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Research leaders awarded transformative NIHR award

Photo left to right: Professor Samuele Cortese, Professor Daniela Ferreira, Professor Shonit Punwani, Professor Matthew Ridd, Professor Reecha Sofat, and Professor Angela Wood

Published: 20 November 2023

Six outstanding researchers have been awarded NIHR Research Professorships. They will carry out research which aims to positively impact people across the UK.

The NIHR Research Professorships scheme funds and supports research leaders of the future. It aims to strengthen and benefit health, public health and care research leadership.

This year, six leading researchers will receive five-year awards of up to £2 million. They will receive a package of extensive support. This includes three support posts and access to a leadership and development programme. They will be conducting research covering a wide range of issues, including:

  • personalising treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children using an internet-based system
  • implementing new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies to transform prostate cancer outcomes
  • using new statistical methods to enable better, safer, fairer use of medicines
  • enhancing prevention of multiple chronic diseases through risk prediction tools
  • research to treat eczema in children and identify and address children’s food allergies
  • understanding why older people are more vulnerable to respiratory infections

Since 2011, 66 people have been successful in gaining the competitive award. Many have gone on to become senior research leaders. This includes Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care and CEO of the NIHR.

Professor Waljit Dhillo, Dean of the NIHR Academy and Scientific Director for Research Capacity and Capabilities, said: “I am delighted and honoured to welcome the latest group of outstanding researchers to the NIHR Research Professorship scheme. I look forward to seeing the difference their research will make to the lives of people and communities across the UK.

“The NIHR Research Professorship is one of the most prestigious awards we offer. Their expertise in health and care research will help improve people's health and wellbeing.”

The awards are open to researchers from any professional background. Previous awards in recent competitions have been made to:

  • health services researchers
  • basic scientists
  • health economists, statisticians
  • engineers
  • psychologists

Transformative award for clinical academics

The NIHR Research Professorship is seen as transformative in a researcher's career. A survey of active and complete award holders from 2011-2022 found it:

  • increases their academic reputation and influence
  • helps progress careers by facilitating access to leadership roles
  • leads to the development of important collaborations in the UK and internationally
  • is seen as one of the most prestigious funding schemes for clinical academics
  • helps develop leaders and build capacity

Research Professors have a strong track record of research benefiting patients and public. Former Research Professor, Alastair Hay, investigated the impact of children’s respiratory tract infections on NHS resources . This led to the development of a tool (STARWAVe) which:

  • helped primary care practitioners identify serious respiratory infections in children
  • reduced clinical uncertainty around prescribing antibiotics
  • predicted which children would benefit from antibiotics

The study was published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. Other Research Professor work has led to:

  • influencing policy and practice
  • improving the lives of the public
  • developments which enable more accurate diagnosis and better methods of treatment.

Read more about the latest Research Professorship awardees and their research.

NIHR Research Professors

The latest cohort of awardees are:

  • Professor Samuele Cortese, University of Southampton. Their research topic is: Personalising the pharmacological treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children
  • Professor Daniela Ferreira, Professor of Vaccinology, University of Oxford. Their research topic is: Understanding nasal immunity to improve vaccine protection against respiratory infections
  • Professor Shonit Punwani, University College London. Their research topic is: Smarter identification and management of Early prostate cancer: improving Lives and outcomEs through Clinical Translation of novel magnetic resonance imaging (SELeCT)
  • Professor Matthew Ridd, University of Bristol. Their research topic is: Transforming Outcomes for Paediatric allergy in primary care (TOPIC)
  • Professor Reecha Sofat, University of Liverpool. Their research topic is: CAUsal Inference Methods to Inform MedicineS ReguLation and Guidance: CAUSAL
  • Professor Angela Wood, University of Cambridge. Their research topic is: Primary prevention of multiple chronic diseases through data-driven approaches mobilising population-wide longitudinal health records

Read more about the latest Research Professorship awardees and their research.

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