Trust's Innovation Hub on lung health receives Government boost

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Today Chris Skidmore, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, announced a £30 million award to the University of Cambridge to support the new Cambridge Heart and Lung Research Institute (HLRI), which will host the Trust’s Innovation Hub.

This Government award is one of 11 announced from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, totalling over £670 million of new investment into UK research and innovation. Cystic fibrosis (CF) researchers funded as part of the Innovation Hub on lung health will work in the HLRI.

The Innovation Hub is a five-year strategic partnership between the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the University of Cambridge that aims to harness multidisciplinary world-class research to accelerate progress towards preventing lung damage in cystic fibrosis and the subsequent loss of lung function.

The aims of the Hub

The Innovation Hub has three aims. The first is to find new ways to treat lung infections and accompanying chronic inflammation. The second is to predict when a worsening of symptoms (sometimes called an ‘exacerbation’) happens and to find steps that can be taken to prevent them. The third is to explore the most effective stem cell technology to convert blood samples from people with CF into lung cells in a dish. These lung cells could be used to work out the most effective medicines for different people with CF and also to develop regenerative medicines as a way of repairing lung damage.

The five-year Innovation Hub began in 2018, and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust aims to raise £5 million over the next five years, which the University of Cambridge has already committed to match pound for pound.

Shared expertise will accelerate progress

While there are specific obstacles to overcome to develop treatments for people with CF, some of these obstacles are shared with lung conditions that other world-leading experts are aiming to treat. The HLRI will host researchers and doctors with a huge variety of specialisms, allowing CF researchers to collaborate with them on solutions to these obstacles.

It can sometimes take a year to set up new collaborations, particularly with researchers working in different areas of science. At the new HLRI, this will become so much easier – researchers can arrange to catch up over lunch! Researchers with different specialities will have the chance to see things from a very different perspective, which could mean more innovative improvements in care for people with CF happening at a faster pace.

A smoother path to clinical trials

A hurdle for the development of new medicines is bridging the gap between the lab bench and getting new treatments to clinical trials. A small, dedicated ‘experimental medicine’ trial unit for very early clinical studies, will also be a part of the new HLRI, helping to smooth the path to getting new, ground-breaking treatments into the hands of the people who need them.

“We already know from our Strategic Research Centre programme that the prestige of being part of a wider collaboration can attract the brightest and the best minds, and the prestige of working in the Cambridge Heart and Lung Research Institute will increase this effect,” explained Dr Janet Allen, Director of Strategic Innovation at the Trust.

Dr Allen said: “The Cambridge biomedical campus is already a buzz of activity with world-leading laboratories and research-minded clinicians. The Innovation Hub, and our wider research strategy is aimed at maximising our partnerships to achieve a life unlimited for people with cystic fibrosis, and the announcement confirming the funding for the new Cambridge Heart and Lung Institute will massively accelerate that.” 

Find out more about some of the research underway as part of the Innovation Hub or donate today to help support ground-breaking research like this.

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