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Healthcare and ageing are recognised as key global challenges for human health and wealth. They are considered to be high on the political agenda with clear economic and social gains associated with maintaining quality of human life. Healthcare research generates clear economic and social benefits for the UK. Increased prevention, earlier diagnosis and better treatments impact on life expectancy, quality of life and reduces healthcare costs.

Research funded by STFC and other funding bodies, and carried out using STFC facilities and technology, is playing a significant role in addressing challenges in healthcare and ageing. STFC currently contributes to these challenges in a number of ways.

The synchrotron sources ESRF and Diamond offer a range of techniques relevant to the life sciences and healthcare. Neutron sources, ISIS and ILL are playing an important and expanding role in the life sciences. The Research Complex at Harwell provides access to well-equipped facilities for sample preparation and characterisation, before and after analysis for all facility users at Harwell.

Specific examples of research relevant to healthcare challenges can also be found in the Central Laser Facility and other STFC departments.

Key facts

The Healthcare Futures theme currently concentrates on:

  1. Chronic wounds - measuring for outcome and treatment;
  2. Age-related macular degeneration - early detection and therapy;
  3. Vascular disease - treatment;
  4. Type 2 diabetes - pre-clinical detection;
  5. Cancer care - development of an STFC strategy for cancer care. The cancer care strategy will be developed by matching the unmet clinical needs, as set by the cancer community, with STFC's key strengths and capabilities

STFC contribution to healthcare and ageing

The STFC Physical and Life Sciences Committee (PALS) carried out a review of the STFC contribution to the grand challenge of healthcare and ageing, to inform future STFC priorities and policy in this area.  The Review identified four scientific challenges relevant to STFC, taking into account other Research Council priorities; how STFC currently contributes to these research areas; and taking into account STFC capabilities, a strategy to optimise the STFC contribution to healthcare and ageing challenges.

The results of the report have fed into the Healthcare Futures theme work plan which is currently being developed.

Future events

Previous events

  • Joint STFC Futures and Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) workshop: "Cancer care: computing for imaging, early diagnosis and therapy"
    19 - 20 March 2012, Cambridge
  • Joint STFC Futures and British Institute of Radiology (BIR) workshop:
    "Cancer care: New detector and sensor technologies and their potential impact"
    5 - 6 October 2011, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory


Last updated: 04 March 2016


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