The Turing and partners receive £3 million NIHR award for innovative Research Support Facility focused on AI for multiple long-term conditions

Friday 03 Sep 2021

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The NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) has awarded almost £12 million to new research that will use advanced data science and AI methods to identify and understand clusters of multiple long-term conditions and develop ways to prevent and treat them. The Alan Turing Institute, alongside Swansea University, University of Edinburgh and MRC Harwell, has been awarded £3 million to establish a new Research Support Facility as part of the programme.    

An estimated 14 million people in England are living with two or more long-term conditions, with two-thirds of adults aged over 65 expected to be living with multiple long-term conditions by 2035.  

People who develop multiple long-term conditions often do not have a random assortment of diseases but rather a largely predictable cluster of conditions. Developing a better understanding of these disease clusters, including how they develop over the course of a person’s life and are influenced by wider determinants of health, requires novel research and analytical tools that can operate across complex datasets. 

The Artificial Intelligence for Multiple Long-Term Conditions (AIM) callin partnership with NHSX, funds research that combines data science and AI methods with health, care and social science expertise to identify new clusters of disease and understand how multiple long-term conditions develop over the life course.   

The call will fund up to £23 million of research in two waves, supporting a pipeline of research and capacity building in multiple long-term conditions research. The first wave has invested nearly £12 million into three Research Collaborations, nine Development Awards and a Research Support Facility. 

Building capacity and capability 

Through this funding call, NIHR is also growing sustainable capacity and capability for multidisciplinary research in multiple long-term conditions.  

The new Research Support Facility (RSF), based at the Turing, will offer AI and advanced data science support to the research teams funded by AIM and foster collaboration. The facility, led by Dr Kirstie Whitaker and Professor Chris Holmes, will embed best practices in data security and standards, reproducibility, and public and patient engagement across the research collaborations funded by the programme, ensuring effective knowledge sharing and reinforcing the Turing’s role as a national convenor and capacity builder in data science and artificial intelligence.

Dr Kirstie Whitaker, Principal Investigator for the RSF, said:

“This facility is one of the first of its kind to sit alongside a major UK investment in health research and we are grateful to the NIHR for the opportunity to model this coordinated approach in such an important area of AI research.   

Our goal with the RSF is to bring together skilled researchers across the UK and to move from reproducible, to reproduced, to reused research outputs, maximising the impact of this programme in the years to come. We are also excited to support and empower patients with lived experience of multiple long-term conditions to engage and co-create research with the research teams, setting the standard for patient involvement in other healthcare areas in the future.”   

Building collaborations 

The three Research Collaborations funded by this first wave of the AIM call are partnerships between leading academic institutions that bring together a broad range of expertise from health and care, AI and social science. 

This first wave of the AIM call has also funded nine Development Awards, to support researchers to develop new collaborations and undertake proof of concept work. These Development Award holders then apply for a Research Collaboration award in wave 2 of the call, creating a pipeline of data science and AI translational research projects and growing capacity and capability for multidisciplinary research in multiple long-term conditions.  

NIHR’s commitment to tackling multiple long-term conditions 

Improving the lives of people with multiple long-term conditions and their carers through research is an area of strategic focus for the NIHR, with our ambitions set out in our NIHR Strategic Framework for Multiple Long-Term Conditions Research

Professor Lucy Chappell, NIHR Chief Executive and chair of the AIM funding committee, said: “This large-scale investment in research will improve our understanding of clusters of multiple long-term conditions, including how they develop over a person’s lifetime.   

“Over time, findings from this new research will point to solutions that might prevent or slow down the development of further conditions over time. We will also look at how we shape treatment and care to meet the needs of people with multiple long-term conditions and carers.” 

To date NIHR has invested £11million into research on multiple long-term conditions through two calls in partnership with the Medical Research Council, offering both pump-priming funds and funding to tackle multimorbidity at scale. 

Full details of the funded research are available on the NIHR Funding and Awards website

Full NIHR news announcement: NIHR awards £12 million to artificial intelligence research to help understand multiple long-term conditions

Details of the RSF leadership team

  • Dr Kirstie Whitaker, The Alan Turing Institute
  • Professor Chris Holmes, The Alan Turing Institute
  • Professor Ronan Lyons, Swansea University
  • Professor David Ford, Swansea University
  • Dr Ann-Marie Mallon, MRC Harwell
  • Dr Evelina Gabasova, The Alan Turing Institute
  • Mrs Lynsey Cross, Swansea University
  • Professor Aziz Sheikh, University of Edinburgh