Liverpool award success for MRC Doctoral Training Partnerships  

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The University of Liverpool has been successful with two programmes to support Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP) awarded funding by the Medical Research Council.

The University will lead the Trials Methodology Research Partnership DTP and is a partner in the Discovery Medicine North (DiMeN) DTP.

The Trials Methodology Research Partnership DTP brings together 12 partners - the University of Liverpool, the Institute of Cancer Research, Newcastle University, Queen Mary University London, University College London, the Universities  of Aberdeen, Bangor, Birmingham, Cambridge, Glasgow, Leeds and Plymouth) to provide doctoral training to 30 students for the next 3 years.

It will develop and train a cohort of researchers with methodological skills and insight beyond clinical trials, filling a strategic skills priority gap. The aim is to provide a new generation of trials methodologists with the skills and experience to address the new challenges brought by high-dimensional data, such as genomic information, and harness opportunities offered through digital technologies and informatics to improve trial design, conduct and analysis for the benefit of patients.

Professor Paula Williamson, from the University of Liverpool’s Department of Health Data Science who will lead the Trials Methodology Research Partnership DTP, said: “Trials are widely recognised as the basis of evidence-based medicine and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need for, and benefits of well-designed trials.

“The aim of this DTP is to improve the opportunities for students in relation to multidisciplinary skills expertise. It has been carefully designed and the structured ‘core’ training programme will be complemented by a range of more specialised optional training courses.  It will provide them with the opportunity to gain experience and training from researchers from a wider range of disciplinary backgrounds and from different types of research organisations, which will give students a better understanding of the trials environment and improve their career opportunities.”

The Trials Methodology Research Partnership builds on the success of the MRC Network of Hubs for Trials Methodology Research which was created to improve health by improving trials.

The University is a partner in the Discovery Medicine North (DiMeN) Doctoral Training Programme that has received support for a further three years from the MRC.

The DiMeN partnership builds on strong and longstanding collaborative links with the Universities of Sheffield, Newcastle and Leeds, and now also includes the University of York.

The new DiMeN DTP will provide new collaborations and training opportunities across thematic priorities, which include: Infection and Global Health, Cancer, and Multimorbidity Frailty and Diseases of Aging, all of which are directly aligned to the strategic aims of the University’s Faculty of Health & Life Sciences.

DiMeN will support 48 standard and 12 iCASE studentships from 2022-2024, with an expected average of 8 studentships per year to be held in Liverpool, with additional opportunities for many more collaborative projects with partner Universities.

Professor Chris Sanderson, Faculty Postgraduate Dean and member of the DiMeN Leadership team, said: “This is fantastic news, the award offers a unique opportunity to train and develop a new generation of outstanding discovery-led researchers, who are able to work alongside clinical colleagues and industrial partners, to address the issues of local disease burden and health inequality, which exist in each of our civic regions.”

A total of 17 DTP awards were funded by the MRC as part of a £79million investment to support high-quality doctoral training programmes that take a student-centred approach, focusing on scientific excellence, positive research culture and wider training opportunities.

Professor Fiona Watt, Executive Chair, MRC, said: “We are thrilled to announce our funding for the next generation of MRC PhD researchers through 17 new UK-wide Doctoral Training  Partnership awards. Outstanding research is only possible when we invest in people to conduct that research. Our new awards are student-centred, setting out to increase the diversity of individuals pursing research careers and providing opportunities for students to widen their horizons during and post-PhD.”

Investments in doctoral training are a key component of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the MRC’s overarching vision to develop research talent and skills.