UK Digital Health Innovation Hubs to Accelerate Clinical Trials

Digital Health

The UK’s Medical Research Council is running a £22 million competition to set up five “Digital Innovation Hubs” connecting regional healthcare data with genetic and biomedical information across the country, as reported by Digital Health.

The innovation hubs are supposed to offer UK scientists, investigators and clinicians access to high-quality health data from the NHS, universities, and social care in a quest to support faster cures for disease while delivering more efficient clinical trials. Global biopharma sponsors should monitor this one carefully—at least those with a clinical trial portfolio in the UK. It is a part of a recently announced wider initiative £37.5 million funding program.

Focus of Hubs

Core projects will focus on cancer, respiratory, neurodegenerative, dementia, diabetes and immunity, reports Digital Health.  Apparently, a scheme to de-identify and encrypt data will ensure the systems comply with EU data protection and privacy laws.   Planners seek to have the hubs complement NHS’s Local Health and Care Record Exemplar LHCRE programme and NHS Digital’s  Data Services Platform by the end of 2019.

An Impressive Politician

Nicola Blackwood, a conservative party health minister that herself faced a challenging rare genetic condition, noted “it’s absolutely crucial that researchers are able to access the NHS’ world-leading anonymized data so they can develop cutting-edge treatments and solutions to some of healthcare’s biggest challenges.” Blackwood refers to the NHS’ Long Term Plan which encourages technical innovation within the NHS.

Projects Underway

Already a £3 million trial is ongoing, including 10 projects across the UK such as the Greater Manchester Initiative, in which 1,000 patients with implanted pacemakers and defibrillators will have their health data analyzed in real-time for signs of deterioration.  The sponsors hope the £338,000 will result in a decreasing number of hospital admissions, hence improving care navigation in real-time, and of course, lowering costs to the public.

UK’s Medical Research Council

Managing the hub competition, they are responsible for coordinating and funding medical research in the UK. Part of the UK’s Research and Innovation (UKRI), which was born April 2018, it brings together the UK’s seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. UK’s Research and Innovation is answerable to the Department or Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (although it was designed to be politically independent).  MRC focuses on high-impact research, often offering financial assistance and scientific expertise behind a number of medical breakthroughs, from the development of penicillin, to the discovery the structure of DNA. MRC research has produced 32 Nobel Prize winners.