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King's College London

King’s College London is one of Europe’s leading research universities, with annual research funding of nearly £525m.

It is the only university to host five MRC centres and two Biomedical Research Centres, including the only Centre for Mental Health, reflecting our excellence in this area.

King’s has several areas of strength for this unit. 

  • Assessing and guiding behaviour during a crisis:
    Over the past eight years a King’s team has developed techniques for rapidly collecting data on how the public react to crises. The team has assessed distress, behaviour and public health needs following the 7 July London bombings, the Litvinenko affair, the 2007 North of England flooding, the H1N1 pandemic and the Fukushima meltdown.
  • Reducing symptoms after an emergency:
    King’s has expertise in assessing the causes of symptoms attributed to environmental exposures, including assessments of “Gulf War syndrome,” “Iraq War syndrome,” chronic fatigue syndrome and symptoms attributed to chemical exposures, non-ionising radiation, vaccinations and other risks. King’s also has extensive experience in evaluating interventions to prevent or treat such symptoms, through the King’s Centre for Military Health Research and the Chronic Fatigue Research and Treatment Unit.
  • Reducing the mental health effects of trauma:
    King’s has a strong record in designing interventions to protect mental health following traumatic events, through King’s Centre for Military Health Research.
  • Improving medical training:
    King’s hosts a state-of-the-art Simulation And Interactive Learning Centre (SAIL), incorporating an outpatient consulting room, six-bed ward and home environment. The SAIL Centre and King’s Learning Institute provide a strong base for improving emergency preparedness training. 

The University of East Anglia

The University of East Anglia is fourth in the UK for the number of most highly cited scientists and has annual research funding of £90m.

It was the first university to appoint a Professor of Health Protection and the medical school is one of the foremost centres of health protection research in England.

The core of UEA’s involvement is based in the Schools of Medicine and Environmental Science, but also involves scientists from across the University and the wider Norwich Research Park.

The main focus of emergency response research at UEA over the past decade has been in the areas of natural and climate-related disasters, especially flooding and flood disaster mitigation, leading to a number of influential policy documents. 

Other notable areas are disaster mitigation following volcanic activity, including the Strengthening Resilience in Volcanic Areas project, co-funded by NERC and ESRC. Other areas of research at UEA include responses to outbreaks, epidemics, pandemics and other episodes of emergent infectious disease.

The UEA team has published many papers on infectious disease outbreaks in the UK and elsewhere, including an influential book on behalf of WHO and OECD with guidance for investigating outbreaks associated with drinking water. With the current economic crisis generating concern about its impact on public health, UEA has also recently driven forward research on the impact of economic crises on infectious disease risks in developed countries. 


Newcastle University

Newcastle University has worked with the HPA / PHE since 2003, culminating in the establishment of the Medical Toxicology Centre in 2006 as a joint initiative.

The Centre has the infrastructure needed for high sensitivity chemical analysis, tissue and cell culture, skin absorption studies, neurobehavioural and neurochemical work, spatial modelling and clinical population research, and has attracted over £11m in research income since 2006. 

The Medical Toxicology Centre has strengths in a range of areas, including:

  • development of experimental models of diseases that have identified toxic mechanisms involved in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, including the role of chemical exposures and suggesting potential diagnostic biomarkers;
  • studies of factors affecting the absorption and metabolism of chemicals in human skin including the assessment of novel decontamination techniques;
  • identification of the neurobiological consequences of chronic low level exposure to organophosphates and PCBs;
  • and development of a database of biomarkers of chemical exposures and effects using blood samples from the normal population in the North of England.

Recent funding has developed further strengths in:

  • optimising the deployment of medical responders in CBRN incidents;
  • biomonitoring methods for near-patient detection of chemical agent exposure;
  • determination of dermal penetration rates for chemical and bioactive agents;
  • chronic health effects of exposure to chemical agents;
  • determining antidote pharmacokinetics following intra-osseous administration;
  • and assessment of the efficacy of novel cyanide antidotes.

Public Health England

Public Health England is an executive agency of the Department of Health, whose mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and address inequalities.

PHE’s involvement in this unit is led by their Emergency Response Department. Its Science and Technology group addresses the public health implications of, and mitigation strategies for, the risks posed by biological, high impact threat scenarios. 

The team has an international reputation for its work in integrating risk assessment, disease vector ecology, deliberate release epidemiology, airborne dispersion models, and the application of geographic information systems, scientific computing, behavioural science and mathematical modelling to emerging infections and CBRN preparedness.

They led the EU-funded Optimisation through Research of Chemical Incident Decontamination Systems project, chosen by the funder as one of the best public health projects in 2008-2013. They have over 130 publications in this area and have held £9m in research funding. Also involved is the Department’s 16-strong Exercises Team, who deliver health-led exercises across the UK and Europe to test emergency preparedness, conducting 214 exercises from 2003 to 2013. The Real-time Syndromic Surveillance Team (RSTT) is also heavily involved.

This team are responsible for co-ordinating multiple national syndromic systems and recently led the development of a large national primary care system which is able to provide local, daily primary care data on over 20 million patients. Finally, the Environmental Hazards and Emergencies (EHE) department employs teams including toxicologists, environmental scientists and epidemiologists to study the effects of environmental exposures.