TRAILBLAZING work tackling the big health challenges of the future is set to continue in Oxford as the city becomes the first outside London to host not one but two biomedical research centres with funding from the National Institute of Health Research, the research arm of the NHS.
Scientists from Oxford University working side-by-side with medical professionals in the NHS will strive to come up with new treatments in years to come.
Here we shed light on the brand new partnership with Oxfordshire’s mental health trust, Oxford Health, as well as the next five years of ground-breaking work to take place with the acute trust, Oxford University Hospitals.
A NEW chapter in research is also beginning at the already-established Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) after it received an extra £113.7m to keep up the good work.
The existing centre is a partnership between the university and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which provides acute care in Oxfordshire.
Since it launched in 2007 the Oxford BRC has funded 2,000 game-changing projects and can now look forward to five more years at the forefront of medical discovery.
When the NIHR grant was awarded last September the BRC’s director Keith Channon, a cardiologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital, said the news was ‘fantastic’.
He added: “We are very proud of our track record. There are 20 BRCs in the country and Oxford is the only one to successively increase our funding.”
The centre utilises the talents of 10,000 medical personnel in Oxfordshire’s hospitals and 5,000 on-site researchers from the university.
Up until now the research it has supported includes:
• Replacing bedside paper charts with an iPad-based ‘early warning’ system, known as SEND, to monitor hospital patient’s vital signs and flag up risks
• An Ebola vaccine developed by the university’s Jenner Institute as part of an international consortium
• The use of whole genome sequencing, a process to decode a person’s complete DNA code for rare diseases and cancer.
• Recruiting 10,000 people to analyse stroke and mini strokes, leading to a change in guidelines so minor stroke patients are assessed in 24 hours instead of four weeks
• ‘Bionic eyes’ for patients at the JR that inject a virus into the eye, restoring some vision in people suffering choroideremia – a rare form of genetic blindness
Before now the Oxford BRC had 14 research ‘themes’ in areas such as cancer, genetics, diabetes, vaccines and stroke.
This is being expanded to 20 and researchers will hone new areas such as musculoskeletal disorders, obesity and respiratory illness.
The new stage of funding was launched at the Blavatnik School of Government last Thursday, with theme leaders talking bosses through their plans.
Musculoskeletal lead Andrew Carr said: “Our vision is to target treatment and develop drugs tailored to each patient’s individual needs.
“We will also further develop Oxford’s promising tissue engineering implants and devices, and regenerative medicine drugs for the benefit of patients.”
The vaccines group will investigate new vaccines for group B meningitis, Zika, pandemic influenza, tuberculosis and prostate cancer.
Elsewhere researchers looking at ageing will explore early detection and management of long-term conditions such as hypertension and depression, as chronic diseases affect one in three UK adults and account for half of GP appointments, 70 per cent of overnight hospital stays and 70 per cent of the NHS hospital budget.
Digital technology and big data will continue to be prominent. Professor Martin Landray, clinical informatics lead, said: “Collecting, sharing and analysing vast amounts of clinical data is a hugely exciting opportunity to help researchers develop new tests and treatments. We are confident this will transform healthcare in the future.”