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Elizabeth Blackwell Institute receives £3m boost

6 November 2014

The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute (EBI), hosted by the University of Bristol, has been given a £3 million boost thanks to new funding awarded by the Wellcome Trust.

The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute - named after one of Bristol's unsung pioneers in improving public health - brings together leading researchers from a range of different fields to help solve the most pressing health problems of the 21st century.

Research projects supported so far range from exploring back pain and the design of a new type of pacemaker, to tackling health inequalities and furthering our knowledge about depression.

The EBI is a recipient of the Wellcome Trust's Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF), designed to support biomedical research and related activities in the UK over the next two years.

The ISSF award of £1.5 million is being matched by the University to continue the work being carried out by the Institute to advance our knowledge of topics ranging from basic biomedical science to public health, and to accelerate the translation of medical research findings into new treatments and therapies which will benefit patients.

The EBI, founded in August 2012, was named after Elizabeth Blackwell who was born in Bristol in 1821 and went on to become the first woman to receive a medical degree in the USA against all the odds. She was also the first woman to be entered into the UK's medical register.

The Institute aims to identify cutting-edge projects which require funding for pivotal stages in the research process or access to specialist expertise or resources. It also invests in areas of unmet need, such as helping to support the development of our early career researchers, while bringing together leading researchers - both in the UK and from universities overseas - to work in collaboration with patients, the NHS and industry.

Professor Jeremy Tavaré, Director of the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, said: "We're delighted that the work of the EBI is so highly regarded by the Wellcome Trust, and that the Institute's work will continue to benefit from the support they provide us.

"Great strides have already been made to bring together research activities which will help to solve some of the complex health problems we face. It's a fitting way to mark the life of Elizabeth Blackwell, who herself was a pioneer in driving improvements in public health in the 19th century."

One pioneering new project that has already benefited from the Institute is the SPHERE (Sensor Platform for HEalthcare in a Residential Environment) study, a project that will develop novel sensor systems to monitor people's health in the home especially after major operations, when they live alone or have to cope with complex medical problems such as Parkinson's, depression or a stroke.

The project, which will use advanced engineering solutions to detect abnormal changes in people's physical activity, gait and mood, has been awarded a £12 million grant from the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council).

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "Having spent the last year listening to universities across the UK I know that the Institutional Strategic Support Fund is one of our most valued schemes.

"The scheme is distinctive because it allows universities themselves to identify where money can be most usefully spent in pursuit of their and our strategic objectives, ranging from supporting the early careers of researchers to focusing on resources needed to develop really excellent public engagement or investment in cutting-edge research."

The inaugural annual Elizabeth Blackwell Public Lecture on 26 November, entitled 'The drugs don't work: the global threat of antibiotic resistance', is to be given by Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England and Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health. The event is sold-out but you can add your name to the waiting list.

Elizabeth Blackwell Institute receives £3m boost
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