KE Research Sabbatical Case Study

Project title - "Exploring novel biomarkers of appetite"

I have been able to pass on my lab skills to industry-based researchers who are keen to implement our methods in their own labs – a great example of knowledge transfer.

Joanna Chowdry


Project partners

Dr Bernard Corfe

Department of Oncology

Joanna Chowdry

Department of Oncology

Dr Caroline Evans

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering


Leatherhead Food Research


New opportunities for collaborative research have arisen from a KE Industrial Research Sabbatical, a scheme that develops new relationships, enables knowledge exchange and stimulates collaborative activity. The Department of Oncology’s Molecular Gastroenterology team worked with not-for-profit independent scientific consultancy Leatherhead Food Research and the University’s world-leading proteomics group in Chemical and Biological Engineering to explore how salivary biomarker measurements relate to might be used to predict energy intake.

Senior Research Technician Joanna Chowdry applied fresh skills and proteomics knowledge to a part-time secondment into the company. She aimed to improve her understanding of the food industry, identify a usable study and start saliva collection. Presentations, courses and conferences complemented her work, while regular knowledge exchange team meetings kept the project objectives in focus.


Current measurements of appetite used in food product development are unable to be quantified objectively. Previous research by the Molecular Gastroenterology group had shown that increases in salivary thioredoxin were related to reduced appetite. Saliva is a rich source of biomarkers and collecting samples is more straightforward than blood.

Sabbatical team meetings at Leatherhead Food Research identified a suitable satiety study for collecting saliva samples, accelerating progress towards an objective repeatable appetite measure, something invaluable for scientific substantiation of the health claims of weight management products.

Next Steps

A two-way agreement has allowed the University research team to bank saliva samples from the satiety study, along with measures of appetite and energy intake. In return, the company has put in place the saliva collection protocol for future studies, received lab training in processing saliva samples and has access to results of the proteomic analyses.

The project evolved beyond expectations: plans for further collaboration and more research funding include a second project to build a sample analysis dataset. A reciprocal sabbatical for one of the industry-based researchers is another proposal. Leatherhead Food Research is confident of the potential for IP arising from the research. Professor Martin Wickham, Head of Nutrition at the company, said: “We have developed a forum for knowledge transfer in both directions. There is no doubt that this collaboration will generate real future value, in both understanding and business revenue.”

Joanna Chowdry is equally enthusiastic: “I have been able to pass on my lab skills to industry-based researchers who are keen to implement our methods in their own labs – a great example of knowledge transfer.”