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Partnering to support the future leaders in research

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Pfizer UK embark on exciting partnership to support health and care research leaders of the future in three key areas.


A first of its kind partnership is launching in April, which will see Pfizer UK co-funding* NIHR Doctoral and Advanced fellowships with a focus on research in three key areas of unmet need - alopecia areata, chronic pain and atopic dermatitis.

The NIHR’s Fellowship Programme supports individuals on a trajectory to become future leaders in research. Through this novel partnership, the UK’s largest funder of health and care research and one of the world’s largest biopharmaceutical companies can together drive innovation in key areas of health research and lead to breakthroughs that ultimately change patients’ lives.

At Pfizer UK, we talk a lot about the value of partnerships and collaboration in order to live our purpose, ‘Breakthroughs that change patients’ lives’. For me, our work with the NIHR is the epitome of this. The co-funded partnership with NIHR is a wonderful initiative to support innovative research to help tackle some of the most common health issues in the country. Pfizer has a long and proud history of being part of world class science and contributes to over a hundred research collaborations and strategic alliances across the UK.”

Berkeley Phillips, Medical Director, Pfizer UK 

At doctoral level, opportunities will be available to propose research in the area of chronic pain. Chronic pain affects up to a third of the population, it is defined as any pain that lasts for more than 3 months. The scale of long-term chronic pain in the UK has a significant impact on both the health and wealth of the nation. It has been referred to as a ‘silent epidemic’ by The British Pain Society,1 affecting patients’ quality of life, causing fatigue, loss of mobility,2 and comorbidities including mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.3

For advanced post-doctoral fellowships, opportunities will be available to propose research in either atopic dermatitis or alopecia areata.

Atopic dermatitis (AD), also known as eczema, is the most common chronic inflammatory skin disease,4 affecting 1 in 5 children and 1 in 12 adults in the UK.5 Beyond the intense itch and discomfort caused by AD, sleep loss, diminished self-esteem and poor performance at school and work are associated with the condition.5,6

Alopecia areata is a common cause of non-scarring hair loss.7 The exact causes are still unclear but the evidence suggests that alopecia areata results from an abnormality in the immune system that damages hair follicles and disrupts normal hair formation. It is an area of high unmet medical need and can be psychologically devastating.8

Academic collaborations such as these fellowships, advance scientific developments and nurture scientific talent with the ultimate aim of improving patient care. We’re so proud to be co-funding this award, which further demonstrates our commitment to our purpose of delivering breakthroughs that change patients’ lives, and I’m particularly pleased to be able to support the future scientific and clinical leaders in medical dermatology.”

Monica Nijher,  Inflammation & Immunology Medical Lead, Pfizer UK

The application process for all NIHR doctoral and advanced fellowships, including those co-funded by Pfizer, will open on 1 April 2020. For more information regarding the fellowships visit or email

*Pfizer has provided 50% of the funding for this project as an Independent Research Fund Grant. Pfizer has provided a grant only and has no other involvement in the fellowship.


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Great science means sharing knowledge and resources to work faster and achieve more. Find out more about our research collaborations and strategic alliances across the UK.


Read our thought leadership articles to learn more about what key challenges, we believe, need to be tackled to ensure medical breakthroughs of the future reach patients.



  1. The British Pain Society. (2016). The silent epidemic – chronic pain in the UK. Available at: Last accessed February 2020.
  2. Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance 2019. Chronic Pain – This Is How It Feels. Available at: Last accessed February 2020.
  3. Lépine, J. & Briley, M. The epidemiology of pain in depression. Human Psychopharmacology, vol. 19, no. S1, pp. S3-S7, 2004. Available at: Last accessed February 2020.
  4. Weidinger S, Beck LA, Bieber T, Kabashima K, Irvine AD. Atopic dermatitis. Nature Reviews Disease Primers. 2018;4(1):1.
  5. National Eczema Society. What is Eczema? Available at: Last accessed March 2020.
  6. Fortson E, Feldman S, Strowd L. Stressors in Atopic Dermatitis. Management of Atopic Dermatitis. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017;1027:71-77
  7. Islam N, Leung PS, Huntley AC, Gershwin ME. The autoimmune basis of alopecia areata: a comprehensive review. Autoimmun Rev. 2015;14(2):81-9.
  8. Wagner, A. Industry Perspective on Alopecia Areata. Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings. 2015;17(2):67-69


PP-PFE-GBR-2392 / March 2020