£95m to NIHR Imperial BRC will support 14 research themes


The recent NIHR award of £95m to the Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), to develop and improve care for patients over the next five years, starts in December 2022. The focus will be on 14 themes responding to the most pressing local health needs through translational research. These include existing research themes – such as cardiovascular, cancer and infection and antimicrobial resistance – as well as new areas of work, such as pregnancy and premature births, respiratory and biomedical engineering. 

  1. Biomedical Engineering

This theme aims to provide better access to healthcare technology and medical devices to enable less invasive, more cost-effective and more equitable healthcare. It will build on patient demand for new technologies and explore how existing technology can be used to fulfil patient needs.

  1. Brain Sciences

With an increasing social need for neurological and mental health care requiring new treatment options, this theme aims to develop innovative approaches for two underserved populations: older people with late-life cognitive impairment (for example dementia) and young people with emotional and behavioural issues (for instance substance misuse, self-harm, and disordered eating).

  1. Cardiovascular

There is a high incidence of cardiovascular disease in north-west London’s diverse ethnic and socio-economic community. This theme aims to understand underlying factors using genomics and advanced imaging that can help better understand the cardiovascular risk for different populations and contribute to personalised healthcare. It will also explore devices for early detection and management of diseases.

  1. Digestive Diseases

This theme intends to address critical areas of liver disease including drug resistance and precision medicine and explore new treatments and diagnostics. Gastrointestinal or liver disorders are important drivers of health in north-west London’s ethnically diverse population and contribute to spiralling healthcare costs due to high alcohol use and obesity.

  1. Digital Health

This theme links to the UK Government’s ‘Data saves lives’ vision, which sets out aims for data and digital technology to be used in a safe, trusted and transparent way to improve health. This theme will build on our strengths in data collaboration, clinical informatics and artificial intelligence to create and evaluate digital and data-driven tools that support and improve the diagnosis and treatment of disease. 

  1. Immunology

Chronic immune disorders are best treated if they are recognised early. This theme will explore new ways to ensure timely and accurate diagnosis of these conditions and contribute to improved use of immunosuppression treatments that can improve health and outcomes for these patients.

  1. Infection and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

Engagement with the local community and patient groups has identified anti-microbial resistance, HIV and pandemic preparedness as priorities for infection research. This theme further evolved following lessons from the successful response to Covid-19 and it will explore new strategies for prevention and vaccination of infectious diseases, advancing diagnostics and digital health, and developing new treatments, including precision medicine. 

  1. Metabolic and Endocrine

This theme will focus on obesity, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, as well as fertility conditions. It will explore the use of hormones as treatments for NAFLD and utilise large datasets to identify patients at risk of type-2 diabetes, especially those at risk of developing rapid negative outcomes. It will also investigate how targeted genetic technology can be used for improved diagnosis of fertility issues in patients with obesity and the impact of weight loss interventions on fertility.

  1. Molecular Phenotyping

Building on the hypothesis that metabolic phenotyping data can help improve diagnostics for precision medicine and treatments, this theme will concentrate on network model-driven diagnostics and therapy, early-stage markers for screening and minimal or non-invasive MRI approaches to diagnosing disease. It will also explore how to use molecular pathology for improving biopsy assessment and tissue identification, guided interventions and analysis of bodily fluids. 

  1. Multiple Long-Term Conditions

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the impact of multiple long-term conditions as causes of early death and disability. This theme will provide evidence that contributes to much-needed strategies for the prevention and treatment of patients who have more than one long-term condition by better understanding the prevalence of those with multiple long-term conditions, exploring the mechanisms that link these long-term diseases where they are not already known to be related and find new strategies for the management of patients with multiple long-term conditions.

  1. Pregnancy & Prematurity

In line with the UK Government’s focus on reducing preterm birth, improving outcomes for mothers and babies, this theme will explore how real-world data could facilitate early diagnosis, and improve interventions in reducing risks and provide new and diverse ways to improve outcomes. The theme aims to contribute to positioning the UK as a global leader in mother and baby research by expanding infrastructure and capacity, attracting new funding, investing in research talent and improving equality diversity and inclusivity.

  1. Respiratory

Respiratory diseases affect young, elderly, poor and under-served populations disproportionately and account for one in five deaths in the UK. This theme aims to explore how we can better understand who is at risk from respiratory disease, find new treatments and preventions for viral infections and improve outcomes, as well as reduce the impact on healthcare. It will also investigate using new ways to diagnose and treat diseases, including advanced diseases.

  1. Social, Genetic & Environmental Determinants of Health

Social and environmental factors play a vital role in the health inequities that have been recently highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic. This theme will incorporate social, environmental and genomic data to explore how improvement can be made to strategies for prevention, early diagnosis and precision medicine for the management of the disease. Specifically, the theme will explore two long-term challenges: the lack of diversity and inclusion in research participation and related inequity in health benefits from translational research and the limited capacity of health data science to fully integrate social, genetic and environmental factors into precision medicine. 

  1. Surgery and Cancer

Cancer is one of the UK’s leading causes of death and the survival rate remains low compared to many other European countries. Cancer outcomes can only be improved by early diagnosis in those without symptoms, rapid diagnosis in those with symptoms and the introduction of new technologies and treatments. This theme aims to enhance outcomes through patient-focused research on common cancers, such as breast, urological, gastro-intestinal, haematological and gynaecological.

  • Professor Mark Thursz
    Professor Mark Thursz
    NIHR Imperial BRC Director
  • Dr Paul Craven
    Dr Paul Craven
    Head of Clinical Research Operations / Manager, NIHR Imperial BRC