Multi-million pound boost for University of Leicester’s ability to improve and save lives

The University of Leicester and partners have received a multi-million pound boost to help continue pioneering clinical research into improving and saving lives.

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) has been funded for £26 million over the next five years.

One of only 20 Biomedical Research Centres across the country, Leicester’s brings together clinicians and academics from the University of Leicester, Leicester’s hospitals, Loughborough University and University Hospitals of Northamptonshire NHS Group.

The combined research teams in Leicester, Loughborough and Northampton will work together to develop groundbreaking treatments, diagnostics, prevention and care for people who have a wide range of diseases.

The University of Leicester’s medical research carried out at the BRC includes vital fields such as diabetes, cardiovascular science, cancer and Covid-19.

This new investment from will mean that research into illnesses linked to respiratory diseases (affecting the lungs), cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease and the consequences of inactivity will continue to push boundaries of knowledge in clinical medicine.

Three new specialty areas will join the NIHR Leicester BRC for the first time: personalised cancer prevention and treatment; environment – looking at how the environment impacts on long term health conditions; and using data to better understand multiple long-term health conditions and factors specific to the health of ethnic minority populations.

In addition, the respiratory specialty will be joined by experts in infectious diseases.

The £26m funding forms part of a significant funding increase for the Midlands, ensuring that patients across the region have opportunities to benefit from innovative research studies. These benefits include access to treatments that are not yet widely available in the NHS.

The University of Leicester’s Professor Melanie Davies CBE, pictured, Director of the NIHR Leicester BRC, said: “I am absolutely thrilled at the success of our BRC application. We have doubled our number of themes, including into really important clinical areas such as cancer, which will make such a difference to patients. We have expanded investment into cardiovascular, respiratory and diabetes research and this award will help us retain 120 talented investigators and importantly 45 ‘rising stars’, or leaders of the future, who may have otherwise moved away.

“This is a phenomenal success for our hospital and impacts the people of Leicester, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, and will allow us to attract even more investment into our hospitals and Universities.”

Tom Robinson, Head of the College of Life Sciences at the University of Leicester, said: “The renewal of our NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, with a 2.5-fold increase in funding is excellent news. This award builds on the results of the recent Research Excellence Framework, which placed Clinical Medicine research at the University of Leicester second in the United Kingdom.

“This is clear recognition of the world-leading research undertaken by Leicester's investigators into common clinical diseases and healthcare problems, that ultimately will improve health outcomes for patients and populations, in Leicester, the UK and worldwide.”


Richard Mitchell, Chief Executive of Leicester’s Hospitals, said: “This is a really important moment; it symbolises years of hard work and dedication to put clinical research in Leicester on the map. I believe UHL is in a unique position in the UK to deliver world-class research. We are a very large provider of integrated health and care, we have a strong relationship with our local universities, NHS and local authority partners, and we serve a diverse population with high levels of deprivation. Twenty- seven languages are spoken within 1.5 miles of the Leicester Royal Infirmary. If you want to conduct international research, it is clear you do not need to travel further than Leicester.”

The current NIHR Leicester BRC has had a key role in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. This included leading a UK-wide study into the longer term effects of Covid-19 on hospitalised patients, which found that of these people 70 per cent continued to report some symptoms up to 12 months after they were first infected with the virus.

Other findings that the NIHR Leicester BRC has made during the last five years include:

Faster walks more likely to live longer; and, faster walking pace may slow the biological ageing process

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare workers from ethnic minority backgrounds is unlikely to be due to biology or genetics

An alternative to open heart surgery, called TAVI, is just as effective for patients with severe symptomatic aortic stenosis (a narrowing of the valve that blood flows through as it leaves the heart)

Sixty per cent of patients on a trial into a medicine for type 2 diabetes had a10 per cent or greater weight loss after four weeks

Three genes that are associated with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a fatal lung disease

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has awarded a total £790 million to 20 new Biomedical Research Centres across England, to translate scientific discoveries into new treatments, diagnostic tests and medical technologies for patients.

NIHR infrastructure funding, such as that awarded for BRCs, supports the country’s leading experts to develop and deliver research funded by the NIHR, other public funders, charities and the life sciences industry. In doing so, its investment plays a crucial role in underpinning research in England and supporting economic growth. For every £1 invested in the current NIHR Leicester BRC, an additional £10 was received through external grants.

Over the past five years, the NIHR Leicester BRC has supported over 340 studies and published nearly 2,000 research papers, as well as supported 61 PhD students beginning their health research careers.