Author: Professor Andrew Morris, Director, Health Data Research UK



Welcome to the first regular Health Data Research UK blog!

It is my privilege to be the inaugural HDR UK Director – we have been going for 465 days, over which time I have had the pleasure of visiting 27 of our Institutions and Health Systems across the country. I have been bowled over by the outstanding health data science that is happening across HDR UK.

Thank you all for taking the time to share your work and ambitions with me. I am convinced that we are at the beginning of an important journey to create a unified UK Institute that will power the country to the cutting edge of health data science internationally, with rapid translation into patient benefit.
This week we saw a few important milestones. We were delighted to see the final signature on our Institute Agreements – thanks to colleagues at HDR UK, MRC and our partner Institutions, we have agreed how we will do business at scale. This is no mean feat when one considers the amount of lawyers involved across 22 Institutions!

I would also like to welcome Caroline Cake to HDR UK as our new Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Director. She joins us from the 2020 Delivery Consultancy where she advised Health Organisations, Universities and Government on strategy, transformation, capability building and planning. Caroline is already at the forefront of establishing HDR UK as a world-class Institute and I know she is keen to meet as many of you as possible.
Developing ambitious science means working in partnership with other organisations that share our values.

I am delighted that we have moved to the next stage of the creation of a new data science centre for cardiovascular disease with the British Heart Foundation. Sir Alex Markham is convening an Expert Scientific Panel supported by Libby Ellins from Swansea, with the aim of pulling together a compelling proposal by the New Year. We are working very closely with data controllers across the UK so that we can demonstrate the value and benefits to patients of unleashing the power of health data relevant to cardiovascular disease.

I am delighted that we are up to full speed in developing our training capacity building portfolio with Peter Diggle (Lancaster), Georgina Moulton (Manchester) and Gabriella Rustici (Cambridge) providing outstanding leadership. The full training strategy will be published in the New Year. In the meantime we look forward to welcoming our 44 UKRI/Rutherford Fellows to their first workshop on 15 November.
Likewise, under the leadership of Gerry Reilly, The UKRI Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Digital Innovation Hub Programme is moving at pace and we have launched a competition, with the support of the MRC, for Sprint Exemplar Innovation Projects.

Scientifically I was thrilled to see the front page of Nature showcasing the achievements of UK Biobank. This is testimony to the confidence of the Funders almost 20 years ag o to support a major collaboration between researchers across the UK (and beyond) to work together on designing, building and enhancing a central resource that is now being reused by researchers from around the world. It is providing remarkable insight into the determinants of a wide range of conditions. I see this as a Blueprint for how we can use health data at scale in as many imaginative ways as possible. This will power discovery about the causes of disease and hence ways to prevent and treat it. Exciting times!
I look forward to working with you.