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Greater Manchester awarded its largest ever research funding to tackle health inequalities and drive health improvements

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) has received a £59.1million award – the largest single research award given by the NIHR to the city region – to translate its scientific discoveries into new treatments, diagnostic tests, and medical technologies to improve patients’ lives in Greater Manchester, and beyond, over the next five years.

Part of nearly £800 million awarded to 20 new Biomedical Research Centres across England by the NIHR, Greater Manchester’s award is part of a significant boost to the city-region, increasing the coverage of early-stage research across the nation and ensuring everyone has access to cutting edge clinical trials.

NIHR Biomedical Research Centres are partnerships between healthcare professionals and academics in the country’s leading NHS trusts – including NCA – and universities. The centres, part of NIHR’s research infrastructure, receive substantial levels of sustained funding to attract the best scientists and create an environment where experimental medicine can thrive, while also providing opportunities for a diverse range of professionals to undertake research, expanding research expertise.

Formed in 2017 with a £28.5 million five-year award from the NIHR, Manchester BRC is the largest BRC outside the South East of England and brings together world-leading academic clinical researchers. Manchester BRC is hosted by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) and The University of Manchester (UoM), in partnership with The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust. With this new 2022-27 award, Manchester BRC will increase research capacity by expanding its partnership to include three new NHS trusts – Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The new funding also allows Manchester BRC to expand from our current research areas of cancer, dermatology, hearing health, musculoskeletal, and respiratory, into further areas of relevance to our diverse populations including heart disease, mental health, and rare conditions.

Professor Ian Bruce, Director of NIHR Manchester BRC, said: “This is a testament to our achievements over the past five years and also to our vision for the future; expanding both our research themes and our geographical reach. This will ensure that communities across our region’s urban, rural and coastal settings will now be able to participate in cutting-edge research. This award also allows us to further build our workforce to develop and deliver research across our region and to involve many more of our citizens and local patients in our research planning.

“We know that our region has high levels of deprivation and was disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which further widened health inequity. It is therefore imperative that Manchester BRC continues to bridge the gaps between new discoveries and personalised care, to ensure that we are levelling up health and care for all.”

Professor Phil Kalra

Professor Phil Kalra

Professor Phil Kalra, Director of Research & Innovation at Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This additional investment in research is excellent news for the Greater Manchester region and will ensure that the NHS locally can continue to attract expert scientists and clinicians. It’s especially pleasing that the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) will now support cardiovascular research, including stroke and renal disorders which are key areas of expertise at Northern Care Alliance.

“As a renal consultant, I am delighted that it will increase opportunity for innovative biomarker research in our Salford Kidney Study, one of the largest chronic kidney disease biobanks in the world, as well as for increased multi-specialty collaboration. The new structure of the BRC, with its cross-cutting emphasis on population health and genetic research, will also help us to increase research in underserved communities.”

Davine Forde, from Moss Side, is an Associate at the Manchester BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) Network CIC, and the Patient Involvement Representative for the Manchester BRC Governance Board. She said: “Manchester has some of the poorest health outcomes in the country, especially in ethnic minority communities.

“Manchester BRC doesn’t just talk about equality – it lives it, by giving value to the lived experience of our diverse population and communities. We are not just patients, but partners on par with academics and clinicians to help overcome these problems. We can all learn from each other, and Manchester BRC’s commitment to inclusivity means we are on the road to discovery together.

“As an individual living with several long-term conditions, we may not find the treatments for my conditions, but the legacy of Manchester BRC will be improving health outcomes and reducing health inequalities for my children, and grandchildren.”

Sir Michael Deegan CBE, Group Chief Executive of MFT, said: “Clinical research and innovation are key to Greater Manchester’s reputation as a world-class healthcare setting. We are very proud to host one of the largest NIHR portfolios in the country as part of our ‘One Manchester’ vision, and the new expanded Manchester BRC will help us to deliver even more cutting-edge treatments to our patients in Greater Manchester, and beyond.”

Professor Craig Smith

Professor Craig Smith

Professor Craig Smith, Consultant in Stroke Medicine at Salford Royal, Stroke Research Lead at the Geoffrey Jefferson Brain Research Centre and Professor of Stroke Medicine, at the University of Manchester, said: “The NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) award will enable us to expand our existing portfolio of research into stroke and vascular dementia in Greater Manchester. In particular, it will enhance our capacity to undertake clinical research into the mechanisms of stroke disease and recovery, incorporating cutting-edge laboratory techniques, neuroimaging and data science. This will facilitate our ultimate goal of developing and testing new treatments to reduce the devastating impact of stroke disease on our patients.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Greater Manchester is big enough to matter, but small enough to know each other and driven enough to make a difference. Manchester BRC encapsulates this perfectly. Bringing together our brilliant clinical and academic minds to collaborate on the healthcare challenges our region faces, driving those discoveries through into treatments, and sharing them with the rest of the world.”

BRCs have supported almost 60,000 studies and published 55,000 research papers, as well as supported the career development of more than 14,000 junior doctors and research scientists.

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.”

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