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Experimental medicine


The NIHR experimental medicine infrastructure enables researchers to develop clinical applications from scientific breakthroughs, to translate these discoveries into new treatments for patients.

Our system-wide investment in experimental medicine builds links between researchers in universities and the NHS, creating a national community of expertise in early-phase research.

Our infrastructure funding supports the country’s leading experts to develop and deliver programmes of work that are funded by the NIHR’s research programmes, other public funders of research, charities and the life sciences industry. In doing so, our investment plays a crucial role in underpinning the research funded by our partners.

The NIHR invests significantly in people, centres of excellence, collaborations, services and facilities to support health and care research in England collectively these form the NIHR infrastructure. Our infrastructure funding creates an environment where early-phase, clinical and applied research can thrive and facilitates the translation of discoveries into improved treatments and services for the  benefit of patients and the NHS. 

 Watch our animation which explains more about NIHR infrastructure. 

Identifying liver disease earlier

NIHR research supported the development of a new pathway to diagnose liver disease earlier. It involves actively seeking out patients at risk of chronic liver disease and offering them a non-invasive scan at their local surgery. This pathway is now employed by more than 100 GP practices across south Nottinghamshire.

Biomedical Research Centres

NIHR’s Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs) are collaborations between world-leading universities and NHS organisations that bring together academics and clinicians to translate lab-based scientific breakthroughs into potential new treatments, diagnostics and medical technologies.

The centres receive substantial levels of sustained funding  to create an environment where experimental medicine can thrive. They attract the best scientists and produce world-leading research, contributing to the local and national economy.

BRC funding supports researchers of the highest calibre to develop innovative research ideas that can attract investment from other funders, furthering the nation’s economic growth.

The centres undertake research in research themes across a range of disease and therapeutic areas, such as genomics, stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine, with several supporting the work of the NIHR BioResource.

Our BRCs are:

Watch how the NIHR Biomedical Research Centres are transforming patients' lives.

Clinical Research Facilities

NIHR’s 28 Clinical Research Facilities (CRFs) are purpose built facilities in NHS hospitals where researchers can deliver early-phase and complex studies.

The NIHR has invested £161 million in these facilities over five years to create dedicated spaces for high risk experimental medicine studies, such as first-in-patient trials and intensive later phase studies.

The facilities have cutting-edge clinical facilities, technologies and expertise and are designed to support high intensity studies and overnight stays.

Researchers funded by the NIHR, the life sciences industry or other organisations can access assistance from skilled CRF clinical trial support staff, from study design to data collection and study management.

NIHR CRFs are supported by the UKCRF Network, which provides best practice guidance and tools to ensure each CRF delivers clinical trials to the highest standard. The UKCRF Network is funded by the NIHR and the Chief Scientist Office of Scotland.

Our CRFs are:

Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres

The NIHR contributes £21.6 million to Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMCs)  part of a £47.5 million investment over 5 years. 

Established in 2007, the ECMC network is a partnership between a number of organisations including:

  • NIHR
  • Cancer Research UK
  • the Little Princess Trust
  • the Chief Scientist's Office in Scotland
  • Health and Care Research Wales
  • Northern Ireland's HSC Public Health Agency

The ECMCs act as an efficient and effective UK-wide network for delivering pioneering, early-phase cancer trials, bringing together world-leading laboratory and clinical researchers to test new treatments for adults and children with cancer.

The network of centres speeds up the process of cancer drug development and the search for biomarkers to diagnose cancer, predict the aggressiveness of the disease, or show whether a drug will be effective.

The centres increase the capacity, safety and speed of early-phase cancer research in England, improving the success rates in developing new treatments for patients and ensuring that the UK remains at the forefront of international efforts to develop and test new treatments for cancer.

The ECMC Network comprises 17 adult centres and 12 paediatric centres distributed through Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. The centres are associated with universities with capabilities in cancer research, and are linked to local NHS hospitals.

We now have a strong, functional network for early-phase clinical trial activity in the UK. We have worked hard to make the UK an attractive site for early phase clinical trials in childhood cancer, and the success of this is borne out by the excellent relationships that have been established with a number of drug companies
Dr Guy Makin, Paediatric Network Lead

Translational Research Collaborations

NIHR's Translational Research Collaborations (TRCs) and Partnerships are ready-formed networks of the UK's leading universities, NHS trusts and research centres. 

These collaborations aim to carry out early phase translational research and tackle experimental medicine challenges in certain therapeutic areas. They are set up to support and work with the life sciences industry, charities, researchers and other funders and partners. 

To find out more about these TRCs and how your company or organisation can collaborate with us, please contact us.

Our TRCs are: 

Are you from the life sciences industry?

You can work in our experimental medicine infrastructure

Find out more about working with our Experimental Medicine infrastructure