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Pioneering Southampton clinical research facility receives £10m boost

Published: 17 March 2022
Patient being treated by a nurse

A Southampton research facility which helps to deliver ground-breaking clinical trials has been awarded £10 million to continue its vital work.

The five-year funding arrangement for the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility – a partnership between University Hospital Southampton (UHS) and the University of Southampton – will help support studies into a range of new treatments, including several trials run by Southampton Clinical Trials Unit.

More than 800 clinical trials have been completed in Southampton over the last 10 years covering a range of conditions including many types of cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), infection and inflammation, musculoskeletal and neurological conditions in both adults and children.

Southampton has also been a crucial partner in the nationwide COVID-19 response, delivering the highest number of COVID-19 studies across all acute NHS trusts.

Professor Saul Faust, director of NIHR Southampton CRF, said: “I am delighted that our outstanding track-record and long-term strategy have been recognised through ongoing NIHR funding in Southampton and, with support from our patients and healthy volunteers, our studies will continue to shape the next generation of healthcare.”

Working with Southampton Clinical Trials Unit

The Clinical Research Facility (CRF) is supporting the delivery of the HARE-40 trial, a cancer immunotherapy trial run by the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, which is looking at whether a therapeutic RNA vaccine could be an alternative treatment for people with HPV driven cancers.

This first-in-human trial is being carried out in patients with HPV16-positive head and neck cancer, where new treatments are urgently needed, and in other HPV16-positive cancers such as cervical, anal and penile cancers.

The CRF is also recruiting patients to the national AGILE COVID-19 drug testing platform, which aims to fast-track potential new COVID-19 treatments through early phase clinical trials to help find drugs which can prevent people who contract the virus from becoming severely ill.

Professor Christopher Edwards, Associate Director of the Southampton CRF and Principal Investigator for AGILE in Southampton, said:

“Despite the huge success of the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme, we still need to find treatments for people who do contract the virus to prevent them developing more serious disease and reduce hospital admissions.

"The CRF has been involved in many COVID-19 trials and we have experience with early phase studies, so we are delighted to be recruiting patients to the AGILE platform here in Southampton."


With hundreds of studies happening at any one time across a wide range of conditions, we want all people to have the opportunity to take part in research.

Dr Karen Underwood - Interim director of research and development, University Hospital Southampton

At the forefront of research

The Clinical Research Facility (CRF) created a dedicated vaccine trials centre within a locked-down university sports hall in just four days, opened a study of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine within a week and, by August 2020, had recruited almost 700 people to early phase trials of the vaccine.

In addition, Southampton respiratory research has played a key part in the development of a treatment for COVID-19 following more than 10 years of trials in the CRF.

The centre has been supported by the community across the region with more than 13,000 people volunteering to take part in Southampton research studies this past year, meaning the city ranked ninth for total recruitment amongst all NHS trusts.

Dr Karen Underwood, interim director of research and development at UHS, said: “Pioneering research and innovation is vital to the successful delivery of the Trust’s clinical strategy. We welcome this new funding for the NIHR Southampton CRF and are committed to continue growing our research workforce and estate in the coming years.

“With hundreds of studies happening at any one time across a wide range of conditions, we want all people to have the opportunity to take part in research.”

UHS is one of 28 NHS hospitals across England to receive a share of the nationwide investment, with the £10.5 million allocation running from 2022 to 2027.

The award is part of a £161 million national investment from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) announced this week to boost the delivery of early-stage clinical research across England.

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