University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Academic medicine in Newcastle continues to go from strength-to-strength. To a large extent, this is based on the strong partnership between the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University and the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
This partnership covers all three of the “mission” aims of the university:
- to be a centre of world class research
- to deliver high quality teaching
- to play a role in the economic development of the North East of England.
These webpages highlight the achievements of the partnership over the past year and discuss the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
Research & Development
The Faculty of Medical Sciences continues to enjoy an excellent reputation as one of the leading medical schools in the UK for research and teaching. This success relies heavily on the close collaboration and strong partnership between the Faculty and The Newcastle Hospitals. In the last year we have seen new, exciting developments with the appointment of Professor Julia Newton as the new Dean of Clinical Medicine, and Professor David Jones as the Dean of Research. Both work closely with the Newcastle Hospitals' Medical Director, Mr Andy Welch.
We continue to excel across the broad spectrum of medical and biomedical research – from basic cell biology of bacteria to applied health research, innovation and implementation. We achieved our highest ever new grant award figure in excess of £83 million, up 21% from last year.
Major strategic infrastructure awards in the past year were:
Our UK NIHR Biomedical Research Centre in Ageing & Chronic Disease and Biomedical Research Unit in Dementia continue to highlight our important work to understand the impact of ageing. ‘Pull through’ of our research into improvements in clinical practise have been enhanced in 2013 with the successful designation as an Academic Health Sciences Network.
While research income is important, arguably it is more important what we do with that income: what are the outcomes of our research endeavours? This is currently a key issue for the Faculty as we prepare our submission for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2013/14.
With respect to outputs, during the last academic year we published 72 papers in top quality “discovery” journals following an unprecedented peak of 98 in this key performance indicator in 2011/12.
In the current funding climate, it is particularly important to see the number of Translational Research Awards obtained by Faculty members increasing this year.
Translational research is the only area of research that has had its public funding increased over the past few years (through both MRC and NIHR schemes). Professor Ashley Adamson (IHS), became our second NIHR Translational Research Professorship. Professors David Jones (Director, ICM) and Patrick Chinnery (Director, IGM) were both awarded NIHR/MRC Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) grants. We are currently the top institution in the UK for awards to this scheme which is aimed at using clinical trials to answer fundamental questions around underlying disease mechanisms. Professors Herbie Newell (NICR) and Simon Pearce (IGM) were both awarded MRC Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme/Developmental Clinical Scheme translational research awards. Professors Jeff Errington and Harry Gilbert (both ICaMB) were awarded our first two Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Awards, and we continue to be recognised as the UK lead by the National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs). Newcastle continues to be the largest recipient of their funding with 18 awards.
Other major (over £750,000) research awards include:
- Professor Allan Colver – IHS (NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Research)
- Prof Martin White – IHS (NIHR Public Health Research Award)
- Prof Herbie Newell – NICR (CRUK Drug Discovery Programme)
- Prof Peter Blain – ICM (Department of Health Policy Research Programme)
- Dr Rita Horvath – IGM (ERC Starting Grant)
- Prof Harry Gilbert - ICaMB (ERC Advanced Grant)
- Dr John Taylor and Prof Philip Preshaw – School of Dental Sciences (Technology Strategy Board)
- Dr Andy Trevelyan and Dr Claudia Racca – IoN (MRC)
- Professor Derek Mann – ICM (MRC Programme Grant)
- Dr Neil Keegan – ICM (EPSRC)
- Dr Jennifer Read – IoN (Leverhulme Trust Research Leadership)
- Professor Patrick Chinnery – IGM (NIHR Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation)
- Dr Sophie Hambleton – ICM (Sir Jules Thorn Award for Biomedical Research)
- Professor Deborah Henderson and Dr Bill Chaudhry – IGM (British Heart Foundation)
- Professor Louise Robinson – IHS (NIHR Translational Professorship Award and NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme)
- Professor Stephen O’Brien – NICR (Ariad Pharmaceuticals)
- Professor Martin White – IHS (MRC Centre for Excellence Award)
- Professor John O’Brien – IHS (NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Research)
- Professor Helen Rodgers – IHS (NIHR Health Technology Assessment)
- Professor Calum McNeil (ICM) – collaborative EPSRC Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration and collaborative EPSRC ICT Programme Grant
- Professor Simi Ali and Professor John Kirby – ICM (EU FP7 Marie Curie Training Network)
- Professor Mike Briggs – IHS (EU FP7 Health 2013 Innovation)
- Dr Katie Brittain – IHS (cross Faculty, multi-disciplinary EPSRC Digital Civics)
- Dr Mark Cunningham – IoN (Autifony Therapeutics Ltd)
- IGM Muscle Team (co-ordinated by Professor Volker Straub) (EU FP7)
- Dr Rakesh Heer – NICR (NIHR)
- Professor John Simpson – ICM (NIHR Diagnostic Evidence Co-operative Application)
- Institute for Ageing and Health – MRC Newcastle Brain Tissue Resource and National Brain Tumour Registry funded
Over £650 million per annum has been committed by the Department of Health (DoH) to research & development (R&D) – creating the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funding stream - and a large proportion of the £600 million Medical Research Council (MRC) budget has also been earmarked for clinical research. These initiatives reflect a clear desire by government to “translate” advances in basic science into benefit for patients.
Joint Research Office
The vast majority of this funding has and will continue to be, awarded to university-employed clinical academics working in teaching hospitals with Research and Development firmly at the centre of their core mission aims. So far, the Faculty/Trust partnership has achieved considerable success in this new funding regime. However, continued success in this highly competitive environment will be increasingly dependent on an even closer working relationship between the Faculty and its partner NHS Trusts. Close Faculty/Trust working is facilitated by a Joint Research Executive, which provides strategic as well as a operational oversight of clinical research.
The Faculty and the Trust jointly fund the Joint Research Office. The Faculty’s “Clinical Academic Office”, headed by the Dean of Clinical Medicine, acts as a main focus, encouraging and facilitating clinical research in the Faculty. The Faculty and Trust jointly manage a complete range of clinical research “platforms”, including dedicated clinical research units and a state-of-the-art Imaging Centre, housing both MRI and PET scanners. The Faculty/Trust partnership has established a very strong platform on which to build our clinical research portfolio and enable us to fully exploit the opportunities arising as a consequence of increased funding streams available.
Teaching and training
The Trust and Faculty collaborate closely to provide excellent undergraduate and postgraduate training. Our undergraduate medical and dental programme continues to perform extremely well in national league tables with the medical course ranked fourth in the whole of England in the National Student Survey and dentistry third.
As a further mark of our outstanding undergraduate programmes, a recent independent study reported that graduates from Newcastle Medical School performed better in their first professional exams (MRCP) – taken two years after qualifying - than any other medical school graduates other than those from Cambridge (who performed equally as well). The Trust continues to be the major centre for teaching our medical students, 350 of whom graduate each year and become young doctors throughout the North East.
Our undergraduate programmes continue to be highly successful. All of the Faculty undergraduate subjects recruited well, particularly since some of our competitor universities have reported that they failed to meet their targets.
To continue to attract good students to our programmes it is more important than ever that we continue to do well in the National Student Survey. In this survey, we had another excellent year with most of our courses achieving scores above our institutional target and the sector average.
To recruit and widen participation, we have been working hard to extend the range and scope of our activities. Activities such as: Mini Medical School, which has already been expanded and targeted to local schools; Medicine and Dentistry days (“MaD days”); and the Sixth Form workshop on the Science of Human Disease will continue to be used to promote our programmes to local schools. We will build on activities that promote our programmes more widely (eg using social media and e-mentoring).
We are particularly pleased to note the progress being made at our Malaysian campus which opened in 2011. The MBBS programme is recruiting very well, and from September 2013 Biomedical Sciences will be delivered as a 2+1 programme (with the third year being spent in Newcastle).
At the postgraduate level we continue to expand our portfolio, some of which is aimed at providing training in clinical education, clinical research, public health and psychological therapies. We have now overseen the first cohort of students in the Department of Health Modernising Scientific Careers strand as they progress towards an MSc in Clinical Sciences.
The Faculty successfully led a bid in partnership with the Universities of Liverpool and Durham for a BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). The DTP was awarded £4.5milion to fund 45 four-year studentships for 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15. Matched-funding secured by the partners doubled the studentships available and in 2012, 28 studentships were awarded, with 13 in Newcastle, 11 in Liverpool and 4 in Durham. Students from across the partnership recently attended a very successful two-day event in Newcastle, which included the seventh North East Postgraduate Conference, an annual event organised by the Faculty’s students for students from across the NE universities, focusing on medical, health and life sciences.
The Faculty’s links with Universitas Indonesia continue to develop with a growing cohort of Indonesian trainee doctors attending the MRes programme and the first joint PhD student commencing in early 2013. In November 2012, the Prime Minister David Cameron hosted the President of the Republic of Indonesia during his State Visit to the UK at a ceremony to celebrate the growing links between the two countries. During this, the University’s Chair of Council, Mark I’Anson signed an agreement with the Rector of Universitas Indonesia to pave the way for the establishment of a Newcastle-Indonesia Doctoral Training Centre, specialising initially in biomedical research excellence including medicine, dentistry and nutrition. On the same day, Indonesian intercalating MRes students for the first time joined the University congregation ceremony hosted in Singapore.
September 2012 saw success for the Master of Clinical Research programme, led by Dr Debbie Carrick-Sen, with the award of £1.7million as part of the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Academic Training Programme for Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health Professionals. The funding will support three cohorts each of 12 nurses and allied health professionals to study the MClinRes, including providing their salary costs. The Faculty continues to perform well in the national Postgraduate Taught Experience and Postgraduate Research Experience surveys.
The Dental School produces around 70 new dentists each year, with teaching taking place in an integrated Dental Hospital and School of which we are justly proud. Almost every Consultant within the Trust plays an important role in the clinical teaching of medical and dental students and the Faculty continues to be extremely appreciative of this unstinting commitment.
Economic development of North East England
As the two largest employers in Newcastle, the Trust and University partnership has a vital role to play in the economic development of the North East of England. The partnership is developing a combined commercialisation and intellectual property strategy and is considering establishing a joint commercialisation project for further development of the Campus for Ageing and Vitality.
The Faculty and the Trust have worked closely with a major retailer to develop proposals for an innovative retail outlet on the former NGH site focussed on improving the retail experience for our ageing population. Working closely with the City Council and previously with the former regional development agency One NorthEast, the Faculty, in partnership with the Trust, continues to play a full role in developing themes coming out of the Newcastle Science City initiative ie. ageing and vitality, genetics, stem cells and regenerative medicine at the International Centre for Life.
Other distinctions for our researchers included:
- Professor Jimmy Steele (Head of School of Dental Sciences) received a CBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours 2012
- Professors Chris Day, Martin Eccles (IHS) and Ian McKeith (IAH) were reappointed as NIHR Senior Investigators
- Professor Patrick Chinnery (IGM) was appointed by NIHR to establish and lead a £20 million “Rare Disease Translational Research Collaboration (RD-TRC)”
- Professor David Jones (ICM) was appointed as National Training Lead for NIHR Infrastructure
- Dr David Kavanagh (Wellcome Intermediate Fellow - IGM) participated in the Royal Society’s MP Pairing Scheme, pairing with Chi Onwurah, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Science and Innovation
- Prof Josef Vormoor (Sir James Spence Professor of Child Health – NICR) has been named the Evening Chronicle’s health worker 2012 for his work with young cancer sufferers and for his fundraising work
- Professor Ashleigh Adamson (IHS) has been awarded an NIHR Research Professorship
- Professor Kate Bushby (IGM) reappointed as NIHR Senior Investigator
- Professor Jeff Errington (ICaMB) awarded the Novartis Medal and Prize
- Dr Venetia Bigley (ICM) awarded a Wellcome Intermediate Fellowship
The partnership between the Faculty and The Newcastle Hospitals Trust continues to operate in essence as an Academic Health Science centre and we will be seeking to secure national recognition of this in 2013. Ahead of this, the partnership continues to influence the new Health Education North East Board to ensure that health education locally is of the highest standard. The recent award to the region of an Academic Health Science Network will create a regional framework from which health care quality can be enhanced throughout the North.
Professor Julia Newton
Dean of Clinical Medicine
Professor Christopher Day
Pro Vice Chancellor
Faculty of Medical Sciences