The NIHR are the UK’s leading funder of health and care research and appointed 28 new Senior Investigators for 3-5 year terms in February 2020, after an open competition in which the appointees were selected by a committee chaired by Professor Marion Walker.
Senior Investigators, who upon appointment receive £20,000 towards their own research, are appointed on the basis of their “internationally excellent research, its quality and volume, its relevance to patients and the public, and its impact on improvements in healthcare and public health”. Dr Colin Rees is the founder of COLO-SPEED, a research project working with South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation and funded by the Bobby Robson Foundation, that aims to allow for earlier diagnoses of bowel cancer.
Forty-four people in the UK die of bowel cancer every day. The North East is the region with the highest incidents of bowel cancer in men, and above average for women, yet has the lowest survival rates nationally for the disease. The project that Dr Rees has established works with 5000 patients at 17 units across the North East, to optimise detection rates in what Guts Charity calls a “world-leading model for prevention and early diagnosis research.” COLO-SPEED works with Newcastle University’s Open Lab in a stratification project to analyse patient data accumulated from the research.
Rees states that “the project findings have the potential to change clinical practice in terms of colonoscopy referral, yielding significant benefits for patients (as those who are low-risk may avoid unnecessary procedures) and the NHS (which is currently struggling to meet demand for endoscopy).”
In response to the recognition of his achievements by the NIHR, Rees says “I look forward to helping to train and develop researchers and to providing research evidence that will contribute to our population becoming healthier.”