One of the country’s most developed academic-NHS centres has agreed a major partnership with a pharmaceutical giant, aiming to increase the number of patients in clinical trials.

The Swiss-based drug and diagnostics giant Roche will be able to increase numbers in trials for drugs in exchange for sharing its expertise with the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, they told HSJ.

The centre, one of six in England, is a partnership between NHS providers and commissioners and Manchester University.

The three-year collaboration aims to increase the number of patients in the Greater Manchester area taking part in clinical trials by 5 per cent per year over the next three years.

In the ten months to February slightly more than 31,500 patients were taking part in adopted clinical trials in Greater Manchester, according to figures from the National Institute for Health Research.

Christopher Burdette, head of project strategy and portfolio management at Roche Products, said the Manchester centre would get access to new experimental medicines as part of the collaboration.

He added that the company would be providing training to researchers and nurses to understand how best to use certain medicines.

No money is changing hands under the agreement, according to a MAHSC spokeswoman. The partners have signed a memorandum of understanding.

Raj Jain, managing director of the Greater Manchester Academic Health Science Network, which is closely involved with the centre and with the project, said the agreement would help with the network’s aims of identifying areas of unmet need in medical research.

Separately, academic health science networks across the north of England have jointly won a contract to test a “digital medicine”, which takes the form of an ingestible sensor added to a drug.

The Northern Health Science Alliance intends to set up a number of pilots in the coming months to test the technology, created by US firm Proteus Digital Health, designed to enable clinicians to see how a patient’s body responds to treatment.