UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences


NIHR investment boosts funding for UCL research into blood borne and sexually transmitted infections

29 January 2020

A UCL led centre of excellence investigating blood-borne viruses (BBV) and sexually transmitted infections (STI) is one of the Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs) that will share in a £58.7 million research investment from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).


The NIHR HPRU in Blood Borne and Sexually Transmitted Infections at UCL was established in 2014 to undertake collaborative research across UCL, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Public Health England. It addresses the key health protection priorities for the prevention and control of STIs and BBVs, notably understanding risk and risk reduction, reducing the burden of under-diagnosis, and improving care and management of those diagnosed with infections.

As well as establishing 14 new HPRUs, the latest round of funding injects an additional £11.2m into the existing HPRUs scheme. Findings are used by Public Health England to keep the public safe from current and emerging public health threats.

Professor Caroline Sabin, Director of the HPRU at UCL commented:We are very excited to hear that we have received continued funding for the HPRU in Blood Borne and Sexually Transmitted Infections at UCL. Over the past six years, the HPRU has successfully supported a range of projects that have increased our understanding of behavioural risks for many of these infections, we have established novel and effective approaches to increase the number of people being tested for these infections, and have undertaken research to support the development of improved care pathways for people living with blood-borne infections.

Through the collaboration, we have also helped to build research capacity in the field, through the training of junior scientists and PhD students.  Together with our partners at Public Health England, we have proposed an exciting programme of research for the next five years and are looking forward to continuing to support Public Health England in its objective of providing optimal health protection to the population.

Professor Graham Hart, Dean, UCL Faculty of Population Health Sciences added: ‘I am delighted that Professor Caroline Sabin and her team secured this highly competitive funding. UCL’s HPRU is at the forefront of addressing global threats to public health, conducting state-of-the-art research on sexually transmitted infections and blood-borne viruses, and providing the next generation of researchers and health protection professionals with cross-disciplinary skills.

This centre of excellence is a great example of the type of partnership working that UCL’s new School for the Health of the Public will support, bringing together multiple disciplines to improve the public’s health, together with policy makers and practitioners. The HPRU’s work with Public Health England has already improved the health of the population, and this investment will allow their valuable work to continue for the next 5 years.’

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “The UK’s achievements in public health to date have saved the lives of millions of people. This would have been impossible without world-leading research conducted by some of brightest minds up and down the country.”

Professor Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at PHE, said: “Tackling major public health threats such as antimicrobial resistance, emerging infections and air pollution requires innovative, collaborative research. 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.”