Chief Scientific Adviser pays tribute to University of Leicester’s world-leading research, impact, and COVID-19 response during visit

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, recently visited the University of Leicester to find out more about its research expertise and to deliver a lecture on the importance of scientific advice in national policymaking.

During the visit, Sir Patrick met with staff from the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust at the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, who undertook important COVID-19 research during the pandemic and continue to lead work to address health inequalities in the UK and globally. 

During his visit, Sir Patrick Vallance paid tribute to Leicester’s key role in helping the UK to tackle the virus. Thanks to partnership working between University researchers and the hospitals, and the willingness of Leicester COVID patients to take part in clinical trials, Leicester managed to enrol more than 50 per cent of patients into trials.

The Government Chief Scientific Adviser also highlighted Leicester’s important contribution during the pandemic and noted that trial results from Leicester helped the UK to understand the impact of the virus, including its impact on ethnic minorities.   

Professor Kamlesh Khunti from the University of Leicester led the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) sub group on ethnicity. The group was the first to identify the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on ethnic minorities, and collected evidence which shaped national policymaking.

While in Leicester, Sir Patrick visited the University’s Space Park Leicester to hear about how University space researchers are working alongside industry partners including Rolls Royce and CGI to drive innovation in the space industry. Space Park Leicester is expected to create 2,500 direct and indirect jobs and contribute £750 million a year to the UK space sector over the next decade.

He concluded his day in Leicester by delivering the Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture to University staff and students, hospital staff, and members of the local community – highlighting the importance of scientific advice to Government policymaking.

Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, said: "It was a pleasure to visit the University of Leicester and see the strength of its research base. Research of this quality and scale is essential to help the UK find innovative solutions to some of the challenges that we and other countries face." 

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: “We were delighted to host Sir Patrick and showcase the world-leading research undertaken by the University in collaboration with our partners.  The visit was a great success demonstrating how the work of universities has a direct and important bearing on tackling the significant challenges of our times. 

“Sir Patrick helped navigate the country through the COVID-19 pandemic and it was an honour to hear him speak in such positive terms about our research and impact.”

Richard Mitchell, Chief Executive of University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said: “We are incredibly proud of research undertaken in our hospitals in partnership with the University. Research is a key part of our strategy to deliver outstanding patient care and it was pleasing to hear Sir Patrick recognise the value of this approach and how results of clinical trials in Leicester helped shape the national COVID-19 pandemic response.”

Sir Patrick visited the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre which is a partnership between the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, University of Leicester, Loughborough University and University Hospitals of Northamptonshire NHS Group to find out more about Leicester’s clinical research and work to tackle health disparities. 

Professor Melanie Davies, Director of the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, said: “Earlier this autumn, the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre received £26m in Government funding to expand our work thanks to our impressive track record in research. We feel the centre is now firmly on the health research map, and the visit of Sir Patrick enabled us to impress the national and international importance of the work we carry out here and how it can help to influence health policy.” 

The Space Park tour highlighted the uniqueness of the centre, the strength of research and industry partnerships and the site’s impact locally, nationally and internationally.

Professor Sarah Davies, Pro Vice Chancellor Head of the College of Science and Engineering, said: “We welcomed the opportunity to engage with the Chief Scientific Adviser and provide an overview of Leicester’s knowhow, inspirational research and thought leadership at Space Park Leicester. 

“As the largest academic space community in the UK, with over 300 people working in space and building on 60 years of experience, Space Park Leicester supports a rich ecosystem of scientists, students and partners working on transformational challenge-driven research.”  

The tour of the Institute of Structural and Chemical Biology demonstrated how the institute takes advantage of synergies in research technologies and approaches to deliver major advances in both fundamental and translational research.

Professor John Schwabe said: “It was a huge pleasure to host Sir Patrick Vallance at the Institute and for him to have the opportunity to interact with some of our finest researchers.”