Improving health

We support people who turn great ideas and discoveries into new technologies, treatments and diagnostics.

New health products and treatments

We’ve funded hundreds of innovations in these areas:

  • drugs or other medicines
  • devices
  • diagnostic tests
  • interventions that can change patients’ behaviours.

We’re able to take the long view. We expect it might take at least five to 20 years for some of these innovations to have a significant impact on health.

Some of the work we’ve supported is already having an impact. For example:

  • A simple-to-use device that generates a high-quality image of the retina. This is helping to diagnose thousands of patients at risk of developing eye disease.
  • An affordable, portable machine that solves issues caused by testing blood in hot, humid, dusty conditions. It enables rapid diagnosis of HIV in newborns in Africa.
  • Online cognitive therapy for anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. This gives large numbers of people with mental health problems access to psychological treatment.
  • Faster genetic tests to support pioneering work in the UK Mainstreaming Cancer Genetics programme. This programme aims to make genetic testing a routine part of cancer diagnostics.

Clinical research

Clinical research directly involves people as subjects or participants in trials, or the use of human cells and tissue.

We’ve helped to change the way that clinical research is done in the UK by making it easier.

Working with the NHS and government, we’ve established clinical research facilities around the country. These provide the infrastructure for researchers and other staff from universities and the NHS to collaborate on research that informs and improves patient care.

We’ve also supported researchers with great ideas. For example:

  • Sadaf Farooqi’s research into the genetics, physiology and neuroscience of severely obese patients. This is leading to improved diagnostics for children with obesity, as well as a treatment for some genetic conditions.
  • Adrian Thrasher and Bobby Gaspar at the UCL Institute of Child Health developed gene therapies for children with such severely compromised immune systems that they're always in danger of infection. The success of these treatments has meant many children can take part in everyday activities for the first time.
  • Scott O’Neill and his team at the Eliminate Dengue programme have run randomised clinical trials in South East Asia and Latin America. This work, co-funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, shows promising early signs of reducing dengue fever.

Public health interventions

So much of good health isn’t down to a medication or treatment. It’s about knowing how best to stay healthy.

These are just a few of the innovations we’ve funded in this area:

  • Work to eradicate malaria has led to a range of initiatives, from insecticide-treated bednets that stop mosquito transmission, to a simple programme to promote good hand-washing.
  • Liz Corbett’s work on screening for TB in HIV+ people in Malawi led to WHO recommendations for TB screening, a policy that could save half a million lives.
  • Sharon Peacock and her team are using genome sequencing technologies to develop public health surveillance mechanisms that can quickly and effectively track disease trends and identify new threats.
  • Mary Dixon-Woods’ work on the ethics of healthcare organisation and delivery was widely cited in the UK government’s response to the public inquiry into failings at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. Mary was also a member of the US National Patient Safety Foundation group on patient safety.