Birmingham BRC researcher awarded Wellcome Leap contract

The University of Birmingham has received its first Wellcome Leap award as part of a new £48m (US$60m) ‘Dynamic Resilience’ programme to fund researchers investigating ways to improve health in later life.

Dr Thomas Jackson, from the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at The University of Birmingham and the NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) sarcopenia research theme, has been awarded a multi-million-pound contract to research the responses of older people undergoing a stressful health event – an operation for colorectal cancer.

He will lead a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Birmingham, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London, and Guys and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust. The team will study biological signals (biomarkers) to see if they are able to predict who will recover well after surgery (i.e., are resilient) and who may need additional help.

They will also test whether some existing drugs and supplements might be able to improve health in older volunteers.

Dr Jackson said: “It is exciting to be a part of the Wellcome Leap Dynamic Resilience programme, securing funding for important clinical research in geriatric medicine that will expand our knowledge and underpin larger-scale trials. With advances in our understanding of ageing, we can identify different underlying biological mechanisms associated with multiple different conditions including frailty and delirium.

“Our team, which includes specialists in inflammation and ageing, computational biology, and psychology, along with our external partners, will look at existing drugs and explore how they might target key biological mechanisms relevant across conditions that are common in frail, older populations.

”Dynamic Resilience is funded jointly by Wellcome Leap and Temasek Trust. The 14 successful applicants are The Aga Khan University, Kenya, BioAge Labs, Inc., Centenary Institute/University of Technology Sydney, Karolinska Institutet, King’s College London, Loughborough University, National University Health System, National University of Singapore, NMI Natural and Medical Sciences Institute at the University of Tübingen, RIKEN, Universidad de Chile, University of California San Diego, and University of Oslo.

It is exciting to be a part of the Wellcome Leap Dynamic Resilience programme, securing funding for important clinical research in geriatric medicine that will expand our knowledge and underpin larger-scale trials.

– Dr Thomas Jackson

Professor Elizabeth Sapey, Director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing said: “We are delighted that Dr Jackson has received Wellcome Leap funding. It is a fantastic endorsement of his work in this area, and we are fascinated to see what advances can be made across the programme in the coming years.”

About Dynamic Resilience

The global population is ageing rapidly. By 2050, it is projected that 1.5 billion people will be over the age of 65, with the number of people over the age of 85 set to triple. With increasing ageing of populations around the world, frailty is an important and growing global health problem. It is essential to look for ways to prevent the progression to frailty.

The Dynamic Resilience programme seeks to identify and validate causal measures and models of dynamic resilience, at multiple scales, with predictive value sufficient to make clinical decisions and to test interventions. Importantly, reducing progression to frailty in those over the age of 65 by 25% would protect over 75,000 adults in the UK alone, and potentially as many as 87 million older adults worldwide. It is realistic to believe that this is possible – frailty can be halted and even reversed.

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The University of Birmingham is ranked among the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

About The National Institute for Health and Care Research

The mission of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. We do this by:

  • Funding high-quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care;
  • Investing in world-class expertise, facilities and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services;
  • Partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities, improving the relevance, quality and impact of our research;
  • Attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle complex health and social care challenges;
  • Collaborating with other public funders, charities and industry to help shape a cohesive and globally competitive research system;
  • Funding applied global health research and training to meet the needs of the poorest people in low and middle-income countries.

NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low and middle-income countries is principally funded through UK Aid from the UK government.

The NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre is part of the NIHR and hosted by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with the University of Birmingham.

Thomas Jackson
Dr Thomas Jackson