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The UK's leading mental health experts unite to solve treatment challenges

Posted on 17/09/2018

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The country's top mental health researchers and clinicians are joining forces to solve some of the greatest mental health challenges facing the UK public. The group of investigators, based in leading universities and hospitals across the country, will form a new NIHR Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration (TRC) which will work with industry and charity partners to find new treatments and therapeutics. The group includes the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre based at King’s College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

Currently, it is estimated that one in four people in the UK is living with a mental health condition. That’s nearly 15 million people with an illness that affects their wellbeing, their relationships with family and friends, and their ability to work.

The new NIHR Mental Health TRC will carry out much-needed scientific research to help transform the lives of those affected by mental illness. The initial focus of the collaboration will be on trying to better understand treatment resistant depression and improving characterisation of those individuals deemed to be ‘at risk’ of developing mental illness. It will also develop well-defined patient cohorts who have consented to be recalled to future mental health research studies in order to increase the numbers of people with mental disorders taking part in experimental medicine studies and trials.

The NIHR Mental Health TRC will follow a similar operating model to that already established through the NIHR’s collaborations in joint and related inflammatory diseases, respiratory disease and dementia. 

The NIHR Mental Health TRC is underpinned by world class clinical research facilities provided by the NIHR’s Biomedical Research Centres and Clinical Research Facilities, and the NIHR Mental Health MedTech Co-operative, but it acts as a single partnership. This means that research opportunities can be explored more easily and quickly and provides a single point of contact for partners such as industry and medical research charities to work with the 11 participating centres of excellence. It also speeds up the negotiation of agreements and contracts and coordinates all steps from first contact through to delivery of the agreed project and ultimately the development of new interventions, technologies and diagnostics.

Dr Louise Wood, Director of Science, Research and Evidence at the Department of Health and Social Care, said:

“Mental ill-health is the largest single cause of a disability in the UK and is a significant burden on people’s lives and on society. If we are going to improve people’s chances of living well and being able to work, we need to speed up the development of new treatments, particularly for those for whom current therapies do not work. The NIHR Mental Health TRC is bringing together the expertise of some of the best researchers in universities, the NHS, charities and industry to do just that. It will  play a key part in the development pathway for potential new treatments, hopefully bringing them to people living with mental health conditions faster.”


Professor Matthew Hotopf CBE, Director of the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre and Chair of NIHR Translational Research Collaboration in mental health said:

“There are enormous opportunities for innovation as science and technologies relevant to mental disorders are increasingly producing results, particularly in neurosciences and digital technologies. By working collaboratively, we can accelerate this innovation to help those with mental illness.” 


MQ: Transforming Mental Health is the TRC’s charity partner and will be part of the steering group as well as providing financial support to assist with the running of the collaboration.


Dr Sophie Dix, Director of Research at MQ: Transforming Mental Health said:

“We’re delighted to support this important initiative which further catalyses the UK’s world-leading role in mental health research. Importantly, it will significantly increase the scale and reach of innovative research so we can bring forward much-needed advances in our understanding and treatment of mental illness.”


Notes to editors:

The NIHR Translational Research Collaboration in mental health comprises:

NIHR Bristol BRC; NIHR Cambridge BRC; NIHR Maudsley BRC; NIHR Nottingham BRC; NIHR Oxford Health BRC; NIHR University College London BRC; NIHR Newcastle BRC; NIHR Imperial BRC; NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility; NIHR Exeter Clinical Research Facility and the NIHR Mental Health MedTech Co-operative. Cardiff University School of Medicine has also been invited to join this collaboration as an associate member.

About the NIHR

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. The NIHR is the research arm of the NHS. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (www.nihr.ac.uk). 

About NIHR Translational Research Collaborations

NIHR Translational Research Collaborations combine the finest minds and capabilities from universities and NHS organisations into a single structure. Underpinned by world class NIHR clinical research infrastructure, they create a unique resource to drive translational research in defined therapeutic areas, address unmet medical needs and take on the challenges of an evolving drug, device and diagnostic development model. 

There are currently NIHR Translational Research Collaborations in:

  • Joint and related inflammatory diseases – including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, synovitis
  • Inflammatory respiratory disease – including asthma, allergy, COPD, cystic fibrosis, acute lung injury, respiratory infection
  • Dementia - including late-onset dementias,; Young-onset dementias; Parkinson's disease, including progression to dementia; Neuroinflammation; and Huntington's Disease

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