£6.9M funding to better understand child mental health

Further funding to enhance the flagship birth cohort study Children Growing Up in Liverpool (C-GULL), which opened this spring, has been announced today (4 July 2023).

The new ‘Microbes, Milk, Mental Health and Me’ (4M) strand, supported by £6.9M funding from the Wellcome Trust, seeks to better understand the early-life origins of mental health conditions.

Poor mental health is a growing public health challenge, particularly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet there is still much to be learned about their early-life origins. Compelling evidence suggests that gut microbial colonization, strongly influenced by breastmilk, impacts neurodevelopment and mental well-being, but more research is needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms.

This funding will enable the collection of additional bio-samples for the diverse birth cohort, including state-of-the-art gut microbiota and breastmilk profiling. Researchers will utilize large-scale genomic and epidemiological data to perform experiments, discover new biological insights, and carry out epidemiology and translational science. They will also establish an internationally unique archive of paired bio-samples from mothers and babies and identify keystone bacteria and milk constituents that influence neurodevelopment and mental health.

The findings from this study will inform new methods for preventing and treating adverse mental health conditions in children. The Children Growing Up in Liverpool (C-GULL) program is the first large-scale birth cohort study in the Liverpool City Region and will follow 10,000 first-born Liverpool babies and their families from early in pregnancy through childhood and beyond.

C-GULL is a partnership between The University of Liverpool, The Wellcome Trust, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Liverpool City Council, The Liverpool Women’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and NIHR Clinical Research Network North West Coast. The study will also introduce further collaborations with University College London, The Wellcome Sanger Institute, and the University of Manitoba.

“The Children Growing Up in Liverpool (C-GULL) study represents a unique opportunity to explore the complex interplay between early-life exposures, gut microbiota and mental health,” said Professor Anthony Hollander from The University of Liverpool.

“We are thrilled to receive this additional funding from The Wellcome Trust which will allow us to further advance our understanding of how we can improve the mental health of children.”

Dr Catherine Sebastian, Head of Evidence for Mental Health at The Wellcome Trust, said:

“Poor mental health is increasing in children and young people, and we need to understand more about how these problems develop to better tackle this public health challenge. The 4M strand of C-GULL will generate important new insights into the relationship between gut microbes, breast milk, and mental health during child development, and will provide a foundation for future research in this field.”

The official opening of the C-GULL research centre will take place later this month in the academic unit at The Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

Participants and prospective participants can find more information on the study at the patient-facing website: http://www.cgullstudy.com/

New testing facility targets Liverpool’s health challenges

A specialist unit has opened at the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital which will perform clinical trials aimed at tackling some of the region’s most common diseases. 

The opening of the new Liverpool Clinical Research Facility (CRF) unit follows a £5.3m funding award from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).  

A significant proportion of the local population will benefit from the advanced testing at the CRF, as it will explore new treatments and vaccines for a range of diseases prevalent in Liverpool’s communities. This includes research into cancer and heart disease as well as neurology and neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.  

The old Royal Liverpool University Hospital had previously housed the CRF since 2009, where researchers have been investigating high priority health problems for the Liverpool area. Moving to the state-of-the-art Royal Liverpool University Hospital, which was opened in October 2022, will significantly enhance the Liverpool CRF’s capabilities. 

Key benefits of the new site include increasing the number of beds from 12 to 26 and being one of only two NHS units in England that holds M accreditation, an industry standard benchmark for medical trials.  

The unit has been designed with the team’s research needs in mind and is laid out in a bespoke manner to facilitate medical trials, such as having open bed bays and areas for volunteers to relax. This design means the unit can conduct phase one human trials, which is the first step in testing a new treatment in humans.  

To speed up research, sample handling labs and specialist facilities for procedures including bronchoscopies have been created onsite. Operating in alignment with one of the region’s major NHS hospitals means that the CRF has easy access to relevant experts and medical support without adding to NHS workloads and waiting lists.  

The NIHR Liverpool CRF has worked closely alongside Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LUFHT), which runs the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, since it was first hosted by the Trust. Its achievements in this time have seen it awarded the funding to set up a new site as well as establish partnerships with key regional organisations such as the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON), The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre (CCC) NHS Foundation Trust, and the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. 

iiCON acts as a catalyst for the CRF to filter trials in the infection space. Established in 2020, iiCON is a world leading centre for infection innovation and R&D based at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, which works in partnership with Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LUHFT). 

The first phase one clinical trial is currently underway at the new facility in partnership with iiCON and Alderley Park based Infex Therapeutics. This trial will progress a novel therapeutic treatment to treat dangerous multi-drug resistant infections into clinical trials over the next 12 months as part of a programme supported by iiCON. The RESP-X programme targets serious recurrent respiratory infections in patients with damaged lung functions. 

Richard Fitzgerald, Consultant in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics and Director of the CRF at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: 

“The research benefits of the new NIHR Liverpool CRF facility will significantly boost our efforts in tackling a range of local healthcare challenges. Thanks to this work taking place within the Royal Liverpool Hospital, one of the region’s major healthcare hubs, many patients will be able to access some of the most advanced medicines and therapies available. 

“Right now, teams are already hard at work on ground-breaking studies into a number of diseases. This activity is a great testament to the world-class medical research taking place in Liverpool and I’m excited to see what advances are going to be made thanks to our new facility.”  

To increase the pipeline of new trials, iiCON is planning to expand its collaboration with LUFHT and the NIHR Liverpool CRF moving forwards.  

Janet Hemingway, iiCON Director, said: 

“The Liverpool CRF has been at the cutting edge of innovative drug discovery for some time and its site at the new Royal Liverpool Hospital will supercharge the capabilities of this exceptionally talented team. 

“The work that’s underway on Infex’s RESP-X programme illustrates the fantastic collaborations our region is capable of. Bringing together advanced researchers with leading industry specialists and clinical experts is at the heart of iiCON’s mission, as it is vital to delivering the next generation of treatments for infectious diseases.” 

The Liverpool CRF at LUHFT played a key role during the COVID-19 pandemic, by working in partnership with the University of Liverpool and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to test and develop vital vaccines and medicines. 

CDC Launches Solution-Based Thinking for the Future of Public Services

The Liverpool City Region’s (LCR), Civic Data Cooperative (CDC) has redesigned solution-based thinking for the future of public services through the development of their ‘What’s your problem?’ series.

The Good Business Festival 2022

Liverpool City Region’s festival spirit, that has previously delivered unforgettable global events such as The International Festival for Business, will return in 2022 with The Good Business Festival.

Local tech start-up partners with young musician

The Liverpool tech firm Pulse Systems has partnered with Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA) graduate Max Hustwick to create a jingle for the company’s YouTube series.

Sharing best practice and regional insight

Colin Sinclair, CEO of KQ Liverpool and Sciontec Liverpool, and Director of LSP and Sensor City, shares his thoughts on the role of innovation centres, future regional developments and levelling up, at a number of online events.

UKSPA: COVID-19 Update: Lessons from the past, the present and future challenges

Thursday 21st January @ 12-1:15pm

UKSPA’s first webinar of 2021 looked at the lessons learnt from the past nine months and considered the challenges, as well as the opportunities, ahead.

Alongside speakers from The Coalition for a Digital Economy, Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands, Exeter Science Park and Harwell Campus, Colin discussed the impact of the pandemic and the role of innovation centres in a post pandemic world.

Colin explained: “Adaptation is key. Innovation centres have to create pandemic resilient buildings and workspaces of the future, as well as dovetailing their region’s specialisms.”

With overall unemployment figures on the rise as a result of the pandemic, it is key that we continue to push ahead with shovel ready schemes, like HEMISPHERE in KQ Liverpool’s Paddington Village,
in order to create new employment opportunities (both knowledge intensive and supply chain).

The future focus should not just be on building buildings however, but on regional strengths. For Liverpool City Region, this is Health and Life Sciences, which is highly relevant in pandemic resilience and recovery.

Liverpool’s unique value proposition is a city powered by knowledge and fuelled by culture, which is now increasingly driven by health innovation. This focus on health, life sciences and tech, and the depth of our talent pool, will improve health outcomes, drive our economic recovery, and become our future USP.

Innovation centres therefore have a significant role to play in providing an environment where this expertise can thrive, making a real difference to the UK’s recovery and future pandemic defence.

Other key themes discussed during the session included Government support for tech start-ups, innovation culture, and customer wellbeing and mental health.

If you missed the webinar or would like to read all speakers’ presentation slides, please click here


Built Environment Network: Future Development Plans – Science & Innovation Parks

Monday 8th February @ 9:45-11:30am

This event will focus on the ever-growing sector that is science parks and innovation corridors – as the UK continues to be a hub for inward investment, education and new emerging technology.

A number of expert speakers from the realm of science parks and innovation corridors, including Rachael Patterson, Policy and Marketing Manager at Sciontec Liverpool, will come together on this unique panel to discuss their future development ambitions, the state of the market, the role that their facilities will play in a post-Brexit world and how their ongoing projects are key to creating a knowledge-based economy.

Registration link: https://www.built-environment-networking.com/event/future-development-plans-science-parks/


Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology: Roundtable on levelling up (R&D funding)

Monday 8th February – PM

At the request of Sir Patrick Vallance and Dame Nancy Rothwell, Colin Sinclair has been invited to join a virtual roundtable discussion, to consider the role that research and innovation activity can play in ‘levelling up’; to reduce economic disparities across the UK and promote equality of opportunity.

This exclusive event will be co-hosted by the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology (CST) and the Industrial Strategy Council (ISC) and will build on the CST’s previous advice to the Prime Minister.

The objective of the roundtable is to consider ‘what works’ in place-based R&D investments, from identifying local strengths, needs and opportunities, to ensuring decision-makers – both local and national – have the information and support to enable effective placed-based R&D decision-making.

Colin plans to raise the opportunity to level up in the North by recognising and promoting Liverpool City Region, Manchester and Cheshire’s strengths in Health and Life Sciences, focusing in particular on what the KQ Liverpool partners are doing on pandemic resilience, including mass testing, vaccine trials and digital health/civic data.

We are honoured to have a voice at this table, and Colin’s valuable input will help to inform the advice given to Government.

This is a private event and not available for public registration.

Knowledge Quarter Liverpool reveals new community referral scheme

Knowledge Quarter Liverpool (KQ Liverpool) has today launched KQ Reward, a community referral scheme providing tiered rewards for successful introductions of new customers to KQ Liverpool.

KQ Base soft landing programme launched to encourage inward investment

A new soft-landing programme, known as KQ Base, has been launched today with the aim of de-risking inward investment.

Unilever renew membership with Sensor City

Sensor City will provide Unilever with a bespoke package of technical and business support over the next two years, as part of a joint commitment to drive innovation within Liverpool City Region.

Last chance to apply for LCR mettle

Last chance to apply for the next intake of Mettle – the free support programme for Digital, Creative & Tech leaders in Liverpool City Region.