Using data to tackle disease

Swansea University is to become one of six substantive sites of the newly formed Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), in a strategic partnership with Queen’s University Belfast.

The six sites in the HDR project will share an initial investment of £30m for the next five years. Swansea University reports its involvement stems from its world leading expertise in health informatics. ‌The project will also strengthen the UK’s position at the forefront of population data science.

The Wales and Northern Ireland HDR UK site is led by Professor Ronan Lyons at Swansea University and Professor Mark Lawler at Queen’s University Belfast. The team will focus upon two major research initiatives; Modernising Public Health and Enabling Precision Medicine. Both partner sites share a vision to upscale the quantity and impact of research in scientific discovery and its translation, patient and population health, policy and economic development by addressing major health challenges and to lead interdisciplinary research aligned to HDR UK’s mission.

Ronan Lyons said “I am thrilled that Swansea is to become a founding substantive site of HDR UK. One of Swansea University’s key strengths has always been to work collaboratively both with UK and global partners and also across disciplines based in Medicine, Computer Science, Mathematics and Engineering. This will help strengthen our position at the forefront of rapidly advancing science to benefit the health, wellbeing and prosperity of the population. I look forward to working with colleagues at the other HDR UK substantive sites to apply cutting-edge science to address the most pressing health challenges.”

This award sees Swansea University at the core of a collaborative research community working together to deliver the priorities of Health Data Research UK. The initial funding has been awarded following a rigorous application process, which included interviews with an international panel of experts.

Professor Andrew Morris, Director of Health Data Research UK, said “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 21 universities and research institutes, 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 £24m 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, and 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.

Other substantive sites will be led by consortia from Cambridge, Midlands, Scotland, London and Oxford.

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