The UK Clinical Research Facility Network (UKCRF Network), hosted by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), has been awarded £2.4 million funding by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to support research studies over the next five years.
The UKCRF Network works in collaboration with 54 Clinical Research Facilities (CRFs) based within NHS Trusts across the UK and Ireland. It also links with other key early phase and experimental medicine infrastructure including for cancer and vaccine trials.
The aim of the network is to benefit the UK early-stage clinical research and life sciences industry by developing, sharing and implementing excellence in operational practice for efficient and effective trial delivery, excellent patient experience and safety.
Interim Director of UKCRF Network, Paul Brown, led on the successful proposal to the NIHR alongside MFT, CRF Directors and colleagues within the Network.
He said: “We are thrilled to announce that this bid was successful, and we have been officially awarded NIHR funding for the UKCRF Network from 1 March 2023 to 28 February 2028.
“NIHR’s funding is a significant increase, which is a testament to our collaborative structure and a vote of confidence in the work to date. We look forward to expanding our teams, their remit and continuing our growth and success over the next five years.”
The 28 NIHR CRFs belong to the UKCRF Network and are a key part of the UK’s leading early-stage clinical research infrastructure and play an important role in making the country a global hub for life sciences.
Dr Iain McLean, Managing Director for Research and Innovation at MFT, said: “We are very proud to continue to host the UKCRF Network at MFT, and now more collaboratively than ever. This further NIHR funding will allow the Network to build on our exciting future for experimental medicine and clinical research across the UK and Ireland.”
In partnership with NIHR and all relevant stakeholders, the Network promotes the UK as the place for broader investment in and economic growth from health research.
Prof Saul Faust, Clinical Lead for UKCRF Network, said: “This new NIHR funding will ensure patients across the UK can take part safely in more of the early development trials of new medicines, vaccines and diagnostic technologies that have to happen before larger trials in the NHS. CRFs will be able to support public and industry trials to happen faster whilst maintaining the highest safety standards”.
Professor Nigel Brunskill, NIHR Leicester CRF Director and a consultant in renal medicine, and Manager, Tracy Kumar, have overseen the expansion of the NIHR Leicester CRF which received a near three-fold increase in funding and partnered with the University Hospitals of Northamptonshire (UHN) NHS Group in 2022. During the pandemic their leadership was crucial in the rapid set up of Urgent Public Health studies at UHL. Leicester was the highest recruiter for the RECOVERY trial and continues to support the COVID-19 response via vaccine studies like COV-BOOST.
Dr Matthew Hallsworth, NIHR Director of External Affairs said: “The UK CRFs will continue their vital work to deliver ground-breaking research, bringing new treatments to patients across the country. They are a key part of the nation’s early phase research infrastructure and make an essential contribution to the UK’s position as a life sciences superpower.
“Our funding will enable and ensure continued collaboration between the centres in order to leverage the full strength of a network of CRFs.”