Medical research at Oxford

The University of Oxford is ranked top in the world for medicine (Times Higher World Rankings) and its Medical Sciences Division is one of the largest biomedical research centres in Europe.

Oxford’s medical research is devoted to identifying the causes of disease, improving diagnosis and prevention, and developing effective treatments and cures. Diseases where millions of lives can be saved - such as cancer, stroke, malaria and HIV - are of particular interest. Oxford also has world-leading research programmes in heart disease, musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis and osteoporosis, and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The University’s world-renowned global health programme is a leader in the fight against infectious diseases (such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and avian flu) and other prevalent diseases (such as cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes). Key to its success is a long-standing network of dedicated Wellcome Trust-funded research units in Asia (Thailand, Laos and Vietnam) and Kenya, and work at the MRC Unit in The Gambia.

‘Translational medicine’ - taking discoveries from the laboratory right through to treatments for patients - is a significant focus of medical research at Oxford. This ‘bench to bedside’ approach is aided by fruitful links with NHS organisations. This expertise was recently recognised in the funding of a multi-million-pound Biomedical Research Centre for such translational research, a partnership between the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Trust and Oxford University.

Research in the medical sciences at the University falls into seven major themes: 1) cancer; 2) cardiovascular disease; 3) diabetes; 4) infection and immunology; 5) musculoskeletal science; 6) neuroscience; 7) reproduction and development.

Each involves studies at many levels, from genes and molecules to systems and populations, and from basic science to treatment for patients.

Discoveries in molecular biology and genetics are revolutionising the way researchers look at disease and treat individual patients. At the other end of the scale, studies of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people conclusively show the effect of preventative measures and new treatments on ill health and disease.

At these levels and everything in between, work is carried out using an enormous range of approaches such as gene arrays, molecular techniques, cell cultures, tissue samples, computer models, animal studies, and human studies.

The links on the right profile the range and scope of biomedical research at Oxford across the seven research themes. Only a small part of this work involves the use of animals. Animals are only used for a specific and crucial element of research that cannot be conducted in any alternative way. The majority of Oxford’s medical research is carried out using either in vitro techniques or the study of human beings.