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19th May 2022

Minister visits Welsh research centre involved in international multiple sclerosis and diabetes research

Health Minister Eluned Morgan visited the Joint Clinical Research Facility at Morriston Hospital in Swansea today (19 May) to meet the staff at the forefront of the life-changing research being conducted in Wales.

The visit came on the eve of International Clinical Trials Day, which is dedicated to celebrating health and care research around the world and recognising the contribution of the research community in improving patient treatments and care.

The Welsh Government, through Health and Care Research Wales, provides funding to support and increase research right across Wales. This includes All Wales Research Delivery funding of approximately £15 million to NHS organisations, to enable them to undertake high quality clinical trials in a broad range of areas.

In partnership with Swansea University the Joint Clinical Research Facility (JCRF) at Swansea Bay University Health Board operates two specialist clinical research facilities located within Morriston Hospital and the Institute of Life Sciences 2 (ILS2).

The JCRF focusses on research into new treatments for neurological and cardiovascular conditions as well as diabetes, renal and liver disease.

Professor Steve Bain, Assistant Medical Director, Research & Development at Swansea Bay University Health Board and the specialty lead for diabetes at Health and Care Research Wales, said: “The JCRF has a well-established alliance with a number of industry companies which include Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and Quintiles which enable us to bring new global treatment opportunities to patients in Wales.

“We continued to operate during COVID-19, including supporting the Medicago vaccine trial, and while some research had to be paused, studies in cardiac and multiple sclerosis continued throughout.”

One of the current studies taking place at the JCRF is assessing a new dose of a drug used for patients with multiple sclerosis which could reduce the possibility of a brain infection that is a risk with the current standard treatment.

The NOVA study which is a 2-year international Phase 3 study will assess the safety and effectiveness of a 4-weekly versus 6-weekly dose of a drug called natalizumab which is given to people with stable relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).

A phase 3 study tests the safety and how well a new treatment works compared with a standard treatment.

Beverly Parry, 30, from Crymych in Pembrokeshire was diagnosed with MS five years ago and has taken part in two research studies at the Joint Clinical Research Facility in Swansea under the care of Consultant Neurologist Dr Owen Pearson.

“I didn’t hesitate to take part in the studies and the support you get from everyone in the research team is fantastic. They are so good at explaining everything, there’s no jargon and they go through all the options with you. You’ve got to think of the future and I know the treatments might not be there for me but if I take part in the research, they might be there for others and it’s good to be part of that.”

Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, said: “The evidence base that research provides has never been so important to drive the change we need to see in emerging innovative health and care practices and new ways of working that have been introduced during and since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is a testament to the dedication and commitment of the research staff at the JCRF that there are opportunities for patients to participate in studies across a range of disease areas and treatment options that might not be available elsewhere. We need to ensure the value of research continues to be visible, is truly embedded within our NHS and has real impact.”

Professor Kieran Walshe, Director of Health and Care Research Wales, the organisation overseeing health and social care research, said: “We’re very proud of the Welsh contribution to research and clinical trials conducted here in Wales, especially during the pandemic but also across a wide range of disease areas.

“The work in Swansea is just one example of how research impacts us all and without the talented research community along with the patients who selflessly give up their time we wouldn’t be able to improve treatments and find solutions to some of our most challenging health and social care issues.”

Health and Care Research Wales has launched a public awareness campaign called Where would we be without research? which showcases the impact of research that is taking place in Wales and shares the stories of people who have benefitted from new treatments as a result of research.