The UK government is investing a total of £45 million (€56.3 million) in the 12 new Biomedical Research Units (BRUs) created under the umbrella of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to pursue translational research in areas such as heart disease, asthma and obesity.

The BRUs in Leeds, Nottingham, Oxford, London, Sheffield, Southampton, Bristol and Birmingham are seen as a complement to the 12 NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs) established in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle in 2006. “Together, these are among the most outstanding centres of medical research in the world,” said the Department of Health (DoH)

Each Biomedical Research Unit will receive a grant of £3.75 million over the next four years, “enabling these smaller, but excellent, research groups to increase significantly their ability to undertake translational research”, the DoH noted.

The NIHR put out a call for proposals in August 2007 to set up BRUs in six priority areas of ill-health and clinical need that have traditionally attracted relatively limited amounts of research funding: heart disease; deafness and hearing problems; gastrointestinal and liver disease; musculoskeletal disease (including arthritis); nutrition (including obesity); and respiratory disease (including asthma).

The BRUs are all partnerships between a National Health Service (NHS) Trust and a university. They include respiratory and cardiac units at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust in London, which has teamed up with Imperial College London; and BRUs for respiratory disease and deafness/hearing problems on the Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital campuses of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

The latter BRUs are being run in partnership with the University of Nottingham and (for deafness/hearing) the Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research.

In addition to the BRU awards, five NHS/university partnerships in Nottingham, London, Southampton, Sheffield and Manchester have secured development grants from the government to support the clinical research facilities underpinning their translational research efforts.