Wednesday 12 February 2014

Unveiling Our First Strategic Research Centres

Following the unveiling of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust's first Strategic Research Centres, Director of Research Dr. Janet Allen writes about what this will mean for progressing research in cystic fibrosis.
On 29 April 2013, we launched an ambitious research strategy,“Investing in research to change lives”, in which we set out a roadmap for the Trust to deliver high quality research that will make a difference to people with cystic fibrosis.

One of the critical components of this new strategy is the formation of Strategic Research Centres/Virtual Centres of Excellence. Through these centres, researchers are encouraged to work together to tackle major research questions in cystic fibrosis. Scientists were asked to bring together the best team of scientific experts, wherever they are based, to form a cohesive group intent on using research to solve problems for cystic fibrosis. Members of these teams form the virtual centre, which can be truly international because, although led from the UK, team members can be recruited to the virtual centre from anywhere in the world. For the first time the Trust will be funding scientists in other countries. These Strategic Research Centres were deliberately set up to provide funding for five–six young career scientists who will work alongside these experts. Our aim is to attract the brightest and best young scientists into problem-solving research within the best teams;  helping to  shape the next generation of leading researchers for cystic fibrosis. Experience shows that investment in these individuals at this stage of their careers results in a long-lasting interest.

I am delighted to say that the first round of Strategic Research Centres has now been completed.  Although this may seem slow, it has in fact been achieved in record time! Following the strategy publication, we invited applications from the research community and then established an independent peer-review process to select those that best fit the overall aims of the Trust for Strategic Research Centres. A number of very high quality applications were received at all stages of the process. In the end, there were three outstanding applications but funds were only available to support two. It was very difficult to select which would be funded but after long, detailed and  careful consideration, the two  have been selected. Both consortia are led by international experts based in the UK but have created teams that bring together international experts to work together to find solutions for people with cystic fibrosis. This is the first time the Cystic Fibrosis Trust has led such an initiative and has funded research beyond the UK.
Briefly, one project is led by Dr Mike Gray at the University of Newcastle and aims to find new ways of treating cystic fibrosis. The second project is led by Professor Jane Davies at Imperial College London and the Royal Brompton Hospital and tackles pseudomonas infections. We will publish full details of both projects on our web site in the early summer.