Manchester secures site for national health informatics research institute

03 Jul 2013

The Minister for Science and Universities, David Willetts has announced today that the Medical Research Council (MRC) will invest £20million capital funding to establish a UK health informatics research institute, to be known as the Farr Institute.

Vaughan House where the Manchester Farr Institute will be based
Vaughan House where the Manchester Farr Institute will be based

The Farr Institute will have major centres in Manchester, London, Dundee and Swansea and will link research in 19 universities across the UK.

Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MAHSC) a partnership between The University of Manchester and six regional NHS trusts, will receive a cash-injection of £5million for its site.
The Farr Institute at Manchester will be based at the heart of the University’s biomedical campus next to The Stopford Building, behind The Holy Name Church on Oxford Road. A derelict, iconic Grade-II listed building called Vaughan House will be refurbished to house this state-of-the-art research centre. 

Professor Ian Jacobs, Dean of the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences at The University of Manchester and Director of MAHSC, said: "This new centre will provide a focus for the world-leading work in eHealth research that is happening in Manchester. It brings together clinicians and researchers capable of using sophisticated ways to capture and make the best use of health information and apply it to achieve health benefits.

“The modern computer was created in Manchester in 1948 and this new investment is recognition of the fact that Manchester continues to drive the inventions and discoveries that are shaping the future of informatics in health and many other spheres.

“Informatics will be a crucial part of the next generation of scientific breakthroughs we need to help tackle conditions including cancer, heart disease and stroke."

Minister for Science and Universities, David Willetts, said: “Harnessing 'big data' in the NHS will revolutionise healthcare. The Farr Institute will bring together highly skilled medical and computer scientists, to use electronic health records to improve understanding of a range of diseases. It will attract pharmaceutical and IT industry investment. Patient confidentiality will of course be protected.”

Around 50 staff – currently working at various sites across Greater Manchester – will be able to come together at the Manchester site. Health and computer scientists will combine their expertise to interpret large and complex health datasets in research environments that safeguard patient confidentiality. Researchers will develop methods for safely sharing, combining and analysing diverse datasets across boundaries, enabling new discoveries and validating research findings with a speed and scale not previously possible.

Professor Iain Buchan, who will lead the Manchester Centre, said: “Science can’t solve society’s major health problems alone. The evidence base coming from science into healthcare predicts less than a third of what will happen to patients when they are treated. Yet the NHS captures a vast amount of data on the outcomes of everyday healthcare.

“In addition the public captures more and more health-related data via technologies such as smartphones. Harnessing the ‘big data’ for better health and care, however, is very difficult.

“The centre will be training a new generation of health data scientists to meet this challenge. We will be developing new methods and tools for analysing anonymised electronic health records. We will also be producing new ways for patients, the public and health professionals to interact over health data, leading to better healthcare decisions.”

The Farr Institute investment will support the safe use of patient and research data for medical research across all diseases. The Institute’s independent research will support innovation in the public sector and industry leading to advances in preventative medicine, improvements in NHS care and better development of commercial drugs and diagnostics. It will also provide new insights into the understanding of causes of ill health which in turn will guide new biomedical research discovery. In addition to health benefits for patients and UK citizens, the Institute will help to cement the UK’s reputation as a world leader in research using large electronic health data.
The concentration of funding in developing UK health informatics research base will provide a focus for collaborations with IT and pharmaceutical companies, attracting inward investment into the UK economy.

MRC Chief executive, Professor Sir John Savill, said: “Using the wealth of data in health records, our patient and population cohort studies and other routine datasets is central to the MRC’s mission to improve of human health and contributing to economic growth.”

The investment builds on the four e-health informatics research centres (eHIRCs) recently funded by a consortium of three Research Councils, three health departments and four leading medical research charities. The additional £20million MRC funding for the Farr represents a doubling of UK investment in this area.


Notes for editors

Notes for editors:
The funders who funded the four e-health Informatics Research Centres in a joint £19m investment are: Arthritis Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the Chief Scientist Office (Scottish Government Health Directorates), the Economic and Social Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research, the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research (Welsh Government) and the Wellcome Trust.
The Farr Institute is named for one of the ‘founding fathers’ of medical statistics, the epidemiologist William Farr (1807-83). Farr’s most significant contribution to public health was setting up a system that routinely recorded the cause of death in the death record. Such detailed statistics provided the raw data which allowed a far more detailed analysis of death within the general population. For example, the mortality rates of different professions or of those living in different locations could be compared.

For further information, please contact:
Alison Barbuti | Media Relations Officer | Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences |The University of Manchester | Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre (MAHSC)
Tel. +44 (0)161 275 8383 | Mobile 07887 561 318 |Email:

MAHSC (the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre) is a partnership between the University of Manchester and six NHS organisations. Our NHS partners are some of the most highly rated NHS Trusts in the country, and the University of Manchester is one of the top 3 UK research universities (RAE 2008). We are proud to be one of only five centres in the country designated as an AHSC. AHSC designation recognises excellence across research, innovation, education and patient service, and in particular the potential to excel in translational medicine. Through partnership with the GM AHSN, MAHSC acts as a beacon within the local health system, providing clinical leadership and helping health care organisations reap the benefits of research and innovation to drive improvements in care.

The MAHSC partners are:
• The University of Manchester
• Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
• Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust
• Salford CCG  (formerly NHS Salford) as lead representative for GM CCGs
• Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust
• The Christie NHS Foundation Trust
• University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust