£18 million electronic health research centre awarded to Manchester

An £18m investment into health eResearch across the North of England has been announced by the Medical Research Council.  Building on work developed in the GM-CLARHC, the Health eResearch Centre (HeRC), led by Professor Iain Buchan at the University of Manchester, will look at ways of using electronic health data to help treat patients by putting health records at the heart of innovative medical research.

The centre will bring together a powerful cluster of partners from academia (Manchester, Lancaster, Liverpool and York), the NHS, local authorities and industry in a five to 10 year programme. It will focus on producing new computer-based methods and tools, and applying them to five areas of innovation:

  • Helping patients to monitor their own health in daily life using mobile technologies such as smartphones, alongside records shared with GPs;
  • Helping the NHS to examine complex flows of patients in order to spot missed opportunities for earlier or better targeted care;
  • Giving researchers more powerful tools for identifying sub-groups of people who have different patterns of health that might illuminate new targets for treatment or prevention;
  • Enabling different research teams to collaborate across different organisations to produce more powerful and timely analyses of anonymised healthcare records;
  • Making clinical trials more efficient and more relevant to patients.

The Centre will undertake cutting edge research that links e-health records with other forms of research and routinely collected data, which will lead to patient and public benefit and ensuring that not just the northwest, but the UK as a whole remains at the forefront of global medical research.

The foundations and core technologies of the Centre have been developed over the last 8 years by Professor Buchan’s team in the Northwest Institute for BioHealth Informatics and more recently with thanks to NIHR funding via the GM-CLAHRC.  The Health Information Systems research theme of GM-CLAHRC has been working in partnership with the NHS on a variety of cardiovascular diseases to develop systems and tools that can look both forward and backwards at a patients treatment, or ‘care pathway’, and assess ways in which this could be optimised.  The tools will form an integral part of the technology platform across several of the research themes described above.

Three other health eResearch Centres will be established in London, Dundee and Swansea. The four Centres will investigate a wide range of conditions that place a huge burden on the UK population, including diabetes and obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and child and maternal health.  Universities and science minister David Willetts said: “The eHealth centres are the first of their kind and have the potential to revolutionise health research.”

The four Centres will make use of patient data sets available through the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, a £60 million service recently announced by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and the National Institute for Health Research. The public and charitable funding for these Centres builds on this important commitment from the Government and on similar bodies that link patient records in Scotland and Wales.