A £4 million clinical-research centre backed by UK charities the Wellcome Trust and the Wolfson Foundation has opened in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Based at Belfast City Hospital, the Wellcome Trust-Wolfson Foundation Northern Ireland Clinical Research Facility (NICRF) is a joint venture between Queen’s University Belfast, The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, The University of Ulster, and Health and Social Care Research and Development (a division of the Public Health Agency for Northern Ireland).

The new centre will focus on four primary research themes: cancer; nutrition and metabolism; vision science; and respiratory conditions.

It will also benefit people with rare conditions, “who, until now, have had to travel to England to participate in trials”, Queen’s University noted.

From conception to completion

The NICRF has the infrastructure to support clinical trials “from conception to completion”, the University added.

That includes dedicated staff, 10 clinical rooms, a blood-processing facility and a diet kitchen for nutrition studies, as well as equipment not available through the National Health Service.

The facility will house a core staff of four, as well as a director and deputy Director –although more staff can be accommodated depending on the needs of the clinical trial.

“Researchers throughout Northern Ireland are making some of the most important scientific discoveries in the world today,” commented Professor Danny McAuley from Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity, who is acting director of NICRF.

“Until the NICRF there was no dedicated area with such an array of specialist equipment to support clinical research in Northern Ireland,” McAuley noted. “Now, we will be able to translate laboratory discoveries into advances in patient care.”