£14m boost to stratified medicine research


Stratified medicine collaborations in the UK are set to benefit from a further £13.7 million cash injection from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to investigate cancer, heart disease, asthma and lupus.

Stratified medicine has the dual aims of targeting current drugs at the patients who will most benefit from them, based on genetic make-up or symptoms, and accelerating the development of new therapies.

Announcing the four new awards, UK Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman said this latest round had brought the total number of MRC-funded consortia to 13, with investment to date totalling over £52 million.

These consortia have attracted more than 50 small, medium and large pharma and biotech partners from across the UK, plus Europe, the US and farther afield, including China and Japan. They also include 32 academic partners and a number of charities.

Under the latest schemes, the Masterplans consortium will receive around £4.2 million from the MRC to identify the best treatments for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), which affects around 1 in 2,000 people in the UK.

In a joint initiative, the MRC is providing £2.3 million and the British Heart Foundation around £1.1 million, to the AIM HY consortium to investigate the influence of people's ethnic heritage on the effectiveness of treatments for hypertension.

In another award, funded by the MRC and Cancer Research UK, each will provide about £2.5 million for the S-CORT consortium's research into the genetic changes seen in colorectal cancer patients, where currently chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments are only effective in about half the cases of advanced stage disease.

Asthma research will also benefit to the tune of £4.8 million from MRC, enabling the RASP-UK group to undertake remote monitoring of treatment adherence, as well as examining biological markers in a bid to improve on current 'one size fits all' treatment regimes.

George Freeman stressed the economic importance of the UK life sciences sector, saying that, since the launch of the UK Strategy for Life Sciences in 2011, the industry had agreed over £3.5 billion of investment in the UK, which is expected to create over 11,000 jobs.

"UK life-science companies raised £734 million of innovation capital in the first half of 2014, surpassing the £483 million raised in the whole of 2013, and figures just released show that £1.5 billion in innovation capital was raised in the UK over the whole year," he explained.

When it launched the Strategy in 2011, the government committed to provide £130 million to stratified medicine.

Previous stratified medicine partnerships have developed diagnostic tools and treatment strategies in rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis C, schizophrenia and primary biliary cirrhosis, with other suitable disease areas likely to benefit from the funding in future.


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