£100m boost for research into disease

July 7, 2006

UK clinical researchers struck gold this week with the announcement of nearly £100 million of new funding from a range of organisations.

A consortium led by the Wellcome Trust has committed £84 million to develop clinical research facilities in the UK. In addition, selected universities were this week awarded clinical lectureship grants totalling £10 million.

The aim of the research facility funding is to bring together laboratory-based and patient-based research to answer vital questions about health and disease.

The consortium of funders, known as the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, includes major health-related charities such as Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation, the Medical Research Council and government health departments.

The cash will be spent on facilities at the universities of Belfast, Oxford, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, Cambridge, Edinburgh, the Institute of Cancer Research, Imperial College London, King's College London, and University College London.

Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "The National Health Service gives us a huge competitive advantage in the UK - but we have to grasp it. We are putting proper career opportunities in place for a new generation of academics. The right facilities are also essential - you need the right environment to work with patients."

But he warned that there was still work to do on establishing the right regulatory environment for clinical research in the UK.

The clinical senior lectureships, which are funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and NHS trusts, are for staff who have completed clinical training and have shown considerable promise in research.

Fourteen universities have won cash for the five-year lectureships in the first round of the award. There will be four more rounds, with £50 million of funding in all.

The scheme is a reaction to concerns over a drop of about 500 in the number of clinical academics and dentists between 2000 and 2004. Applications for the second round of awards, beginning 2007-08, will be invited towards the end of this year.

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