18 august 2011

Giant boost for medical research in Oxford

Health | University

Elderly couple
A new programme of dementia research is to be funded as part of the award.

Well over £100 million in funding over five years has been awarded to large medical research partnerships between the University and local hospitals.

This is a significant increase over previous funding for these programmes and is a recognition of the quality, scope and scale of the work being carried out in Oxford.

The money, in three separate awards from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), is part of £800 million in funding announced by the government to boost research and allow the development of ground breaking medicines, treatments and care for patients.

The NIHR funding is to support research partnerships between universities and the NHS around the UK through joint biomedical research centres and units. The centres aim to improve the translation of basic research developments into improved healthcare for patients.

The NIHR has awarded significantly increased funding of more than £95 million over five years for the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), a partnership between the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals and the University.

The Oxford BRC was one of five centres established in 2007 with a grant of £57m over five years. The centre connects different scientific disciplines, healthcare professionals and patients to advance medical research and healthcare delivery. 

Professor Keith Channon, director of the Oxford BRC, said: ‘This new award is a significant increase in NIHR funding, which gives us a very clear endorsement of the quality and vision of the research partnership between Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals and the University of Oxford. We are very excited by the major new areas of clinical research that this funding will enable us to develop in the next 5 years.’ 

Almost £10 million in funding will go to the Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit (BRU), a joint programme between the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and Oxford University.

Again this is a large increase in funding. The BRU was formed in 2008 with an award of £3.75m over four years.

The director of the Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit, Professor Andrew Carr, said: 'It will allow us to further expand our programmes of research into diseases including arthritis, osteoporosis, spinal disorders, soft tissue and sports injuries.  We intend to deliver programmes of research focusing on patients’ problems such that new therapies and treatments are able to combat the increasing burden of musculoskeletal disease in the younger sporting population and the growing aging population in the UK.

'This funding will support research into developing treatments for chronic bone conditions such as osteoporosis and advances in surgery for conditions affecting joints which could ultimately transform the lives of thousands of patients.'

The Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre is due to merge with Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals, subject to approval later this year. In this event, the £10 million for research on conditions such as osteoarthritis, joint replacement surgery and tissue engineering will be ring-fenced and integrated within the Oxford BRC.

These partnerships are enabling excellent medical research to flourish.

Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University

A further £2.5 million in funding from the NIHR will support a new programme examining the effect of exercise and cognitive stimulation on brain function in dementia.

The research team from the University Departments of Psychiatry, Clinical Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology, including the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity and the Oxford Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain, will work in collaboration with Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health services in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

This NIHR money will be incorporated again as ring-fenced funding into the dementia research theme of the Oxford BRC.

Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, said: ‘We are delighted with this renewed and greatly increased funding for world-class biomedical research in Oxford.

‘It is great recognition for the structures that have been put in place here in Oxford with our NHS partners. These are enabling excellent medical research to flourish and supporting the translation of those advances into improved treatments for patients.’

Sir Jonathan Michael, Chief Executive of the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ‘There has been a long history of collaboration between the University of Oxford and Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals which benefits both patients and the wider community. In July of this year Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals and the University of Oxford formalised their longstanding relationship by entering into a Joint Working Agreement. The news of significantly increased funding for the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre is another example of the effective partnership between the Trust and the University in pursuit of excellence in patient care, research and education.’ 

Chief Executive of the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre Jan Fowler said: 'Our hospital has a long history of research and medical developments and is one of only three units in the UK dedicated to supporting this important clinical area.  This investment will fund cutting-edge work with Oxford University researchers working alongside experienced clinicians who are able to apply new developments and methods for treating our patients.'

Describing the £800 million investment in medical research across the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron said: This unprecedented investment into the development of innovative medicines and treatments will have a huge impact on the care and services patients receive and help develop the modern, world-class health service patients deserve.

‘A strong competitive science and research base is a crucial part of securing sustainable economic growth and creating jobs of the future, and we have some of the best scientists and facilities in the world. This investment will help ensure we continue to be at the cutting edge.’

Sir John Bell, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences said: ‘The NHS in England has become one of the best environments in the world for undertaking cutting-edge translational research. 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. Much of this capability is the result of careful and strategic investment in research infrastructure by the NIHR. The Biomedical Research Centres and Units are an excellent example of this investment and have transformed the relationship between hospitals and the research community.’