Midlands Research Centre to lead the development of new treatments for mental health conditions thanks to significant government investment | Latest News

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Midlands Research Centre to lead the development of new treatments for mental health conditions thanks to significant government investment

Professor Rachel Upthegrove smiling towards the camera

Forward Thinking Birmingham is part of the Government’s new Mental Health Mission, a £42.7m investment into developing targeted new treatments for mental health conditions.

The funding aims to bolster mental health research infrastructure across the UK to improve the treatment and care for those with mental illness, including young people at Forward Thinking Birmingham (FTB). The investment will improve the speed and accuracy of research trials and increase the use of new technologies, as well as novel treatment approaches.

In Birmingham, the funding will enable the establishment of the Midlands Translational Research Centre of Excellence, co-led by our Trust, the University of Birmingham and Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation, with reach across the Midlands through the five years funding.

The centre will focus on increasing recruitment to new studies to test and validate new treatments in early psychosis, depression and children and young people’s mental health. 

Professor Rachel Upthegrove, Mental Health Research and Development Lead at our Trust and Professor of Psychiatry and Youth Mental Health at the University of Birmingham, said: “We’re delighted that the Government is making such a significant investment in mental health research. 

“This funding will allow us to increase and lead large-scale early intervention trials aimed at delaying or preventing the onset of severe mental illness, and its impact, with evidence-based treatments and support.

“The Centre will put research where we need it most, focusing on young, superdiverse, and deprived populations, which may be unfairly missing out on access to research.”

Teams at the Research Centre will work with individuals with lived experience to understand the best way to test treatments. There are also plans to train and support a network of new researchers, partners, NHS staff and young people in the Midlands.  

The investment builds upon existing expertise and partnerships, including our Trust's unique, strong links with the Institute for Mental Health at the University of Birmingham, and recent Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) investment in partnership with Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and NIHR Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration.

Rachel added: “I’m proud to be part of the ground-breaking research taking place at Forward Thinking Birmingham and the University of Birmingham; it will benefit not just young people at FTB, but the community in Birmingham and beyond."

Building on the priority healthcare missions launched in November 2022 as part of the Life Sciences Vision, the £42.7 million will promote collaboration across different sectors to bolster research and attract further investment from industry and research organisations. 

Oxford University visiting Professor Husseini Manji will be co-chair of the Mental Health Mission alongside Professor of Psychological Medicine at The University of Manchester Kathryn Abel.

Professor Manji and Professor Abel said: “We are delighted to be working together to make the new Mental Health Mission a truly revolutionary force behind mental health research. We want the Mission to create tangible differences to the lives of patients, both in the UK and internationally. Between us, we bring a wealth of experience in mental health research and innovation, and a commitment to genuine collaboration with patients, industry and healthcare staff.

"Bringing together the public sector, patients and industry as equal partners, the Mission will work with the Office for Life Sciences and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to support the NHS and NIHR research infrastructure capitalise on its size and scope, and on the depth of its data resources. Alongside additional investment in mental health research and in infrastructure, the Mission will foster a step change in the way we think about mental health, mental illness and its treatment. This will support development of the critically needed treatments across the spectrum of mental illness.

"We want the UK to be the most attractive place to conduct robust, high impact mental health research, ensuring people have access to the best, and newest, treatments. We are confident that the Mission will be unique in its ability to convene and challenge national partners to make this happen.”

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