£56m to research health impact of climate change and antimicrobial resistance

Up to £56 million funding from the government has been released to research the biggest challenges facing public health, such as the health effects of climate change, air pollution, antimicrobial resistance and global pandemics.

Universities in England are invited to apply to be selected to partner with Public Health England (PHE) to form the next wave of Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs) funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

An open competition will be held to select the most promising research proposals from academics. They will be funded from April 2020 to March 2025.

The current HPRUs played a central role in responding to major events including the Novichok, Ebola and overseas terror incidents. In 2017 to 2018, the HPRUs were involved in 413 studies and 514 peer review publications. They supported a total of 254 PhD students and secured £50 million funding from other sources.

Projects funded by earlier rounds of funding include helping to screen British nationals caught up in overseas terror attacks for mental health conditions and offering treatment when appropriate.


There was a project to develop a way to quickly screen people who believed they had been affected by the nerve agent incident in Salisbury in March 2018. This involved using biomarker data to determine within minutes whether a person had been infected


Another project looked at developing a tool using genomics to diagnose tuberculosis more quickly and accurately. The device allows researchers to predict the resistance and transmissibility of the disease by analysing its genome automatically. It has been adopted by PHE and is the first example of genomic-based diagnostic service in routine use worldwide.

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