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UCL awarded funding to transform health through data science

7 February 2018

UCL has been chosen as a foundation partner of the new national institute Health Data Research (HDR) UK.  

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UCL will form a collaborate partnership with four other London Universities: Imperial College London: King's College London; Queen Mary University of London and The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine following a £54 million award from HDR UK.

Health Data Research UK is initially awarding £30 million funding to six sites across the UK to address challenging healthcare issues through use of data science. The other successful sites are: Cambridge – Wellcome Sanger Institute, European Bioinformatics Institute, University of Cambridge; Midlands – University of Birmingham, University of Leicester, University of Nottingham, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, University of Warwick; Oxford – University of Oxford; Scotland – University of Edinburgh, University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee, University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews, University of Strathclyde and Wales/Northern Ireland – Swansea University, Queen’s University Belfast.

Each site has world-class expertise; a track record in using health data to derive new knowledge, scientific discovery and insight; and works in close partnership with NHS bodies and the public to translate research findings into benefits for patients and populations.

From April this year, the six sites will work collaboratively as foundation partners in Health Data Research UK to make game-changing improvements in people’s health by harnessing data science at scale across the UK. 

Each site’s research organisations will receive long-term funding awards and will become part of a collaborative research community working together to deliver the priorities of Health Data Research UK.  This initial funding is awarded following a rigorous application process, which included interviews with an international panel of experts.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to bring together London’s best universities in data science for health. As part of HDR UK, our new pan London collaborative partnership comprises university, NHS and industrial partners; together we will solve more science problems and generate more benefits to patients than we could have done by working separately.  To deliver this vision we will work with a strong team of Directors from Imperial (Professor Paul Elliott), King’s College London (Professor Tim Hubbard), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (Professor Liam Smeeth) and Queen Mary University of London (Professor David van Heel),” said Professor Harry Hemingway (UCL Institute of Health Informatics).

Professor Andrew Morris, Director of Health Data Research UK, commented: “I am delighted to make today’s announcement, which marks the start of a unique opportunity for scientists, researchers and clinicians to use their collective expertise to transform the health of the population. 

The six HDR UK sites, comprising 22 universities, research and NHS organisations, have tremendous individual strengths and will form a solid foundation for our long-term ambition.  By working together and with NHS and industry partners to the highest ethical standards, our vision is to harness data science on a national scale. This will unleash the potential for data and technologies to drive breakthroughs in medical research, improving the way we are able to prevent, detect and diagnose diseases like cancer, heart disease and asthma. 

I am grateful to our funders who recognise the importance of collaboration at scale, and the pivotal contribution of health data research to the UK’s ambition to be a global leader in life sciences, for health and economic benefit.”

This is the first phase of investment to establish Health Data Research UK.  A further £24 million will be invested in upcoming activities, including a Future Talent Programme and work to address targeted data research challenges through additional partnership sites.  

Health Data Research UK is committed to the highest ethical standards and will work with experts in public engagement to ensure the public voice is central to its activity. It will work at scale and forge national and international partnerships to deliver:

· New scientific discovery

· A vibrant training environment for the next generation of data scientists

· The creation of a trustworthy UK-wide research and innovation ecosystem for health data research.

Health Data Research UK is a joint investment co-ordinated by the Medical Research Council, working in partnership with the British Heart Foundation, the National Institute for Health Research, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Welsh Government), Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland), Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates, and Wellcome.

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Media contact 

Rowan Walker

Tel: +44 (0)20 3108 8515

Email: rowan.walker [at] ucl.ac.uk