16th July 2008

Sanger Institute to help boost infection research

A group including the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has today been chosen as one of two major consortia dedicated to research into healthcare associated infections and antibiotic resistance.

A total of £9m has been jointly awarded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research and Wellcome Trust through a competitive process to establish the two consortia.

This is the first round of funding awarded under a UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) joint initiative, potentially involving seven funding organisations. The initiative was set up to bring together new multi-disciplinary research groups focused on high quality collaborative research addressing national research priorities in the field of microbiology and infection.

" We are very excited to be involved in this project, which we believe will have important consequences for diagnostics and infection control in the UK "

Dr Julian Parkhill

The Oxford consortium, which includes the Sanger Institute, will focus on research to increase understanding of how infectious diseases are transmitted with the aim of improving control of their spread. The consortium will exploit recent advances made in sequencing the genomes of bacterial and viral pathogens of public health concern, to improve and speed up their classification and identification. This should make it easier to track and deal with local outbreaks of infection, identify particularly virulent strains, and help to spot where infection control guidelines can be improved.

Dr Derrick Crook, who leads the Oxford consortium, explained: "Major public health challenges are posed by infections such as tuberculosis, MRSA and hospital acquired diarrhoeas, including C. difficile and Norovirus. If we can recognise the different strains of individual outbreaks of infections we can tackle them more effectively. We aim to develop rapid DNA sequence typing techniques so that infection outbreaks can be recognised and followed as they develop, and then successfully interrupted in a targeted way. We will also develop easy to use web-based tools that will help local practitioners improve routine infection control."

The London consortium is based at Imperial College London. It will focus on research into individual and organisational behavioural change, modelling, epidemiology, rapid diagnosis and surveillance of selected infectious diseases to address the challenge of healthcare-associated infection. It will bring together clinical, laboratory, public health, academic and managerial research expertise to drive forward translational and applied research on infection. The overall aim is to embed infection control into healthcare delivery.

Professor Jonathan Friedland and Dr Alison Holmes lead the London-based consortium.

Dr Holmes said: "We aim to develop an internationally recognised centre for applied and translational research, training and leadership in infection prevention and management. Our plan is to develop an organisation-wide approach to infection prevention, from cutting edge science in molecular epidemiology and pathogenesis to leading research healthcare management systems. This will bring together several groups across one of the largest NHS Trusts in the country and involves working collaboratively with the Health Protection Agency."

Professor Brian Duerden, Inspector of Microbiology and Infection Control for the Department of Health and leader of the initiatives management group commented on behalf of the funders:

"The threats presented by infectious diseases are well recognised by the public, policy-makers, healthcare practitioners and scientists. These include infections such as tuberculosis that affects 30% of the world's population and infections associated with healthcare settings such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile that are the focus of important reduction targets for the NHS. Through this initiative the major funders of health research in the UK are working together to tackle these threats by driving forward research in this nationally important area."

By bringing together experts from across the research spectrum to translate cutting edge basic research into clinical practice, the consortia should make a very significant impact on clinical care and public health.

The UKCRC Translational Infection Research Initiative is a partnership of seven funders who have committed up to £16.5m investment to strengthen infection research in the UK. The Partners are: the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; the Medical Research Council; the National Institute for Health Research; the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Research and Development Office; the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health Directorates; the Wales Office of Research and Development for Health and Social Care, Welsh Assembly Government; and the Wellcome Trust.

A second round of funding under the initiative is scheduled for award in late 2009. Both successful consortia are working closely with the Health Protection Agency, which is an independent organisation dedicated to protecting peoples health in the UK.

Notes to Editors


The UKCRC Translational Infection Research Consortia awards were made on a competitive basis and provide funding for research infrastructure, new academic posts and training programmes, including studentships. Each Centre will receive funds over a 5-year period.

The successful UKCRC Translational Infection Research Consortia are:

  • Integrating Infection Prevention into Health Care Delivery (Imperial College London). This consortium comprises Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and the Health Protection Agency.
  • Modernising Medical Microbiology: Establishing how New Technologies can be Optimally Integrated into Microbiology (Oxford University). This consortium comprises the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (a partnership between the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals and the University of Oxford), the Health Protection Agency Regional Microbiology Network, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Partnership of funders

A partnership of funders has come together to provide the £16.5m investment to establish the UKCRC Translational Infection Research Initiative. These are:

  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
  • Medical Research Council
  • National Institute for Health Research
  • Health and Social Care Research and Development Office, Northern Ireland
  • Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health Directorates
  • Wales Office of Research and Development for Health and Social Care, Welsh Assembly Government
  • Wellcome Trust

The Translational Infection Initiative was designed to provide a direct boost to research into infectious disease through investment in Consortium Grants to support new research partnerships, focused on high quality, collaborative research targeted at national priority areas. These consortia are intended to establish new career development and training programmes and carry out multi-disciplinary research.

This Initiative

This Initiative is part of a drive to coordinate funding for health research in the UK by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC). The UKCRC, established in 2004, is a partnership of organisations working together to establish the UK as a world leader in clinical research by harnessing the research potential of the National Health Service. The Partners include the key stakeholders that shape the health research environment, including research funders, the NHS, government, industry, academia, regulators, charities and patients.

The UKCRC Partners are working together to address a broad agenda of issues affecting clinical research through several interconnected areas of activity. These are: developing the infrastructure to underpin clinical research in the NHS, building up an expert workforce to support clinical research, streamlining the regulatory and governance environment, developing incentives for research in the NHS and coordinating research funding. The Partners have already implemented many of the changes needed to transform the clinical research environment in the UK.

Detailed information on UKCRC activities can be found in the UKCRC Progress Report 2004 2006, which is available on the UKCRC website: www.ukcrc.org.

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, which receives the majority of its funding from the Wellcome Trust, was founded in 1992. The Institute is responsible for the completion of the sequence of approximately one-third of the human genome as well as genomes of model organisms and more than 90 pathogen genomes. In October 2006, new funding was awarded by the Wellcome Trust to exploit the wealth of genome data now available to answer important questions about health and disease.


The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. We support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. Our breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. We are independent of both political and commercial interests.


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