Coronavirus update – recruitment has now stopped

Updated: 17 March 2020

The Prime Minister has announced that people are being urged to work from home and avoid all non-essential travel.

The NIHR BioResource has therefore today taken the decision to no longer recruit new participants to its panel. This includes:

  • The enrolment of members of the public who have expressed an interest in joining the BioResource
  • The recruitment of patients with a Rare Disease, IBD, NAFLD or IMID, and through recruiting sites and clinics.


Existing BioResource participants who have been invited, or have accepted, to participate in research studies will also be notified. Apart from research studies through online questionnaires, other recall activities will be on hold until further notice.

As of today, staff members of the NIHR BioResource who are based in Cambridge are now working from home. Our ability to respond may be affected by our remote working and/or the impact of a wider COVID-19 infection. Some individual phone numbers and emails are no longer being monitored on a regular basis. Please try emailing staff members in the first instance if you need to reach any of us in particular.

Please do not hesitate to contact us on 0800 090 22 33 or, if you have any query regarding the above.

Thank you for your understanding.

Please stay safe.

Best wishes,

Nathalie Kingston, PhD
Director – NIHR BioResource for Translational Research

Coronavirus update – reviewing operations

11 March 2020

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK, there is a possibility that the NIHR BioResource will need to stop all its operations at very short notice. We are making plans and taking precautions at this stage, and will place a notice here if BioResource operations slow down or cease.

First and foremost, we have a duty of care to our volunteers. Hence the NIHR BioResource has now taken the decision to no longer recruit or recall participants who are at higher risk of COVID-19 infection (i.e. participants over the age of 60 and/or with underlying health conditions).

Other BioResource operations will continue as usual until further notice.

Our ability to respond may be affected by the impact of a wider COVID-19 infection. For example, in the eventuality of a building being shut for cleaning or travel restricted, some phones or email may not be monitored on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0800 090 22 33 or, if you have any query regarding the above.

Nathalie Kingston, PhD   
Director – NIHR BioResource for Translational Research

Patients living with Crohn’s and colitis to benefit from £5m grant for a new data research hub based in Cambridge

Patients living with Crohn’s and colitis to benefit from £5m grant for a new data research hub based in Cambridge

  • £5m grant awarded by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) to establish a health data research hub for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) following a successful bid led by Eastern AHSN and Cambridge University Health Partners (CUHP)
  • The Cambridge based hub will be one of seven hubs set up across the UK to speed up research for new medicines and treatments, support quicker diagnoses and potentially save lives
  • The IBD hub, to be known as G.I. Know, will work together with patients, industry, academia and the health service to transform our understanding of inflammatory bowel disease, drive improvements in diagnosis and treatment and deliver a data framework to reproduce in other disease areas

There is an urgent need to better understand why patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease or IBD) respond differently to treatments so they can be prescribed the best personalised treatment as early as possible in order to improve outcomes, minimise surgery and reduce costs. Whilst advances in clinical imaging, pathology and particularly genomics have produced remarkable progress in understanding Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis the power of these technologies cannot be fully realised until their outputs are combined in a secure research resource and made accessible to the whole research community. This project makes that possible.

Mark Avery, Director of Health Informatics at CUHP and Eastern AHSN, who brought the bid team together commented; “This is such an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of health data research.  Working with the NIHR BioResource and patients we will transform our understanding of inflammatory bowel disease, drive improvements in diagnosis and treatment and deliver a data framework that could be used in future for other diseases.  At Eastern AHSN we believe that citizens, academia, health services and industry will achieve more working together than they will in isolation.  This project exemplifies that, and we are grateful to all our partners on this hub including the NIHR BioResource, Crohn’s and Colitis UK, the IBD Registry, Welcome Sanger, AIMES, Privitar and Microsoft.”

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are estimated to affect one in every 130 people in the UK (over 500,000) and costing UK health budgets approximately £1.5 Billion each year. Treatment is with steroids, immunosuppressants and antibody therapies, but results are variable. Over 70% of patients with Crohn’s and 15% with colitis require major surgery. There is an urgent need to better understand why patients respond differently to treatments in order to improve outcomes and reduce costs.

Rosanna, Crohn’s disease patient commented; “Patients with inflammatory bowel disease need to find the most effective treatment as quickly as possible to limit disease progression – but currently this process can take three or more years of trial and error. This initiative makes the tantalising prospect of personalised medicine real for patients, who for the first time will have the confidence that they have been prescribed the most effective treatment for them from the start.”

Patient and public involvement is key to the success of this bid. 25,000 IBD patients across 90+ NHS Trusts have already been recruited to an NIHR BioResource and provided consent for their health records to be used for medical research.

IBD research hits new milestone of 25,000 participants

A platform to help find new treatments for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis has smashed researchers’ recruitment target, two years ahead of schedule.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) BioResource gives people who have been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis a chance to be a part of a national programme to support research into these diseases.

The aim is to provide investigators researching IBD immediate access to people and speed up their research to create new treatments.

Founded in 2016 by the UK IBD Genetics Consortium and the NIHR BioResource for Translational Research, the NIHR IBD BioResource began to create a national resource of well characterised individuals who are affected by the disease, with hospitals helping to recruit patients.

The aim was to have 25,000 patients signed up to the NIHR IBD BioResource at sites across the country within the first five years.

Fast forward to 2019 and the NIHR IBD BioResource has exceeded expectations by meeting their goal two years early – with the numbers still rising. To date, the team has successfully signed up more than 25,000 people and has over 90 hospitals actively recruiting patients. Research is also well underway; more than 10 studies are using the NIHR IBD BioResource.

Dr Miles Parkes, a consultant gastroenterologist at Cambridge University Hospitals and lead for NIHR IBD BioResource, said: “Getting to the 25,000 initial recruitment mark is a fantastic tour de force. The NIHR IBD BioResource is a nationwide effort, recruiting people who have Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis specifically so that they can help researchers to better understand the causes of IBD and develop better treatments.”

What is IBD?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a term used to describe two conditions, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. These lifelong illnesses mostly affect young adults and flare at intervals, producing debilitating symptoms including cramping, abdominal pains, anemia, weight loss and diarrhoea. They require ongoing drug therapy, and many patients also require major surgery. The exact causes of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are unclear, but the last 10 years have seen major progress in understanding the genetic contribution to these conditions.

Dr Miles Parkes

In the UK, at least 300,000 people are affected by Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis, with growing evidence that the number could be almost double that. Despite major advances in characterising the genetic and some of the environmental factors that predispose, much work remains to be done to fully understand IBD and develop better treatments.

Having this large cohort of people will give researchers a wealth of knowledge from the recent genetics advances and access to a range of people who have different variations of the disease.

Dr Parkes explained: “People who sign up to the NIHR IBD BioResource provide a small blood sample and complete a short health and lifestyle questionnaire. They will be contacted regarding future research projects for which they meet inclusion criteria and given further information.

“They then decide study-by-study if they would like to participate or not. The studies could range from completing an online survey, to providing a fresh blood sample or even participating in a trial of a new treatment. Our ongoing large-scale recruitment of patients will allow us to fulfill our mission – to facilitate outstanding IBD research in the UK.”

Helen Terry, Director of Research at Crohn’s & Colitis UK, said: “The NIHR IBD BioResource reaching its target of 25,000 people is an impressive achievement, particularly with this happening two years ahead of schedule. We are delighted to support this crucial tool for helping us understand Crohn’s and Colitis better, with the optimism that this will lead to better treatments and ultimately a cure. With 25,000 people involved, the NIHR IBD BioResource is an established resource that can be used by any researcher and we hope that its rich data makes it possible to improve the lives of people living with Crohn’s and Colitis.”

Looking forward

The NIHR IBD BioResource now hopes to increase their recruitment target to 50,000 participants over the next five years. They want to be able to increase the number of recruitment sites and researchers using this important resource for their work in Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and non-IBD studies.

Dr Parkes added: “Since its launch we have been delighted by the continued level of enthusiasm shown by recruitment sites and patients alike, and particularly by the scale of interest from scientific community to use the NIHR IBD BioResource. We are in discussion with the life-sciences industry and we would encourage all potential industry partners to contact us.

“We are grateful for the continued support of our funding partners, clinicians and patients, without whom the success of the NIHR IBD BioResource would not be possible. I am very grateful to all who have helped to make this possible.”

For more information on the NIHR IBD BioResource, a website is available and explains how people with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis can sign up, and how clinicians and investigators can get involved and access the IBD BioResource.

Rare Disease Day Cambridge Lecture follow-up

Click here to read Ella’s story

Put motivated people together to talk rare disease research and network and you can expect an interesting evening. And that’s what happened when over 150 people attended the public evening, hosted by the NIHR BioResource for Translational Research and Cambridge Rare Disease Network, that took place on International Rare Disease Day.

Here you can find out what was discussed and see the event feedback.

Full Agenda and Biographies from the day.


Photographs from the evening

Presentations from the evening

Click on the links below to view the audio and presentation slides for each talk.


Feedback and Social Media – click on the images below to view full size

See some of the suggested topics for future rare disease events

View some of the Social Media tweets from the event

BBC Cambridgeshire Radio interview tweet

Feedback from over 60 attendees











If you require any further details about the evening, please contact Georgina Norris on email:

Diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases given boost through grant win

A project to help with the identification, diagnosis and treatment of the one in 17 people in the UK who have a rare disease in the UK has won a £400,000 grant.

Working with five NHS Trusts, the Rare Diseases Sprint Exemplar Innovation Project aims to develop a secure cloud research platform with the potential to transform the understanding of rare genetic disorders, drive improvements in diagnosis and provide proof of principle for use in other diseases.

The goal is not just to help patients but also help the NHS save money. The cost of an undiagnosed rare disease patient is significant – whilst undiagnosed, the cost per patient is more than twice that of other patients, an average difference of £7,000 more per patient per year.[1]

This project will be funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy and is a collaboration between Cambridge University Health Partners and Eastern Academic Health Science Network, Privitar, and AIMES, who will be working with NHS Trusts, and the National Disease Registries at Public Health England, Microsoft Research and the Wellcome Sanger Institute to build on the National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) investment in the NIHR BioResource for Translational Research in Common and Rare Diseases.

The aim is to build on the advances which clinical imaging, pathology and genomic technologies have made in understanding rare diseases by creating a secure, anonymised platform to draw together and integrate data from the NHS with research data.

The project will initially involve patients with rare diseases recruited to the NIHR BioResource – a national resource of volunteers who have already provided consent that information retrieved from their health records can be used for medical research.

Professor John R Bradley Director NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre and Co-Chair of NIHR BioResource said: “Rare diseases can be extremely difficult to diagnose because they often have an unidentified genetic cause. Recent advances in clinical imaging, pathology, and genomic technologies have led to remarkable progress in understanding disease – particularly rare diseases, but the power of these technologies cannot be fully realised until the immense volume of data generated can be integrated with NHS data, then analysed. This is what our project aims to achieve.

“We will only be using data from patients with rare diseases who have already consented to their information being shared for research.  Using the expertise of the various partners involved, we will, in a secure environment that protects the privacy of individuals, link these patients’ NHS data with their genetic data and make this combined resource available for analysis as part of approved research studies.  Creating this secure research environment has the potential to transform our understanding of rare diseases, help doctors to diagnose patients much earlier, and potentially unlock our understanding of how more common diseases work.  This is clearly an exciting time for everyone involved.”

Debbiea patient from London said: “As a patient with a rare disease, I think that this is a really exciting project that will make it much easier for researchers to work on rare diseases. To really understand a rare disease – what causes it and how to diagnose, treat or prevent it – researchers need access to as much relevant information as possible on as many patients as possible.  I am reassured that there is a really strong emphasis on keeping our information secure and on privacy, to prevent individuals from being identifiable by researchers, and to make sure researchers are only given the information that they need. “

The project is one of ten innovative data solutions to healthcare challenges to receive a share of £3 million Government funding following a UK-wide competition. The initiatives will see NHS, universities and companies combining expertise and using health data responsibly to drive innovation and improve health outcomes for people across the UK.

Each of the initiatives will build on best practice and will inform the future delivery of a UK-wide infrastructure for health data research and innovation.  This is the first step in creating ‘Digital Innovation Hubs’ across the UK to securely and safely connect data from the NHS with genomic data and other molecular data for research.  Led by Health Data Research UK – the national institute for health data science – this will unlock opportunities for scientific discovery and support the development of future treatments, increase our understanding of disease, enhance health services and ultimately improve the way we are able to prevent, detect and diagnose diseases such as cancer, heart disease and asthma.

Professor Andrew Morris, Director of Health Data Research UK said: “These ten projects from across the UK, all led by clinicians working with researchers and industry partners, will demonstrate how the trustworthy use of health data and technology can improve patient pathways, make ground-breaking discoveries quicker and put the patient in charge. We are very excited about bringing these digital projects together with public participation and support so that health data research is brought to life at scale, demonstrating public and patient benefit of digital innovation in healthcare.”

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “The NHS has an unrivalled data pool – we need to work with researchers, experts and industry partners to take full advantage of this to unlock solutions to some of healthcare’s biggest challenges.

“These ten innovative projects are just the start of a technological revolution to create one of the most advanced health and care systems in the world to diagnose diseases earlier, save lives and empower patients to take greater control of their own healthcare.”


Written by Cambridge University Health Partners