The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Research and Innovation

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust awarded £8.7million by the National Institute for Health Research to support experimental medicine trials

28 February 2022

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has been awarded £8.7m from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to fund its Clinical Research Facility (CRF) for 5 years from September 2022.  This is part of a £161 million investment nationally to fund 28 NIHR CRFs, expanding the delivery of early phase clinical research in NHS hospitals across England.

The existing NIHR Leeds CRF has provided access for patients to novel treatments, supported economic growth, and played a crucial role in the COVID-19 response; in particular, the CRF supported testing of the Novavax vaccine that was recently granted regulatory approval and the COV-Boost trial, which is informing decisions about booster vaccinations.

CRFs support the delivery of early translational and experimental medicine research, from studies testing new treatments in patients for the very first time (first-in-human trials) through to early safety and efficacy trials (Phase IIa trials); they also support trials in disease prevention and detection. CRFs such as ours provide dedicated, purpose-built facilities and expertise for the delivery of high-intensity studies funded by the NIHR, the life sciences industry, charities and other organisations.

A total of 28 NIHR CRFs have been awarded funding in this latest round, five more than previously. About half of the funding has been awarded to NIHR CRFs outside of London, Oxford and Cambridge, including new CRFs in Norfolk and Bristol; along with the major uplift to funding in Leeds, this will help deliver the government’s mission to level up domestic public investment in research and development.

NIHR CRFs are a key part of the UK’s leading early stage clinical research infrastructure and play an important role in making the country a global hub for life sciences. Combined with the NIHR Clinical Research Network and its pivotal role in delivering Phase II and III trials, the NIHR supports research delivery across all phases of clinical research.

NIHR has increased its funding for CRFs by £49 million in this round of funding, as a signal of its aim to increase its work with the life sciences industry. These CRFs, which will run from 2022 to 2027, will also play a key role in realising the ambition in the vision for the future of UK clinical research delivery to bolster the delivery of innovative trials across all phases, all treatment types and all conditions.

The NIHR CRFs have an expanded remit to support skills and workforce development, to grow expertise in delivering early translational and experimental medicine studies. This remit covers both people who lead and design trials and people in the essential supporting roles that deliver the research on the ground.

Julian Hartley, Chief Executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: “I am delighted to hear the fantastic news from the NIHR about the award of £8.7million funding to the Leeds NIHR CRF. This is a huge achievement and credit to the NIHR CRF team at the Trust.

“The increase in funding will support transformative work at the CRF for experimental medicine trials to take place across Leeds, enhance our partnerships with the life sciences industry and further supports the development of an Innovation District with other partners in the city. The CRF is a vital part of the Trust and a key element in our partnership with the University of Leeds.”  

Professor Chris Twelves, Director of the NIHR Leeds Clinical Research Facility said: “I am thrilled at the news of the funding allocation by the NIHR to the Leeds CRF. The funding of £8.7million represents an eleven-fold increase, which will be genuinely transformative for experimental medicine research in Leeds.

“The funding will enhance research taking place at the CRF across Trust sites at St James’s University Hospital, Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds Children’s Hospital and Chapel Allerton Hospital. It will further strengthen LTHT researchers’, working with our key partner the University of Leeds, capability to carry out research into conditions that are relevant to our local population. Importantly, more of our patients will be able to access experimental medicine trials with the potential to deliver positive benefits.”

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive of the NIHR and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care, said: “NIHR’s CRFs scheme has been a key force in translational research across England, helping to position the nation as internationally competitive in early stage clinical research.

“This new funding, a 43% increase, will allow the CRFs to continue to drive forward innovation in experimental medicine and support translation of exciting discoveries into new treatments for patients.”

Minister for Innovation, Lord Kamall, said: “Clinical research has been vital in our fight against COVID-19 and in saving thousands of lives – whether through the rapid creation of vaccines or the identification of life-saving treatments like dexamethasone.

“Funding more CRFs across the country means we can continue to build on this innovation to transform our health service and ensure the NHS is able to deliver world-class care.

“As we build back better from the pandemic, I am committed to ensuring the UK remains a world leader in diverse, ground-breaking research.”

More than a decade of delivering innovative research 

The research delivered by the CRFs since first funded by the NIHR in 2007 has provided faster access for patients to novel treatments and supported growth in early stage research in England, translating new advances to patient benefit and wider economic gain.

At the forefront of early stage COVID-19 research

The Leeds NIHR CRF team formed a vital part of the nation’s COVID-19 response, supporting the delivery of early phase experimental medicine studies and Urgent Public Health studies. The knowledge and expertise of the CRF team, coupled with the availability of existing facilities and networks helped ensure studies were delivered quickly, safely and in an efficient and coordinated way. 

The Leeds NIHR CRF took a central role in the clinical trials for the recently approved Novavax Covid vaccine, Nuvaxovid. This study was the largest ever double blind, placebo-controlled vaccine trial to be undertaken in the UK, recruiting 15,203 participants from 33 research UK sites in just eight weeks. The largest group of volunteers in the country were recruited at the Leeds site. A total of 806 people from the city participated in trials hosted at The Edge, the University of Leeds’ sports centre.

 This incredible achievement was the result of partnership efforts across Leeds, with the University of Leeds, the Thackray Museum joining forces to support the Trust’s Research and Innovation team to make the development of this new COVID-19 vaccine happen.

The Novavax study was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and led by researchers at St George’s, University of London. The study found the COVID-19 vaccine was 89.7% effective at preventing COVID-19, prior to the Omicron variant emerged.

The CRF team in Leeds were an integral part of the Cov-Boost trial - this study was central to inform government policy on COVID-19 ‘booster’ vaccines. The study determined immune responses and reactogenicity from third dose of one of seven different vaccines. The Cov-Boost trial in Leeds took place as a result of the city’s successful track record in Covid research activities that took place at the Trust and across Leeds during the pandemic, including the Novavax vaccine trial and the Public Health England-led SIREN study.  

Through £19.3 million of government funding through the Vaccines Taskforce, the Cov-Boost study was the first in the world to provide vital data on the impact of a third dose on patients’ immune responses. This gave scientists from around the world and the experts behind the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme a better idea of how effective a booster of each vaccine is in protecting the individual from the virus. The findings from the Cov-Boost study were published in December 2021 in The Lancet.