New multimillion investment in Leicester to help turn research discoveries into treatments for patients

Pioneering research into medical advancements in Leicester has received a welcome boost today, as the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) announces £26 million over the next five years for an NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

NIHR Biomedical Research Centres are partnerships between healthcare professionals and academics in the country’s leading NHS trusts and universities. The NIHR Leicester BRC is a partnership between the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, University of Leicester, Loughborough University and University Hospitals of Northamptonshire NHS Group.

The combined research teams in Leicester, Loughborough and Northampton will work together to develop groundbreaking treatments, diagnostics, prevention and care for people who have a wide range of diseases.

The investment from the NIHR will mean that research into illnesses linked to respiratory diseases (affecting the lungs), cardiovascular diseases (hearts and circulation), type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease and the consequences of inactivity will continue to push boundaries of knowledge in clinical medicine.

Three new speciality areas (called themes) will join the NIHR Leicester BRC for the first time:

  • Personalised cancer prevention and treatments
  • Environment – looking at how the environment impacts on long term health conditions; and
  • Using data to better understand multiple long term health conditions and factors specific to the health of ethnic minority populations.

In addition, the respiratory speciality will be joined by experts in infectious diseases.

The NIHR Leicester BRC was first launched on 1 April 2017. The new and larger Leicester BRC will begin on 1 December 2022, following an open and competitive process judged by international experts and members of the public. Leicester is one of only 20 Biomedical Research Centres across the country. Its award is part of a significant funding increase for the Midlands, ensuring that patients across the region have opportunities to benefit from innovative research studies. These benefits include access to treatments that are not yet widely available in the NHS.

The new funding will also provide opportunities for a diverse range of professionals to undertake research, expanding research expertise in allied health professionals – such as physiotherapists, radiologists and dietitians – as well as in doctors and nurses.

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.”

Professor David Stensel of Loughborough University, who will co-lead the Lifestyle Theme of the new BRC, commented: “This award is an outstanding achievement and testament to an extremely productive 10-year partnership in health research between Loughborough University, Leicester’s Hospitals and the University of Leicester. This partnership began with the NIHR-funded Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit (BRU: 2012 to 2017) and was followed by the NIHR-funded Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC: 2017 to 2022).

“This new award ensures another five years of fruitful collaboration between Leicester and Loughborough, where Loughborough’s expertise in physical activity, exercise, diet, and sleep will continue to inform research and policy development for the benefit of people living in the Midlands, the UK and beyond.”

Find out more about the Leicester Biomedical Research Centre.