NIHR | Manchester Biomedical Research Centre

Bridging the Gap – March 2024

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

Winnie the Pooh (A. A. Milne)

Hello and a very warm welcome to my last ever Bridging the Gap blog as Director of the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

I want to start by reflecting on our inaugural International Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) meeting which took place in February. I thought Professor Luke O’Neill from Trinity College Dublin summed it up perfectly when he said there was a ‘great vibe’ around Manchester BRC.

In addition to that description, we also received a huge number of extremely positive comments from SAB members. Many remarked on the ‘big step-up’ in both our BRC’s ambition and achievements and that we were able to demonstrate a clear focus on building our research around health inequities.

Scientific Advisory Board meeting – February 2024

Scientific Advisory Board meeting – February 2024

Receiving this feedback about our excitement, energy and forward view was incredibly encouraging. Whether they were a new or an existing SAB member, I believe they saw the growth and development of Manchester BRC and I certainly came away from that two-day meeting feeling positive about our progress.

As I step away from Manchester BRC, my overwhelming feeling is one of great satisfaction. It has been extremely satisfying to witness the many scientific achievements arising from our BRC. It is also satisfying to see how our team has grown from strength to strength in the past 8 to 10 years and how many of the original ‘rising stars’ we identified in our 2017 bid have grown into key leadership positions across our infrastructure and themes.

We set out with a strategy to build and develop our BRC – bringing in new partners, increasing our research themes, and expanding our geographical reach into Lancashire and South Cumbria to ensure that communities across our region’s urban, rural, and coastal areas were able to participate in, and benefit from, cutting-edge research – and we have achieved that across so many clinical areas.

Manchester BRC is now in a very strong position and on a clear positive trajectory. That is entirely down to all of you; colleagues, collaborators and public contributors, who have so passionately supported Manchester BRC to improve people’s lives, reduce health inequalities and drive lasting change for all.

As I said when I first announced my departure, it was an incredibly difficult decision to leave Manchester BRC, however my new role in Belfast was the right opportunity at the right time for me and I look forward to taking the spirit of our BRC even further North and West into Northern Ireland which, as a region, faces a number of its own major health and care challenges.

The collaborative way in which our BRC operates has been incredible and there are countless colleagues to thank. I would particularly like to pay tribute to Lisa Miles our Operational Director, who has been an amazing colleague from whom I have learnt so much. She has had a major contribution to driving forward our strategy. She has also built a strong Core Team that has been the solid foundation of our BRC and has been vital to our continuing success.

I would also like to make special mention to Sir Mike Deegan, former Chief Executive of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), who constantly challenged us to go beyond describing health inequities and focus our research efforts and strategy on making a real difference for all our citizens. Thank you also to the former MFT R&I Director, Professor Colin Sibley, who trusted me to do this job in the first place and who’s clear vision was to grow a BRC in Manchester.

Professor Anne Barton

Finally, I am delighted to introduce my successor Professor Anne Barton (pictured), who has been a colleague since I came to Manchester 25 years ago. Anne is an excellent clinician and an internationally recognised clinician scientist in the field of inflammatory rheumatic disease research. She has great leadership qualities and I have no doubt that Manchester BRC will go from strength to strength under Anne’s Directorship.

I will continue to watch Manchester BRC’s progress and successes with huge pride and very fond memories.

Best wishes to you all for the future.

Professor Ian N Bruce

Director, NIHR Manchester BRC