The government will invest £102 million in National Health Service infrastructure for 19 dedicated Clinical Research Facilities (CRFs) for Experimental Medicine across England between 1 September 2012 and 31 March 2017.

The awards, which are being channelled through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and include some existing support subsumed into future investment, are the outcome of an open competition to ‘renew and refresh’ NIHR funding for experimental-medicine CRFs, launched by the Institute last October.

The money will help to support clinical research nurses and technicians at the facilities as well as covering running costs, making “a key contribution to NHS collaboration with industry in experimental medicine, an area of increasing importance given the evolving drug development model and focus on open innovation”, the NIHR said.

NHS Trusts with Clinical Research Facilities submitted bids for the funding, which were judged by a panel of UK experts in both experimental medicine research and in running clinical research facilities.

The successful applications were chosen on the basis of the quality and volume of world-class experimental medicine research supported by the Trusts as well as other criteria, including the strength of their partnerships with universities and industry.

Pushing the boundaries

 “These researchers will push forward the boundaries of what is possible,” commented Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley.

“These are the people and the facilities where the very best new treatments will be developed for a huge range of conditions – from cancer to diabetes and heart disease. NHS patients are the ones who will see the benefit of their work.”

The awards went to clinical research facilities in London, Leeds, Brighton, Liverpool, Cambridge, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Exeter and Southampton.

CRFs are purpose-built facilities with specialist clinical, research and support staff, operating from locations where universities and NHS Trusts work together on dedicated programmes of patient-orientated experimental medicine research.

Assorted schemes

There have been assorted funding schemes for the Clinical Research Facilities for Experimental Medicine, with capital costs met by funders, including the NIHR, under the umbrella of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC). The current NIHR funding contracts end at various times from August 2012, the Institute noted.

At the moment it is backing five NIHR CRFs for Experimental Medicine; four Millennial CRFs in partnership with The Wellcome Trust; and nine CRFs in partnership with various funders (The Wellcome Trust, The Wolfson Foundation, the Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK) under the UKCRC umbrella.

Achieve coherence

The open competition to ‘renew and refresh’ investment in the experimental-medicine facilities was designed to “achieve coherence in NIHR funding for CRFs, and a single identity, ensuring that funding is targeted appropriately”, the Institute explained.

The bidding, it added, enabled previous recipients of NIHR funds that continued to fulfil the necessary criteria to maintain their funding stream.