Research with the potential to change the lives of millions of people around the world living with mental health conditions has received a boost with the announcement of £42.7m of government funding, with The University of Manchester and partners receiving over £10m from the overall pot.
The funding brings together National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) infrastructure, Universities and NHS organisations to undertake high-quality early and experimental medicine research in mental health. This collaborative approach strengthens the expertise and reach of the NIHR Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration and ensures research involves patients and the public who better reflect the diversity of the population.
The University will play a key part in the research by leading on three out of the five national themes with significant investment: Capacity Building, Data and Digital, Children and Young People.
The work will be supported by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), as part of its new Mental Health research Theme, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.
Dr Shruti Garg will lead the Capacity Building workstream, Professor Jonathan Green the Children and Young People theme, and Professor John Ainsworth the Data and Digital theme. The University of Manchester digital health start-up CareLoop Health will play a major role as industry partner.
The ‘Mental Health Mission’, part of the government’s Life Sciences Vision, will accelerate mental health research across the UK and attract private investment, potentially benefiting millions of people.
The funding will be used to bolster research to improve the treatment and care for those with mental health conditions and to address key issues affecting patients and clinicians, including early psychosis and severe mood disorders which are currently under-researched.
John Ainsworth is Professor of Health Informatics and Head of the Division of Imaging, Informatics and Data Sciences at The University of Manchester. He is also Digital and Data Science Programme Lead within NIHR Manchester BRC’s Mental Health Theme. He said:
"This is an exciting time in mental health research. With the investment in the Mental Health Mission we will be able to accelerate the development and evaluation of new interventions that will change people’s lives for the better.
“We are very proud that The University of Manchester will be at the forefront of developments in data and digital technology, therapies and treatment for children and young people, and developing the skills of the next generation of researchers.”
Professor Jonathan Green from The University of Manchester, who is also Developmental Neuroscience Programme Lead within the Mental Health Theme at NIHR Manchester BRC, said:
“One of our core goals with this substantial funding is to develop the skills and digitisation nationally to enable NHS-wide ‘platform trials’ of new treatments in both child and adult mental health, integrated within community services. This has then the potential to transform the speed of identification and adoption of effective mental health treatments throughout the nation.”
Dr Shruti Garg from The University of Manchester, who leads on work in the Developmental Neuroscience Programme within NIHR Manchester BRC’s Mental Health Theme said:
“The Mental Health Mission funding provides an unprecedented investment not only to bolster mental health research but also develop a capable research active workforce.
“We want to enable more doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to be engaged in research and bring innovative new treatments to individuals with mental health difficulties.”
Professor Shôn Lewis, Mental Health Theme Co-Lead at NIHR Manchester BRC and Professor of Adult Psychiatry at The University of Manchester, said:
“Early translational research within mental health is urgently needed to identify new treatments and better ways of delivery.
“At Manchester BRC, our Mental Health Theme is focused on the development of theory-driven new treatments based on prevention, personalised health, and integration with our other BRC research Themes. The Mental Health Mission investment will accelerate our research, helping us to drive health improvements and lasting change for our diverse communities.”
Professor of Psychological Medicine at The University of Manchester, and Director of the GM Digital Research Unit at GMMH, Kathryn Abel will be co-chair of the Mental Health Mission alongside Oxford University visiting Professor Husseini Manji.
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.”
The Life Sciences Vision, published in July 2021, set out a proposal to make the UK the most attractive place in the world for Life Sciences Innovation. The Vision included priority healthcare missions for the government to solve in partnership with industry, the NHS, academia, and research charities.
The Mental Health Mission was launched in November 2022, to grow the Life Sciences sector and address the unmet need for innovative new mental health treatments and technologies.