Faculty of Medical Sciences

Staff Profile

Professor Michael Trenell

Director; NIHR Innovation Observatory



I am a clinical scientist with a specialist interest in healthcare innovation and strategy. In 2016 I was appointed founding Director of the UK National Institute for Health Research Innovation Observatory where I lead a multidisciplinary team of computer scientists, scientists and evidence synthesis specialists to map, report and shape global healthcare innovation (drugs and non-drugs). The NIHR Innovation Observatory team provide strategic insight to the Department of Health, NHS England, National Institute for Health Research, academia and industry. Our aim is to support clinical care teams, commissioners, policy makers and industry providers to deliver better and more efficient clinical care through strategic innovation. 

I am a former NIHR Senior Fellow and Diabetes UK RD Lawrence Fellow, where I led work looking at lifestyle and chronic disease, co-designing service pathways and understanding the clinical impact of self care behaviour. Through this work I led, with colleagues, the deployment of scalable digital health services for the management and prevention of long term conditions in the UK and across Europe. 

Our major programmes of work are currently funded by: the NIHR, MRC, EPSRC, ESRC, Alzheimer's Society, NHS, European Union and industry.  

Specialties: Diabetes, physiology, exercise, physical activity, lifestyle change, disease prevention, chronic disease management, weight management, sleep.

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  • FRCP - Edinburgh (UK)
  • PhD - Sydney (Aus)
  • MBA - Durham (UK)
  • MSc - Leeds (UK)
  • BSc(hon) - Leeds (UK)

Previous Positions

  • National Institute for Health Research - Senior Fellow; Newcastle University, UK (Lifestyle & metabolism). 
  • Founder & Director, MoveLab; Newcastle University, UK
  • Diabetes UK - RD Lawrence Fellow;  Newcastle University, UK (Diabetes and physical activity). 
  • Research Fellow; Woolcock Institute for Medical Research, Sydney, Australia (Respiratory disorders & metabolic function)
  • Research Fellow; Kolling Medical Research Research Institute, Sydney, Australia (Neurogenetics)



  • Diabetes UK
  • European Association for the Study of Diabetes
  • Association for the Study of Obesity
  • International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
  • British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences
  • Australian Association of Medical Researchers


  • NIHR Innovation Observatory (National reporting remit - current)
  • EPSRC Healthcare Strategic Advisory Team (current)
  • RCUK Newcastle Centre for Brain Ageing and Vitality, Deputy Director (past)
  • MoveLab, Director (past)
  • International Diabetes Federation, m-Health expert group member (past)
  • World Innovation Summit for Health, digital health and NCD expert group member (past)
  • Diabetes UK Science and Research Advisory board (past)

Honours and Awards 

  • Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh, 2015
  • Diabetes UK RD Lawrence Lecture 2014
  • NIHR Senior Research Fellow, 2011-2016. 
  • Innovators in Diabetes (iDia) program recipient, Diabetes UK, 2008
  • Diabetes UK RD Lawrence Fellow, June 2007-2010
  • Ministry for Science & Medical Research, Postdoctoral Award for Excellence in Science. Australian Society for Medical Research, July 2006.
  • Sydney University, Overseas postgraduate scholarship award, 2001-03.


Informal Interests

Cycling, snowboarding, rugby, coffee......being dad to my three lovely children. 


Research Interests

My core projects are looking at the application of Big Data analytics tools to understand healthcare innovation. These involve the creation and application of digitals tools to understand clinical trials, patent findings, market activity, clinical needs to inform policy makers, researchers, funders and industry partners. 

Other Expertise

I have a strong background in digital health and have developed and deployed scalable e-Health / m-Health solutions for the management and prevention of type 2 diabetes. 

In January 2009 I established MoveLab under pump priming funding from the Medical Research Council with clinical colleagues in Newcastle. The objective of this laboratory is to provide a complete translational research platform; building both the evidence base of movement as a clinical therapy and a pathway for delivery into care.

At a basic science level, we have a program of studies investigating the interaction of physical inactivity, physical activity, and exercise upon molecular, genetic and metabolic function with collaborators in the UK and overseas.

At an intermediate level, we are addressing two key questions: what type of activity is best and how much is needed to use physical activity and exercise as a therapy? These studies are identifying the dose response of both resistance and aerobic exercise upon clinical outcomes.

At a clinical delivery level, we are working with clinical care and patient groups to move these findings into clinical care. We are developing the UK’s first accredited professional and patient development pathways for physical activity and exercise for use as a clinical therapy in primary care. This is an exciting area which is expanding rapidly.

Aside from clinical populations, I also work with healthy people to better understand how people maintain a healthy metabolism (a useful comparison for clinical populations). We are also using exercise as a stimulus to better understand how nutritional interventions can help optimise metabolic control.

Current Work

My current key projects include:

  • Text mining tools for academic literature
  • Text mining tools for clinical trials
  • The implementation of physical activity to management Type 2 diabetes in Primary Care (eHealth/mHealth)
  • The implementation of physical activity to prevent cardiovascular disease in Primary Care  (eHealth/mHealth)  
  • Physical activity and exercise in liver disease 
  • The development of methods for the assessment of physical activity (MOVEeCloud)
  • The effect of physical activity and exercise on the ageing phenotype


Postgraduate Supervision

I currently supervise 7 PhD students and 2 masters students.

Esteem Indicators 

  • NIHR Senior Research Fellow (2011 - 2016)
  • NIHR / MRC College of Experts, Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme (Current(
  • Diabetes UK, Young Innovators in Diabetes, program recipient (2009
  • Diabetes UK, RD Lawrence Fellow (2007 - 2010)
  • Ministry for Science & Medical Research, Postdoctoral Award for Excellence in Science. Australian Society for Medical Research (2004)



The laboratory receives funding from:

  • The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) 
  • The Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • Research Councils UK (RCUK) 
  • The European Union FP7 Programme
  • North East Health Innovation Education Cluster
  • NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Ageing & Age Related Disease 
  • Diabetes UK
  • County Durham & Darlington NHS Primary Care Trust
  • County Durham Sport 
  • Newcastle Hospitals Trust Special Trustees
  • The Pharmaceutical Industry
  • Newcastle University Strategic Fund