Eight Oxford BRC proposals, many covering a number of themes, have been awarded NIHR Research Capability Funding (RCF) funding to take forward key areas of research.
The selected projects that will be supported include:
- Developing a research centre devoted to urgent and acute care
- The creation of a state-of-the-art imaging centre; and of a new cell and gene therapy centre
- Developing a new model for neurological MRI that improving the linkage between research and clinical practice
- Expanding the number of endoscopy patients taking part in research
- Developing a nursing, midwifery and allied health professional clinical academic pathway
- Developing a new informatics infrastructure to investigate how major bleeding is treated
- Developing new cancer treatments based on ‘liquid biopsies’.
Each project will receive between £50,000 and £150,000.
The Director of the Oxford BRC, Prof Helen McShane, said: “This funding can often play a key role in keeping important research projects moving forward, through additional staffing, for example.
“We received some very strong bids, and it was not easy narrowing it down to these eight projects. We have decided to use this funding to look ahead to where we want to be as a BRC in the coming years and pump-prime strategic new initiatives – especially those bringing together expertise from a number of themes – that will help us to transition to the next round of NIHR funding for BRCs.”
NIHR RCF is aimed at allowing NHS research organisations to act flexibly and strategically to maintain its research capacity and capability, for example by appointing or retaining key staff or contributing to the costs of research.
The successful projects are:
- ACUTECare – The Academic Centre for UrgenT and Emergency Care: A newly-created multi-disciplinary research centre to address the challenges for patients and the NHS in acute care. The lead researchers who are working closely with existing BRC themes, have experience of the different research approaches needed to understand and improve acute care including laboratory science, clinical trials of new treatments, large studies of healthcare data, social science and policy research. The extra funding will allow the centre to expand and widen its research portfolio, especially in areas such as multi-morbidity and frailty.
- The Development of new CT imaging capability and artificial intelligence expertise for research in areas such as cardiovascular, stroke, metabolic diseases and surgical innovation. Imaging, a cross-cutting theme, is a core strength of the Oxford BRC and spans multiple themes. Oxford, home to the purpose-built Acute Vascular Imaging Centre (AVIC), has been at the forefront of advances in cardiovascular computed tomography (CT) that have changed clinical practice. The funding will support a decision by the University of Oxford to replace the MRI in AVIC with a state of the art CT scanner, creating an unparalleled new interventional-imaging hybrid unit, the world’s first unit to combine interventional cathlab with a state-of-the-art CT scanner and embedded AI capabilities.
- The creation of the Oxford Advanced Cell and Gene Therapy Centre on the Churchill Hospital site, which will be used for clinical trials of new gene therapies and advanced cell therapies: the new infrastructure and expertise in cell manufacture and gene editing will have broader relevance for many BRC themes, including surgical innovation, neurology and gastroenterology and immunology. The RCF will fund a project manager who will oversee integration with the clinical service, and develop a sustainable long-term business model.
- Delivering a hybrid clinical-research model for neuro MRI which would allow for research developments to be rapidly translated into clinical practice: initially in three areas – stroke, childhood brain injury and brain cancer – the new model will be developed jointly by the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging (WIN, incorporating FMRIB), and Oxford University Hospital’s Oxford MRI. The new capacity will compensate for the loss of the AVIC MRI scanner, and will mean OMRI will be well placed to scan more acute cases. The model would also provide greater opportunity for patients to participate in research.
- Restructuring endoscopic patient consent and research recruitment for the ‘big data’ age: BRC researchers are aiming to make the university’s Translational Gastroenterology Unit one of the first in the country to establish an opt-out, universal consent process to offer all endoscopic patients the chance to participate in translational research. The ultimate aim is to achieve earlier detection of gastrointestinal cancers and better management of inflammatory bowel disease.
- Development of an Oxford nursing, midwifery and allied health professional (NMAHP) clinical academic pathway. NMAHPs will be able to develop research skills and knowledge as researchers through spending five months working on a digital health research project – looking at remote consultations – within one of four BRC themes. The aim is for candidates to be in a stronger position to develop their own research proposals and apply for funding. The longer-term aims are to develop a critical mass of NMAHP researchers within the OUH who will be able to act as research champions in clinical practice, and to support NMAHP practitioners to start on the clinical academic pathway.
- A data science platform and biobank to rationalise the investigation and treatment of major bleeding: Researchers from the BRC’s Haematology, Clinical Informatics and Technology Themes will develop a new infrastructure to investigate the different ways in which bleeding is treated, as well as delivering new clinical studies into treatments for bleeding. At the heart of this infrastructure is a dedicated ‘data science platform’ for bleeding. This will provide access to existing data on a large patient population, as well as facilitating the collection and integration of additional data for new studies. Alongside this platform, a ‘major haemorrhage’ biobank will be opened in Oxford in the coming year.
- Cancer DNA before, during and after treatment from liquid biopsies: Looking at DNA from a ‘liquid biopsy’, a simple and non-invasive method that may complement or even replace imaging or solid tumour biopsies, clinicians can garner important information about the stage of cancer a patient is in, and how well they have responded to therapy. In this study, BRC researchers will be using this technique to confirm which patients have been successfully treated for cancer in a shorter time frame and which need to change to a more effective treatment. In a second part of the study, a new test using liquid biopsies will be developed to detect cancer DNA in mantle cell lymphoma. Long term, it is hoped these methods can become routine treatments in the NHS.