Imperial College London has been awarded funding to establish four centres of excellence in health protection, which were announced today.
The National Institute for Health Research has awarded Imperial funds for four new Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs). The units, partnered by Public Health England (PHE), will provide centres of excellence in multi-disciplinary health protection research. Funding contracts will run for five years from 1 April 2014.
Research at the HPRUs will focus on: developing better methodologies for modelling infections; fighting antimicrobial resistance and other healthcare associated infections; combating respiratory Infections; and improving our understanding of the health impacts of environmental hazards.
The Imperial HPRUs represent four from a total of 13 successful applications across a total of 12 priority public health areas:
- Development of Modelling Methodology, led by Professor Neil Ferguson, School of Public Health, Imperial College London;
- Respiratory infections, led by Professor Ajit Lalvani, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and University of Birmingham;
- Healthcare Associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance, led by Professor Alison Holmes, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust with Wellcome Sanger Institute, NWL Academic Health Science Network, and Cambridge Veterinary School;
- Impact of Environmental Hazards, led by Kings College London with Professor Paul Elliott, School of Public Health, Imperial College London.
Work at the HPRU in Modelling Methodology will include developing novel computational tools that allow the wealth of health data currently being collected by health professionals to be fully exploited.
Protecting the public’s health from infectious diseases requires timely and reliable evidence with which to make decisions. The technology currently being used by health professionals is now delivering a wealth of data. However, developing better ways to harness this data is the challenge.
The combined complementary strengths of the two largest and most diverse teams of infectious disease modellers in the UK - at PHE and Imperial - will deliver a step change in research capacity available for health protection modelling. The HPRU in Respiratory Infections will carry out studies to combat tuberculosis (TB) and influenza.
The number of cases of patients with TB has been steadily rising in Britain for the last 20 years, with London carrying almost half the burden. PHE has pledged to reduce TB infections by 50 per cent over five years. Researchers will work with PHE to determine how this reduction rate can be achieved.
The researchers will also investigate the rollout of a proposed live influenza scheme for all children in the UK, evaluating the effectiveness of the scheme, and sharing the results with other European nations that may wish to emulate the programme.
Professor Lalvani said: “It is fantastic news that the National Institute for Health Research has awarded the College funding for four proposed centres. It is a testament to the outstanding work being carried out here. Funding will allow me and my colleagues across the College to address a range of health issues to make England a healthier place in which to live.”
Professor Holmes said: “Antimicrobial resistance is now rightly recognised as a global issue and a global risk. We are delighted to have the opportunity to continue to work with our colleagues at Public Health England to address this and healthcare associated infection through an innovative and comprehensive multidisciplinary programme of research.”
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “These partnerships will bring together research from academia and Public Health England to ensure world class health protection research in England.“By focusing on research across a wide range of public health areas, the units will take new scientific discoveries from the lab to benefits for patients and the public. I believe they will have a significant impact on the health of the population.”
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said:“These innovative public health research partnerships confirm the place of health protection research right up where it needs to be, alongside the very best in clinical medicine. We are incredibly grateful to the National Institute for Health Research and the Chief Medical Officer for guiding us to this end, and of course the successful University applicants.”
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