Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Southampton Clinical Academic Training Scheme

Case Study: Dr James Ashton, ACF in Paediatrics

What is your current role?

I was awarded an NIHR academic clinical fellowship in paediatrics in 2014 by the Wessex deanery. Following completion of the ACF in September 2017 I have been awarded a research training fellowship by Action Medical Research to a complete a 3 year PhD in Paediatric Crohn’s disease at Southampton Children’s Hospital/University of Southampton.


Dr James Ashton
Dr James Ashton

Tell us a bit about your research?

The research I undertook during my ACF has underpinned the work I now do in my PhD.  About 1/3 of all Crohn’s disease diagnoses occur in patients aged less than 21 years and the disease is more severe with more complications in children compared to adults. I am very interesting in the genetic-environmental interaction in Crohn’s disease and my research explores this through next-generation sequencing of the exome (all genes), transcriptome (genes being expressed) and microbiome (bacteria) in newly diagnosed paediatric Crohn’s disease patients. There is a lot of basic science coupled with patient recruitment, interaction and sample acquisition. Our aim is to better understand what causes disease, how this differs between patients (different genetic problems, environmental impacts etc) and how we can improve diagnosis and treatment for these children.

Why did you choose to apply for a NIHR academic clinical fellow post?

I have always wanted to do research, I had previously completed an academic foundation programme and the additional time, flexibility and ability to do more research to prepare for a fellowship application was very appealing.

What opportunities did the post provide? What did it enable you to achieve?

Having 9 months of dedicated research time allows for production of key pilot data, acquisition of new skills vital to my work (such as command line computing) and additional opportunities such as presentations and publication of >15 peer reviewed publications.

How has being a NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow benefitted your career?

The paediatric NIHR ACF has allowed me to successfully apply for an external PhD fellowship to fund me and my research for 3 years. Also the opportunities related to travel for international conferences, additional funding, access to training and presentations/publications have allowed me to pursue my interests and really confirmed my plans for a clinical-academic career. The programme is a fantastic opportunity for those who want to continue in research and  it has been hugely beneficial to my own career.

How has your work benefitted patients and the public? Or how will they benefit in the future?

Our work uses basic science and the translational element, although closer than ever before, is still some years away. Despite this we have made clinically relevant discoveries including identifying a monogenic cause for inflammatory bowel disease in a young patient and utilising disease extent data to build a computer model to aid with diagnostic categorisation.

Find out more

Academic Clinical FellowshipsWhy Southampton

The programme is a fantastic opportunity for those who want to continue in research.

Privacy Settings