Health and care research partnerships across Oxford are to benefit from a combined investment of almost £122 million over the next five years to improve diagnosis, treatment and care, the National Institute for Health and Care Research have announced.
The funding was awarded to the city’s two NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (BRC), developed collaboratively by Oxford Academic Health Partner organisations.
The NIHR Oxford BRC, a partnership between the University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust, will receive £86.6m over the next five years to fund 15 research themes, while the NIHR Oxford Health BRC, a partnership between the University and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust will get £35.4m to support research across 11 research themes.
The BRCs bring together academics and clinicians to translate scientific breakthroughs into potential new treatments, diagnostics and medical technologies that benefit NHS patients.
The Oxford BRC – whose research covers a range of health themes including cancer, genomics, vaccines, obesity, cardiovascular medicine and microbiology – was one of the five original BRCs created in 2007 and has just celebrated its 15th anniversary.
The Oxford Health BRC was created in 2017 as a centre specialising in mental health and dementia. During the next five years, it will broaden its national reach by establishing a network of centres of excellence in brain health across NHS and university sites in Oxford (with Oxford Brookes University), Bath, Birmingham, Brighton, Liverpool, Reading, Sheffield and Surrey.
Professor Keith Channon, OAHP Director and Associate Head of the University of Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division, said “The Government’s renewed commitment to investing in trailblazing mental and physical health research is extremely welcome. The funding awarded today to Oxford’s BRCs will ensure we can build upon the valuable collaborations between our city’s academic and NHS partners, so patients across the UK and worldwide can continue to benefit from cutting-edge treatments and therapies discovered and developed by Oxford scientists with their national colleagues.”
Professor Helen McShane, Director of the NIHR Oxford BRC, said: “This funding is a recognition of the high calibre work done by our researchers in recent years, exemplified by establishing emergency stroke clinics, showing some shoulder surgery is not needed, and optimising the use of new treatments for asthma and other airway diseases, as well as all the work during the COVID-19 pandemic, where the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the RECOVERY treatment trial for people with severe COVID-19, among other important trials, has saved millions of lives.”
Professor John Geddes, Director of the NIHR Oxford Health BRC, said: “The new award now provides us with a wonderful opportunity to transform care for mental and brain health and wellbeing across the whole country and, actually, the world. We can now translate the best research from UK biomedical science, data science and engineering, social science and arts and the humanities for the benefit of clinical care and population health.”
Professor Meghana Pandit, OUH Chief Executive Officer and OAHP Board Member, commented: “Oxford is a vibrant academic medical hub, and the spirit of innovation permeates our clinical work, not least because of the presence of so many important University research institutes on our hospital sites. Patients in Oxford have access to the latest cutting-edge treatments and medical techniques which have been developed by BRC-funded scientists. We are, therefore, delighted that the Oxford BRC, and our partners in the Oxford Health BRC, have received substantial funding for the next five years.”
Dr Nick Broughton, Oxford Health Chief Executive Officer and OAHP Board Member, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the NIHR has supported our bid by funding projects that aim to improve mental health care and treatment. Today’s research is tomorrow’s care, and this money will enable us to make considerable strides forward with our ambitious programme across the country. Our expanded BRC, now with 11 themes, will enable us to collaborate with many more colleagues in other towns and cities, bringing centres of excellence together in a formidable national network. This vital research infrastructure will work to improve mental health care and treatments in the future.”
In total, the NIHR has awarded nearly £800 million to 20 Biomedical Research Centres across England, following an open and competitive process judged by international experts and members of the public.
Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive of the NIHR, said: “Research by NIHR Biomedical Research Centres has led to a number of ground-breaking new treatments, such as new gene therapies for haemophilia and motor neurone disease, the world-first treatment for Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, a nose-drop vaccine for whooping cough, and the first UK-wide study into the long-term impact of COVID-19.
“This latest round of funding recognises the strength of expertise underpinning health and care research across the country and gives our nation’s best researchers more opportunities to develop innovative new treatments for patients.”