£42m boost to mental health research announced by Office for Life Sciences

illustration of scientistis working on a brain

A new Mental Health Mission, announced today by the Office for Life Sciences, will provide £42.7m worth of funding for mental health research in the UK.

The funding, which will be delivered by a National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) network of leading investigators, will be used to develop radical new treatments, improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis and increase the use of technology to free up clinician time.

The announcement was made as part of a life sciences package to support economic growth that includes  £121m to improve commercial clinical trials to bring new medicines to patients faster and up to £48m of new money for scientific innovation to prepare for any future health emergencies.

Professor Matthew Hotopf, Director of the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre and Vice Dean Research, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, said:

"As part of The NIHR Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration (MH TRC) we welcome this funding and look forward to continuing to work with researchers, clinicians, charities, industry and people with lived experience across the UK to boost the translational pipeline and help realise the potential in life sciences innovation."

The funding will be used to: 

  • Bolster research to improve the treatment and care for those with mental illness to address key issues affecting patients and clinicians today. Key priority areas for this research will include specific mental health conditions such as early psychosis and mood disorders which are currently under-researched, as well as research into children and young people's mental health to improve treatment and diagnosis.
  • Promote the use of data and digital technologies to enable clinicians to more accurately target prevention and treatment. Enhanced use of technology has the potential to free up clinician time, such as by monitoring people at home through an app, which allows more people to receive treatment and reduces waiting lists for service users.  
  • Fund two pilot sites in Birmingham (University of Birmingham) and Liverpool (University of Liverpool and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust). They will work closely with industry to boost research and encourage investment. These sites will develop novel ways of working which can be rolled out to other sites in the future.
  • Eliminate barriers for industry to deliver ground-breaking new treatments to people with mental health conditions faster. 

Professor Grainne McAlonan, Deputy Director of NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre and Professor of Translational Neuroscience at King’s IoPPN, said: 

“The priorities highlighted in the Mental Health Mission reflect our own Research Themes in the NIHR Maudsley BRC 2022-27 such as Child Mental Health & Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Digital Therapies, which target the areas of most need and aim to bring effective treatments and prevention to patients faster."

CEO of NIHR and Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Lucy Chappel said,

“Mental ill health affects many people. This investment in the Mental Health Mission aims to deliver a truly exciting range of innovative therapies and technologies that could greatly improve people's lives. For example, the development of wellbeing apps, games and services to diagnose child mental health problems early could provide valuable new methods of treatment. And in the true spirit of collaboration, the work has intentionally been spread across the country so that more people are able to participate in world-leading mental health research than ever before."

Building on the priority healthcare missions launched in November 2022 as part of the Life Sciences Vision, the Mental Health Mission will promote collaboration across different sectors to bolster research and attract further investment from industry and research organisations.

Nationally, the Mental Health Mission will be chaired by Kathryn Abel and Husseini Manji. In a joint statement, they said,

“We are delighted to be working together to make the new Mental Health Mission a truly revolutionary force behind mental health research. We want the Mission to create tangible differences to the lives of patients, both in the UK and internationally. Between us, we bring a wealth of experience in mental health research and innovation, and a commitment to genuine collaboration with patients, industry and healthcare staff.

Bringing together the public sector, patients and industry as equal partners, the Mission will work with the Office for Life Sciences and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to support the NHS and NIHR to capitalise on its size and scope, and on the depth of its data resources. Alongside additional investment in mental health research and infrastructure, the Mission will foster a step change in the way we think about mental health, mental illness and its treatment. This will support development of the critically needed treatments across the spectrum of mental illness.

We want the UK to be the most attractive place to conduct robust, high impact mental health research, ensuring people have access to the best, and newest, treatments. We are confident that the Mission will be unique in its ability to convene and challenge national partners to make this happen.”

Tags: Staff News -

By NIHR Maudsley BRC at 26 May 2023, 13:15 PM

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