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. 

KQ Liverpool launches suite of Innovation and Growth Services

Liverpool City Region businesses to benefit from a wide range of free business support

Knowledge Quarter Liverpool (KQ Liverpool) has today launched a suite of Innovation and Growth Services, which are available for all businesses located within its world-leading innovation district to access. 

The eight programmes are designed to support businesses at every stage of their growth journey, in addition to inspiring the next generation of innovators. 

Dr Carol Costello, Chair of KQ Liverpool, said:

“We measure our success upon the achievements of the businesses that are located within KQ Liverpool, and helping to nurture and grow those businesses is of utmost importance to us. 

“That is why we have developed a range of wrap-around support services for each and every business that makes up this thriving ecosystem.

“The programmes are designed to support start-up creation, accelerate scale-up growth, and encourage inward investment into Liverpool City Region, as well as creating tangible aspirations for local students to develop STEM based careers right here on their doorstep.”

Today’s announcement builds upon the existing KQ Base soft landing programme and KQ Grow business support service, which have already seen a number of organisations benefit from. 

Cleo Cosens, Sales & Marketing Manager, at Pulse Systems, said:

“Having the option to access a range of complementary support services has been invaluable for us. We attended a KQ Grow drop-in event last year and were subsequently introduced to a number of local experts who have been able to guide us on our growth journey.”

Now forming part of an extensive suite of support services, KQ Liverpool is prioritising the inclusive innovation agenda and is helping to grow a network of advocates for its dynamic innovation district.

Rachael Patterson, Policy and Marketing Manager at KQ Liverpool, added:

“The KQ Liverpool ecosystem thrives thanks to its collaborative outlook and partnership networks. 

“Our dedicated KQ Liverpool team works to facilitate these connections, make referrals to our expert advisory partners, and run a series of events, which is all provided at no cost to the businesses that benefit from them.”

The newly added Innovation and Growth Services have a strong focus on culture, connections and careers, helping to bring together the people that make the place. Initiatives include Sixth Form Into Science, KQ Culture and KQ Connect.

Colin Sinclair, CEO of KQ Liverpool said:

“With culture playing such a crucial role in the regeneration of Liverpool City Region, it is key that we continue to nurture our cultural offering across KQ Liverpool through a range of community initiatives, in which the people that live, work and learn in our innovation district can have a direct impact on its development.”

You can find out more about the full range of KQ Liverpool Innovation & Growth Services here.