Worcester College. I organise all of the College teaching for the medical students on the accelerated medicine course (i.e. those graduates who have done other degrees and now want to study medicine) and also teach the clinical medical students at Worcester.

Prior to my ACF, I studied medicine at Oxford before undertaking clinical training in North West London and some research at Imperial College London. Additionally, I’m interested in Healthcare Policy and spent some time as a researcher at The Nuffield Trust think tank. Many of my publications therefore have a policy/public health slant to them.