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    HDR UK Board Appointments

    The first appointments to the Board of Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), the new data science and health research institute, have been made.  

    Harnessing the power of health data, HDR UK will develop and apply cutting-edge data science tools and techniques to address the most pressing health research challenges facing patients and the public.

    The members of the HDR UK non-executive Board are:

    • Dr Graham Spittle CBE (Chair) was until recently IBM's Chief Technology Officer, Europe, and Vice President, Software Group. Dr Spittle took on the role of Interim Chair HDR UK in July 2016.
    • Professor Sir Alex Markham is Director of the Leeds MRC Medical Bioinformatics Centre, Chairman of the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chair of the OSCHR Health Informatics Group.
    • Professor Jonathan Montgomery is Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and Chair of the Health Research Authority.
    • Professor Sir Jim Smith was Deputy CEO and Chief of Strategy at the MRC and Director of Research at the Francis Crick Institute prior to joining Wellcome as Director of Science.
    • Professor Dame Janet Thornton was Director of EMBL-EBI until 2015 and played a key role in ELIXIR, the pan-European infrastructure for biological data.
    • David Zahn is Head of European Fixed Income at Franklin Templeton Investments, a Board member at The Health Foundation and a Trustee of the Medical Research Foundation.

    The Board will convene for the first time on 9 November. The appointment of the non-executive Board follows the announcement in March of Professor Andrew Morris as Director of HDR UK and confirmation of Dr Graham Spittle’s appointment as Chair of the Board.

    Dr Spittle commented:

    “The emerging HDR UK Board brings together a wealth of knowledge and expertise. In tandem with the executive team, the Board will bring passion and vigour to the goal of maximising health benefits from data science.”

    Members of the non-executive Board share collective responsibility for the effective governance and development of HDR UK, setting its major policies and agreeing the strategic direction with the Institute Director. A small number of additional appointments to the Board will be made over the coming months.

    HDR UK is an independent, not-for-profit company established through a joint investment led by the MRC, together with the National Institute for Health Research (England), the Chief Scientist Office (Scotland), Health and Care Research Wales, Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the British Heart Foundation and Wellcome.

    Learn more at the MRC website.

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    Neurodegenerative disease community database

    Researchers studying neurodegenerative disease can now look up cohort studies and make connections through a new online database.

    The JPND Global Cohort Portal, created by the EU Joint Programme in Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND) for which the MRC is a founder member, is a searchable online database of neurodegenerative disease cohort studies.

    Long-term studies which follow large groups of people over time – known as longitudinal cohort studies – are a rich, but currently under-used, resource. Finding and contacting relevant cohorts can be a difficult and time-consuming task for researchers.

    The portal aims to overcome this challenge by allowing users to search for cohorts around the world that could be relevant for their neurodegeneration research. A summary of the cohort study, the data collected and the contact details are available on the portal, giving researchers the opportunity to make new connections.

    Currently including 110 cohorts, the tool will continue to grow as new cohorts are discovered and added. The aim of the portal is to encourage information exchange and new collaborations within the neurodegenerative disease community, to support scientific progress.

    After exploring the database, Dag Aarsland, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: “I was pleased to see that the JPND Global Cohort Portal offers a broad and overarching view of cohorts that have been funded in countries across Europe and beyond. In fact, after just a few minutes of exploring the JPND Portal, I identified a number of cohorts that I hadn't heard of before, which may be useful in my research.” Read the full interview with Professor Aarsland on the Portal.

    Neurodegenerative disease-specific and general population cohorts, related to neurodegenerative disease research, are both included. To be considered relevant, they must be cohorts that were set up to follow a range of health or social factors as a population ages, or cohorts looking at other chronic diseases but using measures of risk relevant to neurodegenerative disease, for example metabolic or cardiovascular factors.

    To be included, neurodegenerative disease-specific cohorts must have more than 200 participants, unless they are classed as rare conditions. General population cohorts must include over 1,000 participants.

    To allow the database to grow and evolve, an online entry form is available for principal investigators to submit their cohort for inclusion after checks. Cohorts can also be updated to reflect changes, such as when new waves of data are available or upon the introduction of a new test.

    Click here to read more on the MRC website.


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    MRC UK Research & Innovation Council

    UK Research and Innovationopens in new window is a new organisation that, from 1 April 2018, will bring together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. Each will be led by an Executive Chair who will be supported by a Council of up to 12 members.

    The Councils will have a pivotal role in ensuring the success of UK Research and Innovation, helping it achieve its strategic objectives to be the single, strong voice of UK research and innovation, and building on our world-leading reputation.

    Council members will have a range of expertise and experience in research and innovation across higher education, industry and commerce, policy and/or civil society, reflecting different characteristics and professional backgrounds.

    Click here to learn more on the MRC website.

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    PHG Foundation Announces New Director

    The PHG Foundation are pleased to announce Dr Mark Kroese as the new Director of the PHG Foundation. Mark will be taking over from Dr Hilary Burton, who stepped down as Director at the end of September.

    Mark has an intimate understanding of the work of the PHG Foundation, first joining in 2002 as a Specialist Registrar in Public Health Medicine. In 2005, Mark was appointed consultant in public health medicine and associate director of public health at Peterborough Primary Care Trust, but retained close links with PHG Foundation. He returned in 2012 to take up his current post of Deputy Director, where he has been leading the development and delivery of the work programme and contributing to the strategic development of the organisation including the establishment of its consultancy services.

    Commenting on his new role, Mark said:

    I am delighted to become the next Director of the PHG Foundation and to have the opportunity to lead such an expert and successful team. We look forward to addressing the future health and innovation policy challenges. I would like to personally thank Hilary for her leadership, guidance and support. I feel very fortunate to be her successor and to be able to build on her achievements.

    Mark graduated in medicine from the University of Edinburgh and trained in general practice before entering public health medicine. A fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Mark is also a member of the Diagnostics Advisory Committee of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Royal College of General Practitioners. His special interests include the evaluation and regulation of genetic tests and biomarkers and the commissioning of clinical genetics services. In addition to his work at the Foundation, Mark is the public health advisor to the UK Genetic Testing Network since 2006.

    Dr Hilary Burton, founder member and Director since 2010, will continue to contribute her extensive knowledge and experience to the PHG Foundation work programme, particularly, but not exclusively, with My Healthy Future, PHG Foundation’s major new project.

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