The Minister for Science and Universities, the Rt Hon David Willetts made the announcement at the High Performance Computing and Big Data Conference.
The five major strategic awards will strengthen collaborative links, improve tools and infrastructure for researchers and will support the safe use of biological and patient data for medical research across all diseases. The awards will also support career opportunities for computational scientists, technologists and programme leaders, enhancing the UK’s skills in this area.
This investment represents the latest instalment of a £90 million funding initiative by the MRC to tackle ‘big data’ challenges for the advancement of medical research. In July 2013 the MRC announced £20 million for the establishment of the UK’s first health informatics research institute (the Farr Institute), building on the four e-Health Informatics Research Centres (eHIRCs) funded through £19 million by a consortium of three Research Councils, three health departments and four leading medical research charities.
The medical bioinformatics initiative (expected to total £50 million in due course) will complement these investments by building new ways of linking across complex biological data and health records to solve key medical challenges. The first awards will make a significant contribution to medical research in the UK across institutions, academia, the NHS and industry.
The first awardees include:
• Sir Alex Markham, University of Leeds
• Leeds MRC Medical Bioinformatics Centre
• Peter Donnelly, University of Oxford
• University of Oxford Big Data Institute
• Pontiano Kaleebu, MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit
• MRC/UVRI Medical Informatics Centre
• Mark Pallen, Universities of Warwick & Swansea Consortium
• The MRC Consortium for Medical Microbial Bioinformatics
• Peter V Coveney, University College London Partners
• Medical Bioinformatics
Universities and Science Minister David Willets said:
“Making the most of large and complex data is a huge priority for government as it has the potential to drive research and development, increase productivity and innovation and ultimately transform lives.
“This funding will help build UK medical research capability and improve collaboration across institutions, academia, the NHS and industry.”
MRC Chief Executive, Professor John Savill said:
“Advances in data research will lay the foundation for solving some of the most fundamental questions in medicine. This £32 million investment in medical bioinformatics represents an important part of a wider MRC strategy to integrate large scale information about our genetic make-up, our complex biological characteristics and electronic health records to better understand health and disease. This funding will help improve linkages and analysis and ensure that researchers’ skills develop in tandem with emerging data technologies. The aim is to strengthen the UK’s capacity to analyse biomedical data in secure environments so that patients and participants can be reassured that their personal data are safe and may be used to benefit to the whole UK population.”