New Mental Health Research Centre is established in KQ Liverpool

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Liverpool have teamed up to create the first ever Mental Health Research for Innovation Centre (M-RIC), where service users co-design the innovations they need and want, alongside health professionals, researchers, industry partners, and public advisers.

The Centre will be awarded £10.5 million of government funding from the Office for Life Sciences and the National Institute for Health and Care Research. It is part of the national ‘Mental Health Mission’ which aims to accelerate mental health research through a UK network of leading investigators called the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration which includes M-RIC in Liverpool.

M-RIC will create a world first ‘learning system’ where treatments improve the more they are used, studied and refined. The focus will be on under-researched areas such as early intervention in psychosis, depression, and children and young people’s mental health. Research will underpin Liverpool City Region’s commitment to service users, providing easy access to clinical trials and increasing their involvement in better care, closer to home.

Professor Joe Rafferty CBE, Mersey Care’s Chief Executive, said:

“Investment in mental health research has huge potential to boost economic growth, reduce health inequalities, and address the associated £13bn per annum the UK economy loses in productivity to poor mental health.

“To improve mental health, the Centre will advance understanding of how mental, physical, and social conditions are interlinked, and trial new interventions with industry in real life settings.”

Professor Iain Buchan, the University of Liverpool’s Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor for Innovation, explained:

“Mental health is vital to us as individuals, families, and communities, yet despite advances in public health and healthcare, mental health has been declining, particularly in disadvantaged areas like Liverpool.

“Our Centre will have particular depth in mental health data science and engineering, driving innovations for a connected world – continuously improving as the research underpinning them is embedded in mental health services.”

The data-sharing required for the project will be facilitated by Liverpool City Region’s Civic Data Co-operative (CDC) which uses data to deliver better care for residents.

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the health inequalities that exist in our society today – few more so than the extreme disparities in mental health support and funding. Coupled with the spiralling cost of living, it’s little surprise our country is now in the midst of a mental health crisis – which is costing the UK economy nearly £118bn every year.

“It’s one of the many reasons we invested in an ethical Civic Data Cooperative, to allow local experts to analyse our residents’ health and wellbeing needs and to help us improve care and service delivery locally.

“Our area has been a global leader in health research and innovation for centuries, and it’s fantastic to see this legacy continue today with the Mental Health Research for Innovation Centre. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it helps us identify and explore new, improved ways to treat the mental health and wellbeing of our 1.6 million residents.”

Professor Nusrat Husain, Mersey Care’s Director of Research and Innovation, and Global Centre for Research on Mental Health Inequalities, added:

“The investment for innovation in mental health provides important opportunities to build upon our existing work to address mental health inequalities.

“For example digital technologies are helping to improve access to mental health services and becoming an important part of our clinical practice. These innovations in the way we deliver mental healthcare will not only have an impact on Liverpool City Region, but also nationally and globally.”

New Microbials Accelerator Programme now taking applications

A new Innovate UK-funded Microbials (Microbiome, Biofilms & Phage) Accelerator is now accepting applications from SMEs for a programme of support to help scale their businesses and secure funding for the commercialisation of innovative microbial technologies.

Funded as part of the Biomedical Catalyst, the programme consists of a unique package of business support and access to clinical, scientific, technical and commercial advice at no cost to the company. Applications for the microbial accelerator programme close at midday on June 6th.

The accelerator is co-led by LYVA Labs and Bionow, with support from a dynamic consortium of partners including iiCON, University of Liverpool (UoL), CPI, and the Innovation Agency (IA).

The scope for the accelerator includes technologies, products, processes, and services that have the potential to impact microbial communities or biofilms related to health, including new technologies to protect beneficial microbiomes or to control harmful microbial communities or biofilms.

Please note that developing new antibiotics to combat AMR and microbial diagnostics is out of scope.

The Microbials Accelerator partnership offers a programme of developmental courses and mentorship opportunities. The programme is designed to give businesses the knowledge and support they need to move products and services from the development stage to market readiness. To be successful in their application, businesses must:

  • Be a UK-based SME (small or medium-sized business), or an academic in the early stages of forming an SME.
  • Have an innovative idea to develop a novel product/technology/process/ or service, which is in scope and can be evidenced to impact a sizeable healthcare challenge positively.
  • Be developing a technology/product/process/service with a clear and obvious route to market that will lead to a commercial opportunity.

The accelerator programme, funded by Innovate UK as part of the Biomedical Catalyst, comes in two phases. An initial 20 organisations will take part in an online ‘pre-accelerator’ course that will cover topics including market research, commercial analysis, market exploitation, finance and clinical trials. For phase two, 8-10 of these organisations will be selected for the full accelerator programme and will receive bespoke support. Industry mentors will be matched to the cohort and guide them through their accelerator journey.

The phase two cohort will also be supported to draft a ‘mock’ Biomedical Catalyst grant application, which will prepare them to apply to the closed Biomedical Catalyst Feasibility call, later in the year. SMEs will end the programme with a final pitch session to a panel of early-stage investors.

Companies not selected for phase two will get an action-planning session with Bionow, which may include referrals to experts in their network who can support them with their onward progression.

Commenting on the programme, Lorna Green, CEO of LYVA Labs, said:

“The Liverpool City Region has a key strength in microbial research and development. This new microbial accelerator will help us capitalise on the unique academic research, facilities, industry partners, and growing ecosystem in our region, enabling us to incubate and support upcoming talent and real-world solutions.”

Geoff Davison, CEO of Bionow, added:

“Research into the relationship between microbes, their hosts, and the environment, could hold the key to vital solutions to some of society’s biggest health challenges.

This programme will help SMEs and startups to get their innovations to market with the potential to transform treatments and health outcomes across a wide range of health sectors.”

Janet Hemingway, Founding Director of the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON), an LSTM-based collaboration which works with industry to bring new therapeutics to market, said:

“Exploring new technologies and creative collaborations that will deliver next-generation treatments is at the heart of iiCON’s mission. We’re therefore delighted to be collaborating with LYVA Labs on this targeted support programme, which will give SMEs and those with new ideas access to a variety of really impactful benefits, such as the ability to upscale and unlock product development obstacles.”

Professor Steve Paterson, University of Liverpool Director of Microbiome Innovation Centre, and Professor Rasmita Raval Director of the Open Innovation Hub for Antimicrobial Surfaces and Co-Director, National Biofilm Innovation Centre, said:

“University of Liverpool has world-leading expertise and unique facilities in the analysis of microbiomes and biofilms, which we study from the nanoscale to microbial communities. New technologies have revolutionised the microbial field and so we are excited by the opportunity to use these insights to support emerging businesses in Liverpool and nationally.”

Applications for the microbial accelerator programme close at midday on 6th June. You can apply on the Bionow Website and completed applications should be sent to