- Northern BRCs provide nationally leading expertise in clinical trials, health economics, informatics, data science, imaging and biomarker discovery platforms
- Industry showcase on 6 March gave unique insight for life sciences on the access to clinical research, facilities, expertise and evaluation and testing of products that is available across the 4 Northern BRCs
On the 6th of March a capacity audience gathered at CityLabs in Manchester, to hear about the work of the four northern NIHR BRCs; Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle and Leeds, at an industry event organised by the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA).
Representatives from Microsoft, Amgen, Abbvie, Genetech, DebioPharm, GSK, Life Arc, GeneData, SAP, Genomics England, Benevolent AI and Heptares were among those present to hear about BRC collaboration opportunities across the North.
Dr Hakim Yadi CEO of the NHSA said: “The North’s Biomedical Research Centres are world-leading and offer a huge number of collaboration opportunities for those working in the health science industry.
“We were thrilled with the great turnout and the excitement of delegates as new relationships were formed and potential new industry engagement partnerships created.”
There is a health inequality challenge in the UK – a girl born in Bradford today can expect to live 15 years less in good health than if she were born in Guildford. Evidence shows that patients cared for in research-active hospital Trusts have better health outcomes than those from less research active Trusts. The boost to the North of England from having four NIHR Biomedical Research Centre University-Hospital Trust partnerships for the first time will increase the share of investment in translational research going to where the demographics with the most need are based.
Dr Matthew Hallsworth, from the NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI) reported that industry confidence in NIHR infrastructure to deliver translational research is increasing with two thirds of studies now commercially funded across the Clinical Research Network. BRCs have brought in an additional £1bn in research funding from various sources since the underpinning NIHR investment and over 4 million people were recruited on to clinical trials in the last 7 years.
What are some of the challenges and strengths in expanding biomedical research in the North? Professor Maya Buch, Newcastle University acknowledged that there can be a gap in knowing the strengths in industry to exploit to answer specific clinical questions. Whereas one of the main challenges facing industry is access to the clinical space. Mark Rackham, our industry partner from Benevolent AI pointed out that networking events such as this were very useful in bridging that gap and finding collaborators. Raising the profile of the North as a business destination for the life sciences industry has been tremendously helped by initiatives like today’s showcase and Northern Powerhouse partners the NHSA.
In one of the panel discussion sessions, Mark Rackham discussed how as an AI company, Benevolent AI’s main drive is to use machine learning to help innovation keep pace with information. Big datasets that couple health outcomes to molecular genomics and transcriptomics could be really powerful in addressing some of the most intractable health problems, like neurodegeneration and dementia increasing with an aging population, but dealing with non-uniform ways of collecting data and fragmented datasets is an issue.
Standardising ways of integrating biological and clinical data, and improving the organisation and accessibility of data to make research more efficient is an ongoing effort throughout the NIHR BRC network. In the North, the cohorts of patients available make us an ideal test bed for more clinical trials and working together on common themes, like diseases of aging, to systematically make data more accessible and useful could offer a big draw to attract partnerships with industry players.
In the following panel discussion, the role of Patient and Public Involvement in the issues surrounding data access was discussed. Articulating the public health benefit of openness and data sharing is being assisted by the #DataSavesLives campaign launched by the Health e-Research Centre in 2015.
In closing, Shirley Hannan, Research Co-ordinator and Funding Development Manager for the NHSA said, “This showcase gave industry a unique opportunity to speak to the Northern NIHR Biomedical Research Centres and leading universities, on how they can support translational research.
“The success of the event is testament to the professionalism and dedication of the North BRC Centres and we are very much looking forward to seeing the outcomes of the showcase in the coming months.”