Monday 17 September 2018

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

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.

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 well-being, 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.”

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.