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Using data to tackle disease: Swansea University wins share of £30 million bid to be Health Data Research UK

Swansea University

Data is vital in research that tackles diseases like cancer and heart disease. Now Swansea University's leading role in this field has been recognised again, with news today that it is to become one of six substantive sites of the newly-formed Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), in a strategic partnership with Queen's University Belfast.

The six sites in the HDR project will share an initial investment of £30M for the next 5 years. Swansea University's involvement stems from its world-leading expertise in health informatics. The project will also strengthen the UK's position at the forefront of population data science.

The Wales and Northern Ireland HDR UK site is led by Professor Ronan Lyons at Swansea and Professor Mark Lawler at Queen's. The team will focus upon two major research initiatives; Modernising Public Health and Enabling Precision Medicine.

Both partner sites share a vision to upscale the quantity and impact of research in scientific discovery and its translation, patient and population health, policy and economic development by addressing major health challenges and to lead interdisciplinary research aligned to HDR UK's mission.

On confirmation of the Award, Professor Lyons of Swansea University Medical School commented:

"I am thrilled that Swansea is to become a founding substantive site of HDR UK. One of Swansea University's key strengths has always been to work collaboratively both with UK and global partners and also across disciplines based in Medicine, Computer Science, Mathematics and Engineering.

This will help strengthen our position at the forefront of rapidly advancing science to benefit the health, wellbeing and prosperity of the population. I look forward to working with colleagues at the other HDR UK substantive sites to apply cutting-edge science to address the most pressing health challenges".

This Award sees Swansea at the core of a collaborative research community working together to deliver the priorities of Health Data Research UK. This initial funding is awarded following a rigorous application process, which included interviews with an international panel of experts.

Professor Andrew Morris, Director of Health Data Research UK, commented:

"I am delighted to make today's announcement, which marks the start of a unique opportunity for scientists, researchers and clinicians to use their collective expertise to transform the health of the population. "

The six HDR UK sites, comprising 21 universities and research institutes, have tremendous individual strengths and will form a solid foundation for our long-term ambition. By working together and with NHS and industry partners to the highest ethical standards, our vision is to harness data science on a national scale.

This will unleash the potential for data and technologies to drive breakthroughs in medical research, improving the way we are able to prevent, detect and diagnose diseases like cancer, heart disease and asthma.

I am grateful to our funders who recognise the importance of collaboration at scale, and the pivotal contribution of health data research to the UK's ambition to be a global leader in life sciences, for health and economic benefit."

This is the first phase of investment to establish Health Data Research UK. A further £24 million will be invested in upcoming activities, including a Future Talent Programme and work to address targeted data research challenges through additional partnership sites.

Health Data Research UK is committed to the highest ethical standards and will work with experts in public engagement to ensure the public voice is central to its activity. It will work at scale and forge national and international partnerships to deliver:

  • New scientific discovery
  • A vibrant training environment for the next generation of data scientists
  • The creation of a trustworthy UK-wide research and innovation ecosystem for health data research.

Health Data Research UK is a joint investment co-ordinated by the Medical Research Council, working in partnership with the British Heart Foundation, the National Institute for Health Research, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Welsh Government), Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland), Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates, and Wellcome.

Other substantive sites will be led by consortia from Cambridge, Midlands, Scotland, London and Oxford. For further details, please visit the Health Data Research UK website.


Notes for editors:

Swansea University Medical School is a UK top-ten Medical School offering a comprehensive portfolio of undergraduate and postgraduate courses spanning medicine, physician associate studies, health and life sciences to meet tomorrow's science and healthcare challenges. Since its beginnings as a newly established Medical School in 2004, it has seen exceptional development from the growth of its Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) programme to building Wales' premier health and life sciences research facilities in the Institute of Life Science (ILS), Centre for NanoHealth and Data Science Building.

2014 saw the Research Excellence Framework place Swansea University Medical School equal first in the UK for the quality of its research environment and second for overall research quality. In 2016, it became the first department in Swansea University to win Athena SWAN Silver recognition for its work to promote women in science careers. These developments together with significant investment from external funding organisations, and rising student satisfaction have led to the Medical School rising to third in the UK in the Complete University Guide 2017 and to UK top ten rankings in a range of in other independent guides.

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Swansea University is a world-class, research-led, dual campus university. The University was established in 1920 and was the first campus university in the UK. It currently offers around 350 undergraduate courses and 350 postgraduate courses to circa 20,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The University's 46-acre Singleton Park Campus is located in beautiful parkland with views across Swansea Bay. The University's 65-acre science and innovation Bay Campus, which opened in September 2015, is located a few miles away on the eastern approach to the city. It has the distinction of having direct access to a beach and its own seafront promenade. Both campuses are close to the Gower Peninsula, the UK's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Swansea is ranked the top university in Wales and is currently The Times and The Sunday Times 'Welsh University of the Year' for 2017. It is also ranked within the top 300 best universities in the world in the Times Higher Education World University rankings.

The results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 showed the University has achieved its ambition to be a top 30 research University, soaring up the league table to 26th in the UK, with the 'biggest leap among research-intensive institutions' (Times Higher Education, December 2014) in the UK.

The University has ambitious expansion plans as it moves towards its centenary in 2020, as it continues to extend its global reach and realising its domestic and international ambitions.

Swansea University is a registered charity. No.1138342. Visit

More information

Please contact Kevin Sullivan, Swansea University Public Relations Office.

Tel: 01792 513245


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