University of Dundee

Unique clinical PhD programme launched by UK's leading charity

10 Jan 2008

The Wellcome Trust, the UK's largest medical research charity, today announces the launch of its innovative new clinical PhD programmes at centres of excellence across the UK. The £40 million initiative is part of a major investment in postgraduate biomedical research training in the UK and will significantly increase the support that the Trust provides for clinicians wishing to undertake rigorous research training.

The investment will provide funding for nine universities and institutions across the UK - including the University of Dundee - to recruit clinicians for its new PhD programmes. Seven of these are for exclusively clinical research programmes, with an additional two integrated programmes which will also recruit basic scientists. The new Wellcome Trust Clinical PhD Programmes will provide clinical trainees with a structured, well-mentored environment that will enable them to access high-quality research environments that might not have otherwise been available to them.

"This unique scheme sees a shift away from the traditional models of support for clinical PhDs," explains Dr John Williams, who oversees the PhD programmes for clinical scientists. "The new model will provide postgraduates with opportunities to work with a number of supervisors and sample a range of research projects before deciding which direction to take. The scheme aims to provide a cadre of highly-qualified clinical researchers who can both contribute to and take advantage of the rapid advances in biomedical research."

The new initiative is part of the wider investment of £137 million over nine years for postgraduate biomedical research training, complementing the Wellcome Trust's four-year PhD programmes for basic biomedical scientists, which were announced in October last year.

The initiative has received the backing of Professor Sally Davies, Director General for Research and Development at the Department of Health.

"This is such an exciting time for health research in the UK, and biomedical research is a fascinating and important area," says Professor Davies. "The Wellcome Trust's new clinical PhD programme will help to keep this country at the top of the world biomedical research league table."

One of the recipients of a clinical PhD programme is the University of Dundee. Explaining why the initiative is important, Professor Doreen Cantrell, who will direct the new programme, says:

"The new Wellcome Trust clinical PhD programmes are about investing in the future," says Professor Cantrell. "They will allow institutions such as ours to nurture and develop the talents of the brightest junior doctors for academic medical research through coherent training programmes."

"There is currently a communication gap between clinicians and scientists doing basic research, and by bringing clinicians into our PhD programme, we hope to enhance the translation of scientific advances into real benefit for patients."

Funding for the new programmes has been awarded to Imperial College London, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Cambridge, University of Dundee, University of Edinburgh, University of Liverpool and University of Oxford. Integrated programmes for both basic and clinical PhD students will be established at the Institute of Cancer Research and the University of Birmingham.

University of Dundee Wellcome Trust Clinical PhD Programme