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UK research receives £800m funding boost

Published on 23/08/11 at 02:48pm

Research into dementia, cancer, diabetes and heart disease are among the activities to benefit from a new £800 government funding package.

The money comes in the shape of 31 awards which will be paid out over the next five years for projects aiming to turn cutting-edge science into treatments which can be used by the NHS.

The translational research brings together the pharma industry, NHS, universities and charities under the auspices of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), which oversees NHS research.

Prime minister David Cameron called the ‘early stage’ investment “unprecedented” and said the work “will have a huge impact on the care and services patients receive”.

Applicants for funding from NHS and university partnerships were assessed by an independent, international selection panel, with the idea that the research will help diagnosis, prevention and treatment.

“We want to ensure we can give NHS patients the very best possible treatments and health outcomes,” explained health secretary Andrew Lansley.

“To do this we need to give British scientists the means and tools to develop ground breaking world class health research,” he added.

Funding for four new Biomedical Research Units, specialising in dementia research, is included in the package.

These units have been set up to look at areas of high clinical need, such as cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal and respiratory diseases.

Sir John Bell, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, praised the NIHR’s role in investing in research infrastructure.

“The NHS in England has become one of the best environments in the world for undertaking cutting edge translational research,” he said.

“This is creating real opportunities for improving the health of patients, as well as positioning the UK as a preferred site for clinical development by the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.”

The chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, believes the funding will demonstrate its value by making a “significant impact” on public health.

“By focusing on translational research across a wide range of diseases, the centres and units will help pull new scientific discoveries into benefits for NHS patients,” she said.

There has been significant activity over the last 18 months when it comes to medical research combining private and public sector expertise in the UK.

Last October the Department of Health announced more than £50 million of funding into the Stratified Medicines Innovation Platform to help the pharma industry develop more effective drugs for smaller patient groups.

And plans for the London-based UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation – a partnership between the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London - were unveiled in 2010.

Adam Hill

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