New collaboration will tackle Birmingham’s biggest health challenges

Members of BHP and ABPI with the signed agreement

A new collaboration to tackle the biggest health challenges faced by the West Midlands’ six million residents will use real-time clinical trials and health data to speed up research and improve cancer care, maternity services, child health, obesity, and dementia.

Birmingham Health Partners  will team up with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and its members to make Birmingham a world leader in the development of precision medicines tailored to patients based on genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

The collaboration, founded on a Memorandum of Understanding, will create the Birmingham Health Partners & Industry Steering Group (BHPISG).

The West Midlands is already building an internationally competitive health and care infrastructure, with BHP at the heart of a collaborative and innovative ecosystem bringing together multidisciplinary clinical-academic teams to deliver on key elements of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy.

This new collaboration will play to Birmingham’s strengths in health care data, digitalisation of health care services, genomic medicine, diagnostics and clinical trials and will help address the biggest challenges facing the city and region

The aim is to accelerate the development and adoption of new data-enabled innovations into clinical practice to benefit patients.

The new arrangement will work on four key regional health challenges – chosen because they have national or international relevance and can be scaled up if successful. It will build on the region’s strengths and expertise and the potential for significant economic impact. These are:

There are more than 360,000 new cancer cases a year in the UK and prevalence is increasing, with over 50% in breast, prostate, lung and bowel. Cancer incidence in Birmingham is in line with the national average, however cancer mortality is significantly higher.

The collaboration will build on the work of the West Midlands Genomics Medicine Centre and use a wealth of research, clinical and commercial real-world data to accelerate R&D for new treatments for cancer.

Birmingham is one of the youngest, most diverse cities in Europe and as a result harbours many health challenges prevalent in younger populations. Over 24% of Birmingham children are overweight or obese when they start school, and this rises to 40% by the time they leave primary school. 

Birmingham boasts the only single-specialist Foundation Trust for both women and children in England, and the collaboration will address the growing problem of childhood obesity, develop paediatric-specific health interventions, and undertake research in miscarriage treatments including genetic-related developmental problems and conditions in early pregnancy.

Around 15-20% of Birmingham’s population are retired. Many are affected by multimorbidities, in which several conditions co-exist. Comorbidities, which include cancer, dementia, cardiovascular and respiratory disease and diabetes, are increasingly common as we age and result in a far higher cost of care for the elderly than for younger populations.

The partnership now want to put that work to use – using real-world population data to develop, deploy and evaluate new medicines to help solve and better manage these diseases.

With a regional population of six million people, Birmingham is looking to understand how new interventions affect disease and then use this information to develop new treatment regimens, support adoption, reimbursement and improved health across the region.

This includes using innovative approaches to the design and assessment of clinical trials for new therapies, testing these across diseases with similar underlying science to more quickly check they work and focus on personalised medicine.

The data generated will also help the system respond rapidly to any upcoming breakthroughs.

The pharmaceutical industry is a major investor in British research and development – investing £4.3 billion every year – and it is hoped this new collaboration will drive greater economic development for Birmingham and the West Midlands through research, infrastructure, and the sharing of knowledge, skills and expertise.

“With a diverse population of nearly six million citizens, the West Midlands is the ideal place to develop and test new innovations in healthcare, such as precision medicines tailored to individual patient needs. This exciting agreement will bring world-class researchers, healthcare practitioners and industry together to tackle the big health challenges facing our region and help deliver on our West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy. It also demonstrates the strength of the West Midlands life sciences cluster, which is rapidly emerging as a flagship location for developing and testing innovations in healthcare.”
Andy Street
Andy Street
Mayor of the West Midlands

Chief Executive of the ABPI and co-chair of the new Steering Group, Mike Thompson, said:

“This partnership will accelerate cutting-edge research in Birmingham and help the NHS tackle some of the West Midlands’ most pressing health challenges. We’re playing to our strengths: linking state-of-the-art science from pharmaceutical companies with Birmingham’s internationally recognised data and genomics infrastructure.

“Together, we can cement Birmingham as a world-class research centre and deliver better care for patients throughout the West Midlands.”

 BHP Director and co-chair of the new Steering Group, Professor David Adams, said:

Academic and clinical collaboration in Birmingham is long-established between our co-located prestigious institutions. This new arrangement with the ABPI will provide industry partners with greater access to our multidisciplinary experts to both speed up the process of translational medicine and deliver effective new innovations to improve the health of patients and our wider population.

“The diversity of our regional population means that our research and the commercial innovations which result from it will be applicable nationally and globally.”