£28.5m invested in Greater Manchester’s devolved health system to pioneer lifesaving research

Aerial view towards Manchester

Today history has been made as a single Manchester bid has been awarded £28.5m from the NIHR, bringing lifesaving tests and treatments a step nearer for millions of people.

The bid has only been made possible through bringing together the recognised clinical and research expertise from across health and academia, which demonstrates the connectivity and collaboration that is central to making Greater Manchester devolution a success.

The successful bid has been hosted by Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, in partnership with The University of Manchester and the partnership also involves The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust and is supported by Manchester Academic Health Science Centre. It will see Manchester granted prestigious NIHR Biomedical Research Centre status.

This will drive forward pioneering research into new tests and treatments in the areas of musculoskeletal disease, hearing health, respiratory disease and dermatology and three cancer themes (prevention, radiotherapy and precision medicine).

Manchester’s researchers impressed an international panel of experts with their unique proposals that will accelerate the translation of early stage research into new diagnostic tests and treatments to benefit patients of all ages and backgrounds in Greater Manchester and beyond. This will make Manchester ideally placed to attract further research investment that will give our patients early access to new and ground-breaking treatments and will deliver wider value to the economy.

Jon Rouse, Chief Officer of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, the body overseeing the devolution of the £6bn health and social care budget, said:

"The new partnership approach under devolution means that we have both the opportunity – and the means – to combine the talents of people from a whole range of areas to benefit our population. This hugely welcome funding is recognition that in Greater Manchester we can combine the best clinical skills with the best research, innovation and academic talent to take huge steps in improving the health and wellbeing of our people.’

President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell

The BRC focuses the research efforts of the University and NHS Partners so that we can address the considerable health needs of Greater Manchester.  As the areas of research being targeted by the BRC represent complex global health issues our work also has the potential to have an impact much further afield.
President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell

Professor Ian Bruce, Director of the NIHR Manchester BRC, added: “Working closely with patients, we will use the latest advances in biology, medicine and health technology to better predict disease and likely treatment response. The new diagnostic tests and therapies we develop will enable doctors to offer a more tailored approach and to better personalise treatments to the individual. We are also working on better ways to prevent disease developing in the first place.”

Sir Mike Deegan, Chief Executive of Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, explained: “The achievement of a BRC for Manchester is a landmark moment which will see £28.5m directly invested into finding new ways of preventing, predicting and treating some of the major causes of premature death and disability,” commented “Bringing together our research expertise has only been made possible by the unique connectivity which devolution provides.”

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, said: “The BRC focuses the research efforts of the University and NHS Partners so that we can address the considerable health needs of Greater Manchester. As the areas of research being targeted by the BRC represent complex global health issues our work also has the potential to have an impact much further afield.”

Roger Spencer, Chief Executive of The Christie, said: “Having a BRC that focuses on three areas of cancer research is to be warmly welcomed. Together with cutting edge advances in treatment such as the new proton beam therapy unit, The Christie is improving research into cancer which means we will be even better able to serve the health needs of this region.”

Professor Ian Greer, Vice-President and Dean of The University of Manchester's Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health commented: “This award presents us with a fantastic opportunity to build on our existing, very successful relationships with our NHS partners in MAHSC to help deliver a real step-change in health research across Manchester.

"All seven research themes are led by academics based in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health; and our ability to deliver tangible benefits under each of the seven areas has undoubtedly been enhanced by the closer alignment of discovery, clinical and health sciences during the creation of FBMH. As each BRC theme becomes established, there will be many opportunities for colleagues across the Faculty to make a contribution and to establish new collaborations with our partner organisations.

“The seven BRC themes, led by Faculty academics, will also help to realise our ambition of developing a truly translational approach to biology, medicine and health, and ultimately have a very real and positive impact on people’s lives.”

The seven research themes


Theme 1: Cancer Prevention and Early Detection
Lead: Professor Gareth Evans

Around 50% of people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Cancer prevention and early detection strategies are not currently fully leveraged despite having an important role to play in the fight against cancer.

The BRC will help to improve the targeting of these strategies, by developing the early markers needed to diagnose cancer sooner and rapidly identify whether a treatment is having the desired response.

Theme 2: Advanced radiotherapy
Lead: Professor Catharine West

Radiotherapy has an important role to play in the fight against cancer. Around 40% of those patients cured of cancer have received radiotherapy as part of their treatment.

The BRC will improve the delivery of radiation and develop markers to predict the benefit of different types of radiation and drug-radiation combinations, as well as the risk of long-term side effects,”

Theme 3: Cancer precision medicine
Lead: Professor Caroline Dive

The BRC will help the NHS to deliver a more personalised and proactive approach to caring for patients with cancer. Through the precise characterisation of tumours, its research will enable us to develop the diagnostic tests needed to match an individual’s cancer with the drug most likely to have the desired therapeutic effect.

Work will also focus on helping clinicians to anticipate and appropriately manage drug resistant relapse, a common problem faced by patients with cancer.

Musculoskeletal diseases

Theme 4: Musculoskeletal disease
Lead: Professor Anne Barton

Musculoskeletal disorders, such as arthritis and connective tissue diseases, account for over 20% of all GP consultations and are the second most common cause of disability worldwide.

Building on the work of our NIHR Manchester Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit, the BRC will focus on strategies to prevent arthritis developing in the first place. We are also developing new treatment approaches to arthritis in adults and children and new tests to improve our ability to personalise treatments used. .

Hearing health

Theme 5: Hearing health
Lead: Professor Kevin Munro

Hearing loss will soon be the 7th largest global disease burden. It represents a major public health issue with substantial economic and societal costs. The BRC is focused on the rapid adoption of discoveries into routine clinical practice to improve health and wellbeing, reduce inequalities and provide value for money.

The BRC will help deliver effective and efficient hearing health across the lifespan – from preventing potentially devastating inherited deafness through to age-related deafness.

Respiratory diseases

Theme 6: Respiratory disease
Lead: Professor Jorgen Vestbo

Respiratory diseases are the third most common cause of death and the second most common cause of hospital admissions in the UK.

The BRC will build a better understanding of the underlying causes of respiratory conditions and test new drug compounds aimed at novel targets to modify the disease processes involved and improve symptom control in patients.

Research will focus on earlier diagnosis and more targeted treatment, to maximise the likelihood of a good treatment response for an individual whilst minimising the risks of harm from therapies such as antimicrobial resistance.


Theme 7: Cutaneous inflammation and repair
Lead: Professor Chris Griffiths

Skin conditions and poor wound healding have a considerable impact on many people’s quality of life.

The BRC will identify markers and tools, which can be used to personalise treatment plans and identify opportunities to address unmet clinical need for patients suffering from complex wounds, psoriasis, hair loss and light-sensitive conditions.

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