Collaboration to unlock UK human tissue samples for drug discovery research

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New collaboration aims to unlock UK human tissue samples for drug discovery research

Tissue Solutions and Medicines Discovery Catapult launch service to support UK companies and biobanks

  • Consented human samples are essential for diagnostic and medicines research and development
  • 93% of UK SMEs said access to NHS biosamples for commercial development is hugely important, yet 64% of companies found accessing UK samples donated for medical research difficult1
  • These difficulties lead to 75% of diagnostic SMEs using non-UK sample sources instead1
  • Medicines Discovery Catapult and Tissue Solutions will work together to help UK companies and biobanks collaborate on medical research projects using consented UK human biological samples

Human samples including tissue, blood and urine, which are essential for medicines research and development, are difficult for small companies working in the field to access. The Medicines Discovery Catapult is tonight [28 February 2018] launching its second collaborative project to solve this problem.  Tissue Solutions, a Scottish provider of ethically sourced human samples required for preclinical drug development and research, will work with the Medicines Discovery Catapult to help UK SMEs and biobanks work together on medical research projects.

A recent report published by the Medicines Discovery Catapult and the BioIndustry Association, based on interviews and surveys with senior executives from the UK drug discovery field, found that 93% of UK SMEs considered access to NHS biosamples for commercial development as hugely important, yet 64% had difficulty in accessing UK tissue samples for medical research. Difficulties due to access leads to 75% of diagnostic SMEs using non-UK sample sources instead[1]. The key issue faced by companies is the process of agreeing and delivering sample access. Although some biobanks in the UK have overcome this issue, many have not and the problem of access to UK samples remains an area of concern.

Medicines Discovery Catapult is helping to tackle this issue via a new collaboration project which will create a joint team with Tissue Solutions, focussed on supporting UK research companies making agreements with UK biobanks for commercial R&D.  Glasgow-based Tissue Solutions is the UK’s specialist provider of ethically sourced human biological samples, with a global customer and supplier network.

The partnership is a two-year commitment supporting the use of consented human samples from UK patients for medical research and development. The partnership complements Medicines Discovery Catapult’s current collaboration with the UK’s Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre, which will make consented samples easier to find.

The collaboration will be announced tonight [28 February 2018] at the Scottish Life Sciences Dinner.

Mr Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Scottish Government, says:

 “It is important for a thriving R&D drug development sector that access to the building blocks of discovery science is enabled for the future health of the population. This collaboration between the Medicines Discovery Catapult and Tissue Solutions is confirmation of the strength of Scottish Life Sciences companies and clearly shows that Scotland is an excellent place to do business.”

Chris Molloy, Chief Executive of the Medicines Discovery Catapult, said:

“The UK has millions of samples and billions of data points collected from UK patients who have generously agreed for them to be used in medical research. Yet we know small companies struggle to access them. That’s a major barrier to the UK’s R&D productivity and represents a missed opportunity for growing the sector. In a globally competitive environment, we must ensure SMEs involved in drug discovery are given all they need to maintain the UK’s strong heritage position in medicines R&D”

Morag McFarlane, CEO of Tissue Solutions, said:

“Sitting at the interface between Biobanks and scientists working on cutting edge projects is a privileged position to be in. We understand that the best research comes from the best samples. We are committed to providing the very highest quality samples to help advancements in biomedical research and this collaboration will secure the best samples for UK-based organisations.”

Sophia Turner, from UseMYdata patient group, said:

 “The use of samples is vital to improve understanding of health and disease. When patients donate samples for medical research, they want to see them used to improve medicines and treatments. This agreement is an important step to ensure they are used as patients intend.”

For further information please visit

For further information on Tissue Solutions visit

[1] State of the Discovery Nation 2018 – joint report by the BioIndustry Association and the Medicines Discovery Catapult

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Louisa Struben

1 March, 2018