Imperial College Faculty of Medicine Research Excellence Framework

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a process of review conducted by subject expert panels to inform the selective allocation of funding for research within the UK.

Units of Assessment

The Faculty of Medicine submits the majority of our research to three main Units of Assessment (UoAs).
These expert panels are:

  • UoA 1 Clinical Medicine
  • UoA 2 Public Health, Primary Care and Health Services
  • UoA 4 Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

We also support UoAs primarily based within other Faculties including:

  • UoA 5 Biological Sciences
  • UoA 10 Mathematical Sciences
  • UoA 12 Engineering
  • UoA 14 Geography and Environmental Studies

Clinical Medicine

Infection and Immunity research at Imperial aims to integrate fundamental pathogen biology with human immunity and clinical medicine to treat or prevent diseases of global importance. We aim to integrate understanding of infectious disease from microbe to human to populations as well as immune processes such as autoimmunity and inflammation.

Together with our infectious disease epidemiology theme in UoA2, we represent one of the largest groupings of infectious disease researchers globally. In parallel, our immunology and inflammation researchers focus on the discovery of the fundamental immunological mechanisms underpinning responses to organ damage, especially in the kidney and skin, and how to translate them to advance molecular medicine.

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Imperial College conducts world-leading cardiovascular research, from discovery science to highly impactful clinical trials in a multidisciplinary environment, recognised through continued designation as a British Heart Foundation (BHF) Centre of Research Excellence and renewal of the BHF Regenerative Medicine Centre. This theme comprises one of the UK’s largest grouping of cardiovascular scientists and clinicians, an National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) theme, eight BHF programme grants, and a newly awarded BHF doctoral training programme.

Our cardiovascular research strategy embraces convergent science, drawing on scientific expertise in disciplines across the College through formal cross-College Networks and Centres and an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded Centre for doctoral training in artificial intelligence (AI4Health).

Research is predominantly conducted in our National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) and our associated NHS Trusts but extends across College to maximise its impact on cardiovascular health. This combination of expertise is highly sought after by pharmaceutical and devices companies, including Amgen, Bayer, Gilead, Medtronic, Pfizer, Volcano and Philips for our PI’s unique skills and success in technology development.

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Our aim is to develop improved understanding and better treatments for both common conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and respiratory infections; and rarer diseases such as interstitial lung diseases, Cystic Fibrosis, paediatric lung diseases and occupational lung diseases.

This is enabled by working across multiple clinical sites (Hammersmith, St Mary’s, Charing Cross, the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals), and our strong ties with the pharmaceutical industry including a strategic alliance with Boehringer Ingelheim, GSK, AstraZeneca, Chiesi and Novartis.

Department and Centres

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The Surgery, Anaesthetics and Critical Care theme has expanded significantly since 2014. The theme has played an internationally leading role in the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, the assessment of steroids, immune sera and anti-IL-6 in critically ill patients (REMAP-CAP trial) and through the Real-Time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT) programme.

The theme hosts the largest academic Department of Surgery in the UK, generating practice-changing research on the management of peripheral vascular disease and venous ulceration. Theme researchers have played leading roles on the prevention and early diagnosis of both colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers, in partnership with the School of Public Health, as well as the stratification of localised prostate cancer.

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The Cancer theme incorporates laboratory and clinical research programmes with particular strengths in breast, ovarian, prostate, gastrointestinal and haematological cancers as well as clinical and pre-clinical cancer imaging. Cancer epitomises our convergent science approach at Imperial College, with research spanning all four Faculties. The theme also houses the world’s largest centre for gestational trophoblastic disease research.

There are major streams in the following areas: cancer evolution and adaptation, including genetic, epigenetic and immunological evolution; improved cancer detection and diagnosis using molecular imaging and pathology; and nuclear receptor signalling. There is a large clinical trials programme, with over 40 Imperial-led clinical trials in cancer open at any one time in addition to 100 multi-centre academic and commercial trials.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) London Institute of Medical Sciences (LMS) has cancer research embedded throughout its themes of epigenetics, integrative biology and genes and metabolism. The Centre for Haematology co-ordinates the largest clinical practice in Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) in Europe, focussing on molecularly targeted therapies, and houses the new Hugh and Josseline Langmuir Centre for Myeloma Research.

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Metabolism and Endocrinology’s mission is to build a robust and supportive academic community across basic, clinical, translational and big data research to provide diagnostic tools, therapeutics and novel insight into mechanisms of disease. Metabolism and Endocrinology collaborates extensively within Imperial exploiting the world-leading expertise in the faculties of Chemistry, Engineering, Mathematics, and Life Sciences.

Furthermore, the theme has extensive international and national collaborations, and are active participants in multiple international consortium-based research projects. One quarter of our staff are early career researchers and we are committed to support their career development at all stages through mentoring and mid‐career support structures.

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Public Health, Primary Care and Health Services

Research within this theme spans ten disease areas:

  • Zoonoses and Animal Diseases
  • HIV
  • STIs and Hepatitis
  • Malaria
  • Tuberculosis
  • Influenza
  • Arboviruses
  • Neglected Tropical Diseases
  • Enteric Infections
  • Bacterial Pathogens
  • Fungal Pathogens

These areas are within five inter-disciplinary cross-cutting themes (Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, Global Health Analytics, Vaccines, Antimicrobial Resistance, and Methods and Tools).

Researchers work across multiple disease areas and cross-cutting themes, resulting in a highly collaborative internal research environment and a coherent and highly visible external profile. The translational impact of the research is strengthened through formal collaborative partnerships with the World Health Organisation (WHO), Public Health England (PHE), the Global Fund and Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance).

Departments and Centres

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We undertake leading cross-disciplinary research to advance understanding of the distribution, causes and effects of the major chronic diseases and thereby influence policy for improving health. Key areas include:

  • Aetiological studies, notably on cardiovascular disease (and its risk factors), type-2 diabetes and cancers
  • Application of genomics and other ‘omic technologies to understanding disease causation and pathogenesis
  • Environmental epidemiology
  • Analysis of international trends in chronic disease and risk factors
  • Methods development.

Researchers also lead major cohort studies including:

  • Real-Time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT) study of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the community
  • The 500,000 person EPIC study
  • The international COSMOS study (mobile phones and health)
  • MRC-funded Airwave Health Monitoring Study (police cohort) and SCAMP (adolescents)
  • The multi-country INTERSALT and INTERMAP studies
  • Northern Finland Birth Cohorts 1966 and 1986
  • The South Asian Biobank
  • NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC)

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We aim to be at the forefront of evaluation of the benefits and risks of treatments/interventions, through clinical trials, pharmaco-epidemiology and evaluation of health service performance. Our research, working with partners in UoA 1, reflects the strong history of clinical trial involvement across a broad base, for example, cardiovascular and metabolic disease, HIV and Infection, ageing, endocrinology and emergency medicine.

The theme also includes the NIHR Applied Research Collaborative (ARC) North West London, the UKCRC accredited Imperial Clinical Trials Unit (ICTU), the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Public Health Education and Training and the Dr Foster Centre for Health Intelligence Research.

Departments and Centres

Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

The mission of UoA 4 is to develop a portfolio of research in neuroscience and mental health focused on clinical translation and training the next generation of science leaders. UoA 4 is made up of researchers from the Department of Brain Sciences along with a few members of the National Heart and Lung Institute, and the Medical Research Council (MRC) London Institute of Medical Sciences (LMS).

Staff from the Department of Brain Sciences in UoA 4 are managed into one of three divisions - Psychiatry, Neurology and Neuroscience. Other members of the department with more medical or public health focus are returned in themes in UoA 1 (cancer; surgery, anaesthetics and critical care; metabolism and endocrinology) and UoA 2.

During the assessment period, the UoA has launched major research initiatives including becoming the only UK university to be awarded two centres within the interdisciplinary flagship UKRI MRC and charity funded UK Dementia Research Institute (DRI) - the UK DRI at Imperial and the UK DRI Care and Technology Centre.

We lead a brain sciences theme of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) to strengthen translational neuroscience in the acute care Trust and to enhance clinical research links with our two associated mental health Trusts; and have created innovative cross-faculty research structures through joint leadership of the Imperial College Centre for Blast Injury Studies and the Alzheimer’s Research UK Network of Excellence for Dementia. As well as creating the world’s first academic, therapeutically focused Centre for Psychedelic Research.

Departments and Centres