Researchers in Southampton have been awarded £9.2 million to continue leading and participating in groundbreaking clinical trials.
The five-year funding arrangement, announced today by the Department of Health and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), will help to support studies into a range of novel medical treatments.
In addition to covering the costs of specialist research nurses and technical staff at the NIHR Wellcome Trust Southampton Clinical Research Facility, it will also be used to ensure access to the latest cutting-edge facilities and equipment.
Funding for the facility, which is a partnership between the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and based at Southampton General Hospital, is part of a £112 million national investment.
It follows a separate announcement, made in September, of £15 million awarded by the Department of Health and NIHR to help tackle obesity, asthma, allergies and infections through the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre in Southampton.
Recent breakthroughs made at the NIHR Wellcome Trust Southampton Clinical Research Facility include identifying an effective treatment for peanut allergies in children and developing the first new therapeutic asthma treatment for a decade.
In addition, researchers have developed a new two-part screening test for diabetes, led a UK-wide trial of a new chicken pox vaccine, discovered a lung cancer drug can slow the progression of incurable and fatal lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and secured more than £3 million to study new vaccines for whooping cough and meningitis.
Professor Saul Faust, director of the NIHR Wellcome Trust Southampton Clinical Research Facility, said: “We are delighted to have secured this funding for the next five years as it gives us a fantastic opportunity to continue to lead developments in many areas of medicine as well as collaborate with our colleagues on major international breakthroughs.
“We are extremely lucky in Southampton to have access to excellent research facilities through the hospital trust’s partnership with the University of Southampton which has enabled our researchers to participate in and oversee some very significant developments in recent years.”
He added: “The facility provides the safest possible environment for patients and healthy volunteers to take part in studies of new medicines, new medical devices or studies looking to work out how new treatments can be developed.
Nicola Blackwood, minister for public health and innovation, said: “Our investment in this area so far has led to a variety of breakthroughs, including the first new asthma treatment in a decade and a promising treatment for peanut allergies in children to name just two.
“We know that such groundbreaking clinical research simply would not happen without the support of these clinical research facilities. I’m delighted to announce this funding to support the skilled personnel and cutting-edge facilities we need to keep Southampton at the forefront of clinical research.”
The funding boost comes after recently-released NIHR figures show UHS is among the top six trusts in the country for recruitment to clinical research trials, with 20,939 people participating in studies during 2015-16 – up 0.9 per cent on the previous year. The number of studies available to patients also increased by 1.6 per cent from 385 to 391.