The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has announced plans to invest £58.7 million in to research to protect the public from health threats such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), air pollution and infectious diseases.

The new cash injection will go towards 14 new NIHR Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs), which in turn will fund high quality research that enhances the ability of Public Health England (PHE) to use “innovative techniques” to protect the public’s health and “minimise the health impact of emergencies.”

Since 2014 NHS data on consumption of antimicrobials has been used by PHE to predict the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, helping to keep the public safe from current and emerging public health threats.

All the new HPRUs will have an additional focus on collaboration and knowledge sharing, and will play a pivotal role in maintaining and growing PHE’s scientific expertise and future workforce, as well as delivering responsive research to tackle emerging or potential public health emergencies.

Further to the funding, the NIHR has granted a £1 million development award to the University of Leicester in partnership with PHE to investigate the effect of environmental exposures on health.

Tackling major public health threats such as antimicrobial resistance, emerging infections and air pollution requires “innovative, collaborative research,” commented professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director at PHE.

She continued, “Our partnerships with leading universities play a critical role in building the science that keeps us safe – not just from current threats, but the health challenges of tomorrow.”

Research areas for the new HPRUs include “Chemical and Radiation Threats and Hazards”, “Emergency Preparedness and Response” and “Vaccines and Immunisation” among others.

The latest round of funding injects an additional £11.2m into the current HPRUs scheme and includes a new unit specialising in genomics and enabling data.