£35.4m to transform mental and brain health care across the UK – and the world

Innovative treatments and transformative therapies in brain health are on the horizon thanks to a £35.4 million award to the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre.

£35.4m to transform mental and brain health care across the UK – and the world

The award, announced on Friday, October 14, is part of a package of funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) for Biomedical Research Centres (BRC) in a competitive process involving international review.

The Oxford Health BRC, one of only two centres in the country currently wholly dedicated to mental health, was successful in securing funding for 11 themes of research.

Together with our sister centre, the NIHR Oxford BRC, Oxford attracted a £122m share of the £790m awards pot – a massive boost for research in the city and far beyond.

Already established as a centre of excellence in delivering cutting edge treatments in mental health and dementia, the Oxford Health BRC will now set its sights on delivering a breadth of life-changing innovations in brain health over a five-year period starting on December 1, 2022.

Theme areas, including depression therapeutics, mental health in development with a focus on children and young people, psychological treatments and brain technologies can now be advanced by leading scientists, clinicians and academics who are linked via a network of centres of excellence in brain health.

These include NHS organisations and universities complemented by collaborations around the globe. Together they will make it possible to directly translate research into potential new treatments, diagnostic tests and medical technologies for NHS patients.

Professor John Geddes, Director of the NIHR Oxford Health BRC

Professor John Geddes, Director of the NIHR Oxford Health BRC

Professor John Geddes, Director of the NIHR Oxford Health BRC and Director of the Translational Research Collaboration in Mental Health (TRC-MH), said:

“It builds on the success of the current centre which has, over the past five years, delivered new psychological and digital treatments, advances in drug discovery and new ways of integrating research and clinical care.

“The new award now provides us with a wonderful opportunity to transform care for mental and brain health and wellbeing across the whole country and, actually, the world. We can now translate the best research from UK biomedical science, data science and engineering, social science and arts and the humanities for the benefit of clinical care and population health.

“We are enormously grateful to the NIHR and the International Panel for both understanding and generously supporting our ambitious plans and vision. We are now looking forward to co-designing with patients and the public powerful new approaches that can be tested, refined and then implemented across the NHS and beyond.”


Dr Nick Broughton, Chief Executive of OHFT

Dr Nick Broughton, Chief Executive of OHFT, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the NIHR has supported our bid by funding projects that aim to improve mental health care and treatment. Today’s research is tomorrow’s care, and this money will enable us to make considerable strides forward with our ambitious programme across the country.

“Our current programme of six scientific themes in mental health research, coupled with two in training and patient and public involvement, has already yielded benefits way beyond Oxford; our work with virtual reality treatments for patients with psychosis being a prime example.

“With 11 themes now part of the BRC, we will be able to collaborate with many more colleagues in other towns and cities, bringing centres of excellence together in a formidable national network. This vital research infrastructure will work to improve mental health care and treatments in the future.”

What are the new Oxford Health BRC themes?

The 11 themes all have extensive scientific collaborations between Oxford Health BRC and academic and NHS site across the country. They are

  • Better Sleep (with the University of Surrey) will exploit new sleep and circadian science to develop, test, and translate innovations to improve health.
  • Brain Technologies (Birmingham and the University of Surrey) will deliver brain technologies for use in psychological, psychiatric and brain disorders.
  • Data Science will deliver tools to personalise care of individual patients with mental health disorders by combining routine clinical and research data
  • Dementia will preserve cognitive health and prevent cognitive decline by refining cognitive, imaging and blood-based biomarkers at-scale in the general population and in people experiencing memory problems.
  • Depression Therapeutics (Birmingham) will use human neurocognitive models to help identify and develop new and improved treatments for depression
  • Flourishing and Wellbeing (Birmingham and Brighton) will enable flourishing initiatives and interventions for patients and non-patients, delivered in spaces beyond the clinic.
  • Mental Health in Development (Universities of Birmingham, Liverpool, Oxford Brookes and Reading, with Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust) will develop targeted, effective, and accessible mental health interventions that meet the needs of diverse children and young people.
  • Molecular targets (Birmingham) will create a pipeline to translate and back-translate between discovery neuroscience and the clinic, to identify and test new therapeutic targets.
  • Pain will identify and target chronic pain brain-based mechanisms
  • Preventing multiple morbidities (Universities of Liverpool, Oxford Brookes, and Sheffield with Sheffield Health & Social Care NHS FT) in whole and high-risk populations will improve population health, reduce inequalities by co-developing and testing population interventions to prevent non-communicable disease and individual interventions for people with mental illness at greatest need.
  • Psychological Treatments (national reach) will develop new effective and efficient psychological interventions that precisely target core psychological mechanism

The NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre is based at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and run in partnership with the University of Oxford, and with Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham Women’s’ and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield Health & Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford Brookes University, the Universities of Birmingham, Brighton, Liverpool, Reading,  Sheffield and Surrey.

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Published: 14 October 2022