Research carried out by our staff has helped patients receive life-saving treatments during the Covid-19 crisis and treat serious diseases including liver disease, while Nottingham has led the way by pioneering magnetic resonance imaging. In terms of NUH’s contribution to clinical research over the last 75 years, there is plenty to celebrate.
Since its inception, the NHS has been a key supporter and deliverer of medical research, helping to develop treatments that have improved and – in many cases – saved patients’ lives.
This was visible recently during the Covid-19 pandemic, with our single NHS enabling scientists and clinicians to carry out research on an unprecedented scale.
Research proved to be the only route out of the crisis, and our NUH researchers can be proud of their roles.
Professor Ian Hall, Director of the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre, and a respiratory consultant at NUH, was among the leading researchers at the frontline of efforts to investigate the most effective treatments for Covid-19.
“NUH was integral in recruiting patients into the RECOVERY trial and was involved in early work on the Covid-19 vaccine trials, recruiting patients into two such trials in Nottingham,” he said.
“We also co-ordinated work looking at immunity against Covid-19 infection and facilitated work on Covid-19 sequencing, looking at different variants of the virus…so Nottingham, along with other UK centres, had a really important role in managing the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The partnership approach, which included academic centres, industry, and funding bodies - including the NIHR and UKRI - “maximised our efficiency to undertake research”.
Professor Hall said: “Undoubtedly, this saved lives because it meant we were able to introduce those vaccines and treatments into routine healthcare faster than in many other countries.
He added: “A huge thank you is due to all our patients who participated in clinical research, both in Covid-19 and non- Covid-19 related studies. Without their input, we would not been able to make the advances we did in Covid-19 and with other disease areas.”
How Nottingham’s discovery resonates around the world
Nottingham has an important place in the history of medical imaging that continues to have a major global impact. Every day, hundreds of thousands of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are performed across the world - in the UK alone, 3.75 million MRI scans were performed last year.
Ground-breaking developments in MRI at the University of Nottingham in the late 1970s led to a Nobel Prize for Professor Sir Peter Mansfield.
Since it opened over 45 years ago, Queen’s Medical Centre has provided the ideal test bed for using the new technology in clinical practice.
The NUH MRI unit opened in 1984, as one of the first hospital MRI installations in the country allowing pioneering clinical imaging studies.
Since then, the first human ultra-high field 7-Tesla scanner in Europe was installed at the University in 2005. In 2019, a collaboration between NUH and the University allowed the installation of a clinical research MRI scanner attached to neurosurgical theatre, allowing people to have MRI scans during brain tumour operations.
Nottingham’s NIHR Biomedical Research Centre MRI and Precision Imaging theme, led by Professor Dorothee Auer, will bring the latest developments in MRI technology and computational processing of medical images to help tailor treatment approaches to improve patient outcomes.
Professor Stephen Ryder, Clinical Director of Research & Innovation and Director of the Nottingham Clinical Research Facility, explains about Nottingham’s significant role in treating liver disease.
“Every treatment the NHS gives is based on research, and it’s key to how we deal with the challenges the health service faces in the future.
“My own specialism is liver disease, where early detection before people develop symptoms is a major problem. Fibroscan, a device pioneered in Nottingham, has become a key technique in detecting liver disease. With my colleagues, we’re leading the national Scarred Liver Project to examine better, earlier ways to discover it.
“The Scarred Liver Project has also shown how the same disease can affect people differently based on their ethnicity, and it’s an example of why we want to make sure all the parts of the community are represented.
“It’s not just about representing everyone – it makes for better science as different communities face different challenges, both biologically and from their environment.
“It leads to better care for everyone, and we want every patient to have the opportunity to be part of that, which doesn’t mean necessarily being in a trial, but giving their views about what research is useful.
“Research is an integral part of what NUH does – it’s for our patients, and we need our patients to make it work.”