UK health innovations get £23m funding

The UK government’s Biomedical Catalyst (BMC) programme has announced £23 million of funding for cutting edge health projects, including new software which enables radiologists to diagnose breast cancer more effectively, gene therapy to combat kidney disease and several AI technologies.

Commenting on the funding, life sciences minister Lord Henley, said: “The Biomedical Catalyst programme demonstrates our modern Industrial Strategy in action; supporting businesses to develop innovative products and creating the high-skilled jobs of the future whilst improving the lives of people throughout the country.”

“Increasingly, new technologies and treatments are able to address debilitating and chronic conditions that are hard to treat,” added Dr Kath Mackay, interim director, Ageing Society, Health & Nutrition at Innovate UK. “By continuing to invest in innovation through programmes such as the Biomedical Catalyst, we can continue to transform outcomes for patients and support and grow the UK’s world-leading health sector.”

Nine early stage projects have received total funding of almost £7.5 million.

Among them is Mammo, a Mammography breast cancer screening software from Kheiron Medical Technologies, which helps radiologists in the early detection of breast cancer. The software assists breast units to deliver an enhanced breast-screening service (faster, reduced unnecessary recalls/biopsies and lower anxiety).

TRUEinvivo also received funding to develop its 3D cavity dosimeter and image analysis software that can accurately measure the radiation delivered to the tumour in radiotherapy along with surrounding organs, making the process safer for patients and helping clinical decision making.

On the pharma side, the BMC funded development of Freeline Therapeutics’ advanced gene therapy product to treat a rare kidney disease, potentially the first ever effective therapy for this specific condition.

Meanwhile, fifteen feasibility projects have received total funding of just over £2 million.

These include the Toxicity Alert Biosensor from Altair Medical – a smartphone monitor for patients taking opioids, in which the sensor is analysed by artificial intelligence to monitor drug use and advises on safe timing of doses, tailored to each individual patient, reducing the risk of overdose. Should this fail, it detects overdose and alerts first responders to administer naloxone, the powerful opioid antidote.

Cohesion Medical’s Cancer Early Detection And Risk (CEDAR) System also received a boost from the fund. The system uses big data and AI to provide a digital early-warning system for cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment toxicity. This will enable the generation of individualised cancer risk profiles, suggestions for changes to patient behaviour and the prediction of adverse toxicity reactions for individual patients.

BMC projects

In the latest round of awards, the MRC committed almost £13.5 million to BMC projects – including the University of Nottingham’s Dr Weng Chan’s research into a new, pathogen-specific antibiotic to treat and prevent recurrent Clostridium difficile infection.

The University of Cardiff’s Professor John Atack received funding for a new drug that may offer the effects of “valium without sedation”, and could transform the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Meanwhile, Professor Waseem Qasim from University College London received funding for research into genome-edited immune cells, which may offer additional treatment options for children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia that fails to respond to current therapy. Creation of ‘off the shelf’ cell banks may overcome issues associated with having to make individual treatments and improve access to therapy.

The BMC is jointly run by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC), both part of UK Research and Innovation.

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