New collaboration to tackle Birmingham’s biggest health challenges

Birmingham Health Partners to use clinical trials and healthcare data to improve the health of six million residents

The new collaboration will address some of the most-pressing health problems facing residents

A new collaboration to tackle the biggest health challenges faced by the West Midlands’ six million residents will use real-time clinical trials and health data to speed up research and improve cancer care, maternity services, child health, obesity, and dementia.

Birmingham Health Partners (BHP), made up of the University of Birmingham, Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust, and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, will team up with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and its members to make Birmingham a world leader in the development of precision medicines tailored to patients based on genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

The collaboration, founded on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), will create the Birmingham Health Partners & Industry Steering Group (BHPISG).

The West Midlands is already building an internationally-competitive health and care infrastructure, with BHP at the heart of a collaborative and innovative ecosystem bringing together multidisciplinary clinical-academic teams to deliver on key elements of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy

This new collaboration will play to Birmingham’s strengths in healthcare data, digitalisation of health care services, genomic medicine, diagnostics and clinical trials and will help address the biggest challenges facing the city and region.

The diversity of our regional population means that our research and the commercial innovations which result from it will be applicable to nationally and globally

The aim is to accelerate the development and adoption of new data-enabled innovations into clinical practice to benefit patients.

The new arrangement will work on four key regional health challenges – chosen because they have national or international relevance and can be scaled up if successful. It will build on the region’s strengths and expertise and the potential for significant economic impact. These are:

Challenge 1: Improving cancer outcomes

There are more than 360,000 new cancer cases a year in the UK and prevalence is increasing, with over 50% in breast, prostate, lung and bowel. Cancer incidence in Birmingham is in line with the national average, however cancer mortality is significantly higher.

The collaboration will build on the work of the West Midlands Genomics Medicine Centre and use a wealth of research, clinical and commercial real-world data to accelerate R&D for new treatments for cancer.

Challenge 2: Addressing maternal and paediatric health

Birmingham is one of the youngest, most-diverse cities in Europe and as a result harbours many health challenges prevalent in younger populations. Over 24% of Birmingham children are overweight or obese when they start school, and this rises to 40% by the time they leave primary school.

Birmingham boasts the only single-specialist foundation trust for both women and children in England, and the collaboration will address the growing problem of childhood obesity, develop paediatric-specific health interventions, and undertake research in miscarriage treatments including genetic-related developmental problems and conditions in early pregnancy.

Challenge 3: Tackling multimorbidity in an ageing population

Around 15-20% of Birmingham’s population are retired. Many are affected by multimorbidities, in which several conditions co-exist. Comorbidities, which include cancer, dementia, cardiovascular and respiratory disease and diabetes, are increasingly common as we age and result in a far higher cost of care for the elderly than for younger populations.

The partnership now wants to put that work to use – using real-world population data to develop, deploy and evaluate new medicines to help solve and better manage these diseases.

Challenge 4: Improving NHS care by matching patient results with ongoing research

With a regional population of six million people, Birmingham is looking to understand how new interventions affect disease and then use this information to develop new treatment regimens, support adoption, reimbursement and improved health across the region.

This partnership will accelerate cutting-edge research in Birmingham and help the NHS tackle some of the West Midlands’ most-pressing health challenges

This includes using innovative approaches to the design and assessment of clinical trials for new therapies, testing these across diseases with similar underlying science to more-quickly check they work and focus on personalised medicine.

The data generated will also help the system respond rapidly to any upcoming breakthroughs.

The pharmaceutical industry is a major investor in British research and development – investing £4.3billion every year – and it is hoped this new collaboration will drive greater economic development for Birmingham and the West Midlands through research, infrastructure, and the sharing of knowledge, skills and expertise.

Chief executive of the ABPI, and co-chair of the new steering group, Mike Thompson, said: “This partnership will accelerate cutting-edge research in Birmingham and help the NHS tackle some of the West Midlands’ most-pressing health challenges.

“We’re playing to our strengths: linking state-of-the-art science from pharmaceutical companies with Birmingham’s internationally-recognised data and genomics infrastructure.

“Together, we can cement Birmingham as a world-class research centre and deliver better care for patients throughout the West Midlands.”

BHP director and co-chair of the new steering group, Professor David Adams, added: “Academic and clinical collaboration in Birmingham is long established between our co-located prestigious institutions.

“This new arrangement with the ABPI will provide industry partners with greater access to our multidisciplinary experts to both speed up the process of translational medicine and deliver effective new innovations to improve the health of patients and our wider population.

“The diversity of our regional population means that our research and the commercial innovations which result from it will be applicable to nationally and globally.”

The ABPI’s first city partnership, an MoU in Greater Manchester, saw 41 new cross-sector projects, a 4.4% increase in commercial clinical trials, and 100% of NHS hospital trusts and CCGs across the region active in research. The Greater Manchester partnership also helped build the world-renowned Salford Lung Study.

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