%AM, %10 %497 %2018 %10:%Sep

Public Health England (PHE) has published a report on the implementation of their central whole genome sequencing (WGS) service and its impact on the investigation and management of infectious diseases.

Implementing pathogen genomics: a case study outlines the development process undertaken by PHE to establish the central WGS service and the transformation of a national bacteriology reference laboratory into a genomics-led service.  The report was developed and produced by PHG Foundation.


Pathogen genomics is a powerful approach to reducing the number of people who become ill from foodborne diseases such as Salmonella and E. coli and Listeria.  Instead of multiple techniques that require a broad array of equipment and expertise, WGS can collect crucial microbiological information using a single technique.  Other benefits are a more comprehensive set of information, improved health and safety and a reduction in animal use.

Dr Kathie Grant – said “As an early adopter of pathogen genomics the Gastrointestinal Bacteria Reference Unit at PHE Colindale has seen a transformation to more streamlined laboratory processes and game changing improvements to outbreak investigations. We hope publication of this case study will help inform others seeking to establish or deploy pathogen WGS services.”

The report is free to download from gov.uk

%AM, %10 %478 %2018 %10:%Sep

The September 2018 edition of Bioscience Today features a fascinating article on the UK Pharmacogenetics & Stratified Medicine Network.

Click here to read more.

%AM, %10 %414 %2018 %08:%Aug

Cancer Research UK held a FORUM Workshop with the Academy of Medical Sciences in February 2018. Over 60 participants were welcomed to this multidisciplinary event, including representation from academia, industry, patients, regulators, funders, commissioners and healthcare professionals.

The outcomes from the workshop include:

  • To improve the evidence generation of early detection and diagnosis research:
    • We need a national repository of longitudinal samples linked to clinical data, to be made available for the discovery and validation of novel diagnostic assays.   
    • Researchers should develop ‘target product profiles’ for emerging technologies to ensure there is a clear clinical need, defined performance and health economic characteristics.
  • To support the planning and delivery of clinical trials for diagnostics, we need infrastructure for the clinical evaluation of diagnostic tests to provide a stable platform of expertise to accelerate progression to the clinic, equivalent to a Clinical Trials Unit (CTU).
  • To improve the outcomes of screening trials, researchers should risk-stratify populations to increase surveillance of those that benefit from it and decrease surveillance of those that do not.
  • We need health service planners to recognise the real cost-saving benefits of early detection and diagnostic technologies, which are often only evident over a long term, when assessing the economic rationale for adoption of new diagnostics.
  • We need a system change in the NHS to focus more on early detection and diagnosis, rather than treatment, in order to fully capitalise on the disruptive potential of novel cancer diagnostic technologies.
  • We need a roadmap for the translation of early detection and diagnosis tests, as a resource to support researchers through the various stages, and guidelines for evidence generation, diagnostic development, clinical evaluation, and economic viability.

To read more, and download the published workshop report, click here to visit the CRUK website.

%PM, %18 %619 %2018 %13:%Jul

Faster development of new treatments for diseases like cancer, heart disease and asthma are set to emerge following a £37.5 million investment in new Digital Innovation Hubs across the UK.

The new hubs will help connect regional health and care data with biomedical data in secure environments. This will pave the way for NHS, academic researchers and industry innovators to harness scientific knowledge and emerging technologies to develop new drugs and devices and improve health services.

Funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the Digital Innovation Hubs will be led by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), the national institute for data science in health, delivering on behalf of UK Research and Innovation.

Between three and five hubs will be created across the UK over the next three years to enable innovation that will have a long-lasting impact on improving the health of the public. The hubs will provide safe, secure and controlled environments for data and enable NHS clinicians to work together with health researchers, data scientists, computer scientists, ethicists, social scientists and the public.

The Digital Innovation Hubs will securely and safely connect data across regions of 3-5 million people and create an accessible layer of data from GP practices, hospitals, social and community care providers, alongside genetic and biomedical information and other datasets for research and innovation. Combined with the unique research expertise across UK universities and industry, this initiative offers an unprecedented opportunity to use data to improve the long-term health of the public. It will also create new jobs in the UK’s life sciences economy, drive medical innovation and ensure that NHS patients benefit from new treatments first.

HDR UK will work in partnership to establish the hubs and ensure data is used responsibly and ethically to benefit society. The hubs will follow the strict safeguards underpinning health data security and access as set by UK regulatory bodies and will be transparent in how and why data is used, stored and shared.

Safe, secure and trusted use of health data has a long track record of enhancing public health and facilitating innovative research. High profile examples include:

  • revealing the indisputable link between the effects of air pollution and smoking on developing lung cancer and heart disease;

  • discovering new genetic causes of disease that allows tailored treatments in cancer, arthritis and asthma;

  • reducing life-threatening complications of diabetes such as amputation and blindness, whilst shedding light on the genetic causes of disease.

The UK has some of the richest health data of anywhere in the world. However, these datasets across health, care, genomics and biomedicine are fragmented making it difficult, sometimes impossible, to access and use for research purposes. This causes delays and, in some cases, prevents accredited researchers and industry innovators from analysing data to help deliver better care and improve health for patients, society and for future generations.

The Digital Innovation Hubs programme will launch this Autumn with HDR UK seeking, and learning from, local examples of research partnerships that are already working in practice. These ‘demonstrator projects’ will test approaches that will inform the design and delivery of the Digital Innovation Hubs. Following this, in Spring 2019, HDR UK will invite regional partnerships of NHS, academia and industry to bid to establish a Digital Innovation Hub.

The hubs will complement other initiatives across the UK, including the NHS’ Local Health and Care Record Exemplar programme, which is joining up local health and care data for individual care and planning purposes, and the work of NHS Digital to create a Data Services Platform.

The Digital Innovation Hubs programme is part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Wave 2 £210 million ‘Data to Early Diagnosis and Precision Medicine’ theme. Closely related investments within this theme include:

  • Genome sequencing using UK Biobank volunteers, and

  • A network of up to six Centres of Excellence in digital pathology and imaging, including radiology.

Click here to learn more at the HDRUK website.

%PM, %06 %620 %2018 %13:%Jul

As the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday, Genomics England announces that it has now passed the 70,000 genomes mark. This milestone comes just five months after the 100,000 Genomes Project reached its halfway point – signalling that it is well on track to reach its goal of 100,000 genomes by the end of this year.

Genomics England has worked with the NHS to create the biggest national genome sequencing project of its kind in the world. It has provided the evidence NHS England needs to embed genome sequencing in routine care through the new Genomic Medicine Service (GMS). Rolling out in October 2018, the GMS will help to ensure that the NHS stays at the forefront of healthcare delivery – now and in the future.

The groundbreaking 100,000 Genomes Project focuses on patients with rare diseases, their families, and patients with cancer. Working with sequencing partner, Illumina, Genomics England has now sequenced a total of 71,095 genomes.

Beyond 2018, Genomics England will continue to support the NHS GMS, acting as a testbed for new applications, encouraging discoveries and their translation into novel medicines and treatments, as well as working to support a thriving genomic medicine industry in the UK.

Health Minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said: “Genetic sequencing can revolutionise healthcare by offering truly personalised care to patients and their families.

“This project is a shining example of a partnership between the public sector, the life sciences industry and the research community – with NHS patients reaping the benefits.

“Genomic medicine is no longer a thing of the future, it’s here now and helping to save lives.”

Genomics England’s CEO, Professor John Mattick, said: “Genomics England’s mission is to realise the enormous potential of genomic information to enable precision medicine.  As the technology and our understanding continue to grow over the coming years, we will provide genome analyses to inform personalised treatments and preventative actions tailored to individual circumstances, to ensure the best healthcare for our patients and generations to come.”

Professor Dame Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer for England, who is leading the NHS Genomics programme, said: “I’m delighted the Project has reached the 70,000 sequence mark in the week of the 70th Birthday of the National Health Service. The NHS has harnessed cutting-edge science and technology through the Project to deliver real benefits for patients with rare diseases and cancer and in the growing field of genomics and health we are, once more, building a world-leading service that is admired and respected across the globe.

“Reaching the 70,000 mark has been possible because of the contribution and support of all the patients and families involved and driven by the tremendous work done by the dedicated teams across the NHS in our Genomic Medicine Centres in providing the highest quality samples and data as part of routine care.”

Professor Mark Caulfield, Chief Scientist at Genomics England, said: “Genomics England was set up five years ago during the 65th celebrations of the NHS. The 100,000 Genomes Project is ground-breaking and on the 70th anniversary of the NHS it is amazing that we have now sequenced over 70,000 genomes from participants with rare disease and cancer – and we are grateful to everyone who has generously taken part in the Project. It has already changed the lives of many patients with cancer or a rare disease in the UK, and now this programme will expand to further transform genomic health in the NHS with improved outcomes for many more.”

Click to read more at the Genomics England website.

%PM, %02 %652 %2018 %14:%Jul

The UK NHS National Institute for Health Research in June 2018 have offered Professor Bill Newman an Invention for Innovation programme grant to work with Genedrive plc to develop and implement a point-of-care test in the NHS to avoid antibiotic-related hearing loss in newborn children.

Due to an identified genetic predisposition, certain individuals develop irreversible hearing loss when exposed to gentamicin, an antibiotic used to treat several types of bacterial infections. In the UK, approximately 90,000 babies per year are treated with gentamicin on intensive care units. Antibiotic treatment should start within the first hour after admission, but current lab-based genetic tests are not able to return actionable results within that timeframe. A Genedrive® test is targeted to allow genetic results to be available within an hour, allowing alternative antibiotics to be used and thus avoiding the potential life changing adverse reaction to gentamicin. The project is expected to commence immediately, with an expected development phase of one year followed by a trial implementation phase in selected NHS hospitals in year two. The Company will then target the release of a Genedrive® test within the NHS and more broadly. The consortium will be led by William Newman, Professor of Translational Genomic Medicine at the University of Manchester and Consultant at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. The team includes partners from Liverpool and Manchester Neonatal Intensive Care Units and is working closely with parents of children previously treated on intensive care units. Professor William Newman said: "We look forward to working with genedrive and our colleagues in Manchester and Liverpool to assess the impact of rapid genetic testing as a method of avoiding irreversible hearing loss in babies treated with antibiotics. Successful implementation would be a first in the integration of a rapid decision making, genetic-based diagnostic in the UK NHS." David Budd, Chief Executive Officer of genedrive plc, said: "The application of Genedrive® in an urgent healthcare setting is an excellent example of how a rapid, affordable, point-of-care test could impact patients' treatment and quality of life. The NHS is a huge market place and, if adopted, this would be the first placement of Genedrive® in a developed world healthcare setting.

Click here to learn more.

%AM, %25 %493 %2018 %10:%Jun

Nightingale Health, the Finnish innovator of an internationally recognized blood biomarker technology for studying chronic diseases, will analyse the biomarker profiles of 500,000 blood samples from UK Biobank. The ground-breaking research initiative was announced today at the UK Biobank Scientific Conference 2018 in London.

Nightingale's biomarker profiling technology will be used to analyse UK Biobank blood samples by measuring metabolic biomarkers that recent studies have found are predictive of future risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and many other common chronic diseases. Until recently, technological constraints and prohibitive costs have prevented the analysis of comprehensive metabolic data from large-scale biobank collections, but this process has been made viable by Nightingale's technology, which measures over 200 metabolic biomarkers in a single blood test.

This initiative will further enrich the world's most detailed public health database provided by the UK Biobank.

Professor Sir Rory Collins, UK Biobank's Principal Investigator, said the commitment by Nightingale to perform these assays would allow researchers around the world to advance health research more quickly. He expects the combination of these biomarker data with the detailed health information that participants have already provided to generate many new insights. "We are delighted to see these novel blood sample analyses being done in UK Biobank," said Professor Collins. "We already have an enormous amount of information about the lifestyles and genetic make-up of the participants in UK Biobank, as well as about their health, and are currently conducting imaging studies of their brains, hearts and bodies. Providing the medical research community with these additional high quality metabolic biomarker data on such a large scale will enhance discovery science and population science, providing opportunities to benefit patient care and public health."

"Analysing 500,000 blood samples from a single study with Nightingale's comprehensive biomarker profiling technology allows us to uncover metabolic signatures that reflect a risk for future disease onset, as well as their underlying risk factors. We anticipate this detailed molecular readout of the health state, combining both lifestyle and genetic makeup, will result in a wealth of scientific applications from the research community. This will be relevant not only to the British population but also yield ground-breaking science and enhanced drug development opportunities with a global public health impact," said Dr. Peter Würtz, Scientific Director and Founder, Nightingale Health.

Nightingale Health's technology has been previously used to analyse more than 500,000 blood samples from over 200 cohort studies and clinical trials around the globe, with more than 150 peer-reviewed publications showcasing how the detailed metabolic biomarker data provide novel insights into health and disease.

"Nightingale's mission is strongly linked to scientific evidence generation. This means working with world-leading institutions and biosample collections to continuously improve the understanding of health and disease. Our aim is to translate this understanding into improved early prediction of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, achieving better healthcare for everyone. Our initiative with the UK Biobank demonstrates Nightingale's unwavering commitment towards supporting innovative medical science carried out by researchers from across the world," said Teemu Suna, CEO and Founder, Nightingale Health.

The initiative corresponds to over 10 million EUR investment in UK Biobank and will be funded by Nightingale Health, with analyses of UK Biobank samples being performed at Nightingale's laboratory in Finland. In line with the founding principles of the UK Biobank, this metabolomic data will be incorporated back into the UK Biobank's resource following a 9 months exclusivity period for Nightingale Health and made openly available to the scientific community.

Click here to visit the Nightingale Health website.

Click here to visit the UK Biobank website.

%AM, %22 %391 %2018 %08:%Jun

The Medicines Discovery Catapult and BioIndustry Association call on the R&D community to address five themes to help boost productivity

This report, based on surveys and over 100 in-depth interviews with senior executives of UK drug discovery companies, shows that global R&D productivity is under unprecedented pressure. In response to this, world leading opportunities exist for the UK to reshape the medicines discovery process to develop medicines greatly needed by patients. The report highlights that:

  • Global R&D productivity is under unprecedented pressure
  • The model of medicines R&D must be radically reshaped to meet patient needs
  • A key problem is reliance on using inadequate models for human diseases
  • Commercialising emerging technology will require new models of collaboration
  • Data science is now indispensable to medicines R&D: research data is now generated in such high volumes that the ability to harness it has become a critical factor in developing new medicines
  • It is imperative for the UK to provide industry with straightforward, well-governed access to consented patient data and human tissue samples – this is an acute problem for SMEs


Download the report as a PDF

Read the press release on the launch of State of the Discovery Nation 2018.

%AM, %20 %457 %2018 %09:%Jun

Research commissioned by Innovate UK and the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association (BIVDA) reveals that the NHS could save over £6.9 billion in five years through quick adoption of new diagnostic tests as they come onto the market. In turn, these savings could help tackle the annual NHS shortfall, widely expected to reach £20 billion by 2022.

Patients would benefit from three new tests – for heart attack, pre-eclampsia and inflammatory bowel disease – by reducing unnecessary procedures and medication while delivering significant NHS savings.

At the moment, the tests are used in only a handful of clinics and hospitals, although many health experts predict they would save huge sums if used more widely.

Doris-Ann Williams, BIVDA’s Chief Executive, said, “Whilst the shakeup of NHS services and funding so often takes the headlines, simply making the most of the tests we already have would result in dramatic savings.”

The report calls on healthcare leaders and policy makers to reassess how these three high-impact examples, along with many other diagnostic technologies available now, could be better deployed within the NHS.

Innovate UK is currently delivering the ‘From Data to Early Diagnosis and Precision Medicine’ Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), investing in new technologies which diagnose disease earlier and reduce patient suffering.

Dr Kath Mackay, Innovate UK Interim Director for Ageing Society, Health & Nutrition, said: “There are so many innovative diagnostic tests on the market and in development. It’s important for all stakeholders that we take every opportunity to rapidly adopt tests which show cost savings and benefit to patients.”

The full article can be found on the BIVDA website http://www.bivda.org.uk/3_simple_tests.pdf and at http://aquariusph.com/three-ivds/

%AM, %20 %405 %2018 %08:%Jun

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018 came into force on 25 May 2018 in the UK. The MRC has published resources to explain the new requirements as they relate to research. The MRC GDPR guidance notes have been developed in consultation with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Click here to visit the MRC GDPR resources page.

%AM, %13 %483 %2018 %10:%Jun

UK organisations can apply for a share of up to £50 million through a funding competition to develop a network of centres of excellence in digital pathology and medical imaging technology.

This competition is part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund in the challenge area: from data to early diagnosis and precision medicine.

The funding – which is provided by UK Research and Innovation and delivered by Innovate UK – will maximise the UK’s potential to diagnose diseases earlier and identify the best interventions for patients, as well as developing new treatments.

One of the activities in this challenge focuses on digital pathology, radiology and diagnostics. It will help to advance the digitisation of these important areas of diagnosis, increase the efficiency and quality of the review process and get new precision treatments to patients earlier.


In this competition we are seeking to establish up to 6 centres that specialise in digital pathology, medical imaging or both. These centres will be based across the UK and will be expected to work together through a framework agreement.

Applications should focus on how they can add value to existing processes using digital systems, enhanced analytics and artificial intelligence.

They should address common themes facing the healthcare sector including standardisation, data sharing and interoperability, regulation and scale up.


We are particularly encouraging applications that:

  • allow access to the centres by clinical and non-clinical investigators
  • support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises
  • use large-scale, well-archived and annotated digital images
  • illustrate how the centre will link digital image analyses with other forms of diagnostic information to achieve new medical insights
  • consider and address the social, behavioural and economic implications in change management

Successful centres must commit to:

  • supporting data sharing and interoperability across platforms and systems to allow seamless access to digital image repositories
  • making available advanced data storage and analytical environments that are capable of managing large numbers of digital images and their associated data
  • gaining public trust through best practice compliance with data security, privacy and ethical standards


Competition information

  • the competition is open, and the deadline for applications is at midday on 1 August 2018
  • a UK-based business, NHS organisation or trust, hospital, research organisation, charity or Academic Health Science Network can lead a project, working in collaboration with others
  • at least 2 organisations must apply per grant award
  • total project costs should be between £14 million and £20 million
  • businesses could attract up to 70% of their eligible costs
  • applications that meet the quality threshold will be invited to interview in September 2018
  • a briefing event will be held on 15 June 2018
%AM, %01 %477 %2018 %10:%Jun

Mapping the Landscape of UK Health Data Research and Innovation is a new landmark report published by the Medical Research Council. The report highlights the complex and flourishing area of health data research in the UK, detailing key activities and major investments made by UK public funders, government, charities and universities from across the country.

Commissioned in 2017, the review provides a unique window into major investments made by 26 research organisations, and informed the establishment of the new national institute - Health Data Research  – whose mission is to make game-changing improvements in the health of patients and populations through data science research and innovation. The report acts as an important benchmark to help inform funder strategy, prevent duplication of effort and encourage collaboration in the informatics sector, both within the field and for external stakeholders.

Dr Rob Buckle, Chief Science Officer at the Medical Research Council said: “This report is snapshot of activity at a particular point in time in a very fast moving sector but is a great resource for organisations looking to fund, research or collaborate in this area. It will help stop us reinventing the wheel, plug research gaps and inform an ambitious future research strategy.

"What’s more, it highlights what a diverse and exciting area health data research is. This sector is thriving and in addition to its importance for promoting health and wellbeing, has huge potential to help deliver the UK Industrial Strategy, making the UK a global leader of the industries of the future.”

Learn more at the MRC website.

%AM, %30 %498 %2018 %10:%Apr

Early detection research seeks to enable the detection of cancer, or pre-cancerous states, at the earliest possible time point at which an intervention might be made.

The Early Detection Research Committee is responsible for the oversight, development, review, funding and management of a portfolio of research Programmes and Projects which include discovery and validation of signatures of early cancer, and development of the technologies to enable this. These signatures may detect and also underpin prognosis/stratification/prediction of response to therapy and/or prevention.

Research can involve discovery, pre-clinical and/or clinical/translational science which is mindful of the clinical and population context. The Committee will meet twice per year.

Funding schemes

Early Detection Project Awards support and encourage specific research projects that aim to have a significant impact on how and when cancer is detected.

Deadline: 21 June 2018

Early Detection Programme Awards support and encourage established researchers to perform large, integrated and renewable research programmes which have the potential to transform early cancer detection.

Outline Deadline: 25 September 2018

CRUK-OHSU Spark Awards provides seed funding for research in collaboration with Oregon Health and Sciences University scientists to support development of new partnerships and novel lines of enquiry

Deadline: tbc

CRUK-OHSU Project Awards funds new and existing collaborations in early detection between researchers in the UK and at Oregon Health and Sciences University.

Deadline: tbc

Early Detection Innovation Sandpit and Award will catalyse new multidisciplinary collaborations to drive forward earlier detection of cancer, in partnership with EPSRC and STFC.

Deadline 24 May

Research areas

Biological research underpinning early detection and biomarker discovery and validation, including but not limited to:

  • Basic cellular and molecular science around the earliest transformational events pushing a cell from normal to at-risk to dysregulated to cancerous, thereby suggesting potential early detection markers to be explored
  • ‘Omics for early detection: high throughput, high dimensional data research in markers for early detection, including proteomics, metabolomics, lipidomics, genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics
  • Basic biology and detection of circulating cellular and nucleic acid markers for early detection of cancer or pre-disease, e.g. ctDNA, CTCs, exosomes, RNAs
  • Studies may include the use of model systems, such as model organisms, cell lines, organoids and xenografts, or primary human samples

Human-based EDx discovery research including but not limited to:

        •  Biomarker discovery and validation in early stage disease (and pre-cancerous state) patients
        •  Biomarker discovery and validation in healthy volunteers
        •  Exploitation of existing cohorts and biobanks for discovery research and technology development in an early detection context

Stratification of populations by risk to identify and exploit high-risk groups as populations for early detection research, and as appropriate clinical contexts for development of novel detection technologies

        •  Use of the tools, methods and insights of population science, epidemiology and risk assessment through collaborative research to inform the above.

Data and computation-driven approaches to early detection, including but not limited to:

  • Biomedical and health informatics: computational high dimensional data analytics for interpretation of potential early detection marker profiles; analysis and integration of (multimodal) data arising from e.g. genomics, proteomics, imaging, e-health records, patient/public-derived data (personal activity monitors etc.)
  • Computational and systems biology: computational and mathematical modelling of complex networks and systems to understand normal, pre-cancer and early cancer biology. Modelling of the interaction within and between complex biological systems to facilitate early detection and prediction of implications of markers (e.g. distinguishing lethal from dormant disease).

Development and utilisation of preclinical early detection model systems (e.g. cellular, organoid, xenograft, animal model) to recapitulate early cancer and precancerous states, including but not limited to:

  • Creation and characterisation of new model systems
  • Use of model systems to probe and understand early events leading from normal cellular function through to cancer
  • Use of model systems to identify potential early detection markers for future clinical validation
  • Use of models systems as platforms for development of early detection technologies

Early detection technology development – exploratory and translational research, including but not limited to:

  • Imaging: progressive research into advanced imaging technologies for cancer detection. Novel modalities, novel probes, novel contrast agents etc.
  • Circulating marker detection technology: enhancement of sensitivity/specificity of detection technologies for ultra-low concentration circulating markers e.g. cells, DNA, proteins, exosomes
  • Advanced detection technologies (nanotech, photonics, synthetic markers etc.): engineering and physical science to enable novel methods of detection of very low-concentration markers

Translational and clinical early detection research: experimental work in patients and healthy volunteers around development and validation of early detection approaches and technologies.

Click here for find out more at the Cancer Research UK website.

%AM, %30 %493 %2018 %10:%Apr

Innovate UK is working to broaden the range of innovation finance support available to businesses, so they can access funding at all stages of innovation.

Innovation loans are for UK small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that want to scale up and grow through innovation, developing new or improved products, processes or services. They can be used for late-stage research and development (R&D) projects, which have not yet reached the point of commercialisation.

The briefing events are designed to provide vital information to enable businesses to decide if an innovation loan is appropriate for them and, if so, to develop a clear and compelling application that shows that they have an innovative project and are suitable for a loan.  

The competition launch event, with a live and recorded webinar, will take place in London on Monday 30th April 2018. Further briefing events will be held across the UK:  

• Monday, 30th April, London (also available as a webcast)

• Wednesday, 2nd May, Manchester

• Wednesday, 9th May, Birmingham

• Thursday, 10th May, Cardiff

• Wednesday, 23rd May, Edinburgh (Please note this is rearranged from 1st May)


Click here for further information on the April 2018 Open Competition for Innovation Loans on the Innovate UK competition page.

The deadline for registration for the competition is 12:00 on 6 June 2018 and the application deadline is 12:00 on 13 June 2018.

%AM, %25 %369 %2018 %07:%Apr




£33,518 - £38,833 pa


Applications are invited for three Medical Research Council (MRC) Skills Development Fellowships (SDF), to be held at the University of Liverpool, a world-class centre for developing researchers in priority skills areas of importance to modern health and biomedical research. Skills Development Fellowships are 3-year research and training postdoctoral fellowships that will support capacity building in specific MRC priority areas.  A SDF is suitable for both very early career researchers (e.g. having just finished their PhD, or about to) or for more established researchers who wish to transform their career through delivering an ambitious research programme alongside targeted training opportunities to gain or enhance quantitative skills applied to biomedicine.

The University of Liverpool seeks to recruit outstanding postdoctoral scientists who are looking to establish their own independent research career. This prestigious award will provide a salary plus running expenses for 3 years, and enable the appointee to establish their own research programme at the University of Liverpool.

Liverpool is seeking candidates with a qualification in one or more of three quantitative disciplines (statistics, applied mathematics, computer science), who may have had little or no exposure to health research.  Suitable candidates will need to deliver a research programme of relevance to one or more of our identified scientific themes of stratified medicine, infection, regenerative medicine and/or public health. Fellows will receive relevant training and supervision in at least two of the quantitative skills areas of statistics, computer science and applied mathematics, whilst being part of a team undertaking world-leading research in one of the biomedical areas described. More information on all of these research areas can be found on our Fellowships website: http://liverpoolmrcsdf.uk/

We encourage applications for our Fellowships from across the global community and all appointments are made solely on merit. The University of Liverpool is committed to promoting equality and diversity, including the Athena SWAN charter for promoting women’s careers in STEMM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) in higher education. The University has a Silver Award for its commitment to gender equality in the workplace and we welcome applications from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Closing Date: 21st May 2018

Interview Dates: 8th and 12th June 2018

For full details and to apply online, please visit: https://recruit.liverpool.ac.uk

%PM, %23 %576 %2018 %12:%Apr

The UK Pharmacogenetics & Stratified Medicine Network 2018 Open Meeting took place at 30 Euston Square in London on March 21st. We would like to thank our sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and delegates for helping to make the event such a success.

We also appreciate the feedback we have been receiving. We compile all such comments and use them to help shape future events.

Delegates described the meeting as "thought provoking", "fascinating and useful", "thoroughly enjoyable and very informative." One of our delegates wrote that this was "probably the most interesting and inspiring meeting I have been to in 12 months (and I go to a lot)". Another said, "the event has been really good over the last few years but I think this is the best so far in terms of content and relevance."

Many delegates chose the patient talks as their highlight of the day, while others enjoyed the disease-specific talks on asthma and primary biliary cholangitis. 

We also asked for suggestions on what we might do to improve. Some delegates would like to hear more details on the science behind some of the initiatives that were highlighted; others would like to hear more from pharmaceutical companies on their current and upcoming projects.

Talks from the Open Meeting are now available to view - click here to see more.


%AM, %18 %426 %2018 %09:%Apr

The following new funding opportunities are available:

Clinician Scientist Award

Round 18

Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme An NIHR and MRC partnership

18/55 Improving Safety and Efficacy Through Targeted Drug Delivery

18/56 Neurodegenerative Disorders

18/57 Type 2 Diabetes

18/58 EME Researcher Led

18/59 Mechanisms of action of health interventions

Health Technology Assessment Programme

18/24 Early reoperation for patients with residual glioblastoma

18/25 Microstructural scaffold insertion following microfracture for chondral knee defects

18/26 Surgical management of pressure ulcers

18/27 Alternative bisphosphonate regimens for the prevention of osteoporotic fracture in adults

18/28 Paediatric wrist fracture

18/29 Preventing job loss in people with long term physical health conditions

18/30 Hysteroscopic removal of retained placenta

18/31 Discontinuation of growth hormone treatment in pubertal children

18/32 Management of orthostatic hypotension

18/33 Valuing the benefits and harms of antenatal and new born screening programmes in the UK

18/34 Routinely used interventions for improving attachment in infants and young children

18/35 Behavioural intervention to treat anxiety in adults with autism and  moderate to severe learning disabilities

18/36 Anticonvulsant augmentation of antipsychotic medication in the management of psychosis

18/37 Repair of digital nerve injury

18/38 Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor for the treatment of anxiety in adults with autism

18/39 Earlier active management of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome

18/40 Short-term use of benzodiazepines for the acute management of acute low back pain

18/41 Clinical and cost effectiveness of alternative urinary catheter design

18/42 Cystic fibrosis 18/43 Rotation of the fetal head at full cervical dilatation

18/44 Pre-hospital pain management

18/45 Proton pump inhibitor therapy for refractory gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms    

18/46 Pharmacological management of post-traumatic seizures  

18/47 Outpatient cervical ripening for induction of labour

18/48 Radiotherapy in first-line treatment of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma

18/49 Radiofrequency denervation for low back pain

18/50 Frail older people in primary care

18/51 Extended duration haemodialysis

18/52 Management of isolated or incidental subsegmental pulmonary embolism

18/53 Clozapine for children and young people with treatment resistant schizophrenia

Integrated Clinical Academic Programme for non-medical healthcare professionals An NIHR and Health Education England partnership

Round 4

Public Health Research Programme

18/60 Researcher-led (including complex health and care needs in older people and London Devolution Deal highlight notices)

For more information and a list of all current funding opportunities, please visit the NIHR website.

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Cancer is caused by changes to DNA that affect the way cells grow and divide. There are at least 200 forms of cancer, with many subtypes. Identifying the changes in each cancer’s complete set of DNA—its genome—and understanding how these changes interact to drive the disease will lay the foundation for improving cancer prevention, early detection, and tailored treatments.

The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) was launched in 2005 by NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) to map the key genomic changes in 33 types of cancer. The multi-institution collaboration focused not only on cancer genome sequencing, but also on different types of molecular data collection and analysis, such as investigating gene and protein expression profiles (when they are turned on or off) and associating them with clinical and imaging data. With over $300 million in total funding, the project involved more than 150 researchers at more than two dozen institutions.

The PanCancer Atlas sums up the work accomplished by TCGA in a collection of 27 papers across a suite of Cell journals. Three summary papers published on April 5, 2018, recap the core findings, and companion papers report more in-depth explorations.

The first summary paper describes a technique called molecular clustering that groups cancers based on their molecular characteristics rather than their tissue of origin. The scientists analyzed gene expression, DNA modifications, protein expression, and other data from about 10,000 tissue samples representing 33 different types of cancer. The team identified 28 distinct clusters based on molecular similarities. Although most of these clusters could be linked to tissue of origin, many contained different cancer types. The most diverse group had 25 cancer types. These findings could help guide the treatment of many cancer patients whose tumors are of unknown origin.

The second paper presents findings on oncogenesis, the processes that lead to cancer development and progression. The authors focused on three critical oncogenic processes: the DNA mutations that drive cancers; the influence of DNA alterations on gene and protein expression; and the interplay of tumors with their surroundings, particularly immune cells. The results will help in the development of new treatments for a wide range of cancers.

The final paper details genomic alterations in 10 key signaling pathways that control the stages of the cell’s life cycle, growth, and death. The researchers found that 89% of tumors had at least one significant alteration in these pathways. About 57% of tumors had at least one alteration that could be targeted with currently known drugs and 30% had multiple targetable alterations. These findings will help researchers explore treatments with more tailored approaches, such as using a combination of drugs to target multiple pathways at the same time.

“TCGA was the first project of its scale to characterize—at the molecular level—cancer across a breadth of cancer types,” says Dr. Carolyn Hutter, NHGRI team lead for TCGA. “At the project’s infancy 10 years ago, it wasn’t even possible, much less on such a scale, to do the types of characterization and analysis that were being proposed. It was a hugely ambitious project.”

“The PanCancer Atlas effort complements the over 30 tumor-specific papers that have been published by TCGA in the last decade and expands upon earlier pan-cancer work that was published in 2013,” says Dr. Jean Claude Zenklusen, director of the TCGA Program Office at NCI.

Read more at the National Institutes of Health website.

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PHG Foundation is proud to​ announce that as of 1 April ​2018, it will be part of the University of Cambridge.

The School of Clinical Medicine will host the PHG Foundation, a unique combination that will continue and strengthen the Foundation’s successful policy development work in the application of science to benefit health and society.

Commenting on the new association, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge Professor Stephen Toope said:

This initiative brings together the unique research strengths of both the PHG Foundation, which has led such exemplary thinking around how science can best work for health, and the University’s world-leading School of Clinical Medicine…I am enormously grateful to the Hatton Trust for making this possible, and look forward to the University and the Foundation jointly addressing some of the major health challenges facing society today.

The Foundation looks forward to working with the Clinical School, the PHG Foundation’s Director, Mark Kroese commented:

The Clinical School is a world-leading source of medical excellence, research and leadership, and we are very much looking forward to working more closely with colleagues there as we continue to provide multidisciplinary perspectives on the policy issues around cutting-edge medical interventions and technologies.

The association has been made possible by a philanthropic gift from the Hong Kong based Hatton Trust, which recognises the University’s global eminence in science, medicine and the humanities alongside the pioneering policy development work of the Foundation. The PHG Foundation has received major funding from the Hatton Trust.

The Chair of the Trustees of the Foundation, Dr Ron Zimmern said:

I am delighted to see the work of the PHG Foundation over the last twenty years recognised by the University of Cambridge, and I am sure that the unique combination of a policy think-tank and a Clinical School will be highly successful. 

Looking ahead, the PHG Foundation will also build upon existing and new links with other parts of the University, including the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, the Centre of Law, Medicine and Society at the Faculty of Law, the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Humanities, the Cambridge Institute for Public Policy and Hughes Hall. 

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Medical Research Council-funded scientists are beginning a five-year study of childhood arthritis and its linked eye inflammation called uveitis, with the aim of better understanding how to treat the complex condition, which affects one in 1,000 under-16 year olds in the UK.

With nearly £5 million in funding (including £0.5m from Arthritis Research UK), the CLUSTER childhood arthritis study will team scientists at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (ICH) and other UK institutions* to follow the health trajectories of 5,000 children with the condition.

The initiative is one of four ‘stratified medicine’ projects being funded by the MRC, which is investing £15 million in studies that will establish ground-breaking approaches in treating prostate cancer, kidney disease, alcoholic hepatitis and childhood arthritis. Stratified medicine, also referred to as personalised medicine or precision medicine, is an emerging approach for disease diagnosis and treatment that considers patients’ genes, environment and lifestyle to create tailored therapies instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.

Childhood arthritis can cause long-term disability and poor quality of life – sometimes well into adulthood. If it isn’t diagnosed and treated early, patients may require hip and knee replacements, are significantly shorter than their peers, and some end up in wheelchairs. For those patients who also have uveitis, a condition where the inside of the eyes become inflamed, there is also a significant risk of vision loss and blindness.

Currently, young people diagnosed with arthritis in the UK are given a single drug therapy, but it works in only about 50% of cases. The remaining half must try other treatments, one after the other, to find a therapy which works for them. Along the way, they may experience painful side effects, time out of school and even a worsening of their symptoms.

Ultimately, the researchers in the trial hope to identify a simple biomarker test that will:

  • Pave the way to new treatment options, identifying potential new therapies and eventually the trialling of new drugs which work better with fewer side effects
  • Help doctors define the right medication for the right duration for each individual patient on the first try. Identifying the right treatment ensures symptoms are managed and that the condition doesn’t develop into lifelong disability
  • Identify which children are at risk of uveitis, a serious eye-inflammation which affects 15% those with childhood arthritis. Currently, patients visit eye specialists every three to six months to screen for this secondary condition that can lead to blindness
  • Project long-term outcomes for these children – scientists will track patient health over decades, so they can better predict what may be ahead for these children

Lead researcher, Professor Lucy Wedderburn at the UCL ICH and Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “Using a stratified medicine approach could be a gamechanger in childhood arthritis and its associated uveitis. A biomarker test could lead to methods for accurately predicting the right treatment for the right duration, halting the worsening of symptoms and leading to shorter time to remission. Nothing like that has been done before in this area of research.”

Eilean MacDonald, an 18-year-old patient, who was diagnosed with childhood arthritis as an 18-month-old baby, is taking part in the study. It took years of trying various medications until she found the right treatment to alleviate her symptoms. She’s now on crutches and requires an ankle replacement this summer.

MacDonald said: “When you think of arthritis you see a 70-year-old lady with stiff hands, not an 18-month-old baby or a teenager. People don’t believe children can get arthritis but we do. I’ve missed school and had to quit activities I loved because of my condition.

“This research is so important – it could mean the next generation of kids with childhood arthritis won’t have to go through what I did. They could have the right therapy handpicked for them, reducing the impact it has on their lives. They could have even one piece of their life that’s more consistent and predictable while living with this disease.” 

Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive Officer at the MRC, said: “Stratified medicine is reshaping the medical landscape by taking a patient-first approach that looks at how – and why – different groups of patients respond differently to therapies. Instead of looking for a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, stratified medicine is increasing what we know about diseases and how they affect individuals, and applying these findings to current tools in diagnostics and treatment to improve health outcomes. I am particularly pleased to see the potential benefits of this research approach extended to children with a life-changing condition.”

Dr Natalie Carter, head of research liaison and evaluation at Arthritis Research UK, said: “Twelve thousand children in the UK have juvenile idiopathic arthritisopens in new window (JIA), and this can have a significant impact on their physical, emotional and social well-being. In addition to the pain they experience, over 50% of these children may go on to have severe limitations in movement as adults, limiting their ability to carry out every day tasks. By working in partnership, we can all make a bigger difference for these children living with such a debilitating condition. We are excited to see the results of this project in the future.”

The Stratified Medicine Initiative is a major part of the MRC’s research strategy. Whether described as stratified, precision or personalised medicine, the research will provide new insights into disease mechanisms to enable better tailoring of existing treatments, and pave the way for the development of new treatments, diagnostics and care pathways.

*The CLUSTER study includes collaboration with the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, and scientists from Manchester, Liverpool, Cambridge, Bristol and London. CLUSTER is receiving additional co-funding from GOSH Children’s Charity and Olivia’s Vision, the sole UK charity dedicated to providing information and support to families and patients diagnosed with uveitis.

The other funded projects include ReIMAGINE, which is developing better screening for prostate cancer; NURTuRE, which is building kidney disease-specific cohorts to rethink the way new drugs are developed and trialled; and a study on alcoholic hepatitis, which is aiming to develop biomarker tests to quantify risk and improve management of the disease.

Learn more at the MRC website.

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The MRC funds medical research and training from fundamental lab-based science to clinical trials, and in all disease areas. We internationally in partnership with public and charity funders, with industry, regulators, policy makers and the public to deliver its mission. In deciding which research to support, the MRC places priority on discovery science that is likely to make a difference to clinical practice and improve human health.

The Investing for Impact report highlights the benefits derived from MRC-funded research and reflects the focus of the MRC Delivery Plan (PDF, 523KB) and the MRC's strategic objectives as outlined in Research Changes Lives 2014-2019 (PDF, 2.15MB). We have selected case studies of reported research impact realised during 2015/2016 and that highlight MRC-led strategic initiatives. For quantitative analysis, we have analysed the MRC’s investments and reported outputs over the last five years placed in the context of 10 years of MRC funding.

The report focuses on priorities highlighted by the MRC which aim to address major health and societal challenges in the UK and globally. Furthermore, other areas of research, training, and targeted approaches to funding innovative and effective research remain important to the MRC. The MRC funds cutting edge research where it occurs; either regionally-focused or across the entire UK.

Learn more at the MRC website.

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The UK Pharmacogenetics & Stratified Medicine Network Open Meeting took place on March 21, 2018 at 30 Euston Square, London.

Upwards of 200 delegates were treated to a fascinating range of talks from leading figures in the field as well as personal accounts from patients.


During the first session, Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed discussed the success of his Genotype-Guided Warfarin Dosing pilot, as well as the NHS genomic medicine goals for 2020 and 2025.

Sir John Savill outlined the MRC's consortium approach, referring to 95 industry/academia partnerships.

Doctor Karen Spink announced some exciting new initiatives and funding competitions from Innovate UK, including the new Precision Medicine Investor Accelerator, also revealing that every £1 spent by Innovate UK has led to £7.30 in investment.

NIHR CRN Cluster Lead Professor Michael Beresford described how services are being improved to better deliver stratified medicine research.


The second session featured a number of disease-specific talks, outlining how stratified medicine is working in asthma, psoriasis and primary biliary cholangitis.

Janette Rawlinson discussed the stigma attached to lung cancer, something that as a never-smoked lung cancer patient she has experienced firsthand.


During the afternoon, we heard from Professor Magnus Ingelman-Sundberg on implementing WGS analyses into pre-emptive pharmacogenomics advice and Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed was back to discuss the pharmacogenomics of serious adverse drug reactions.

Stuart Doyle provided an unforgettable account of his personal journey through SJS and TENS; his inspirational and grateful comments addressed to those who spend hours, days and weeks working on spreadsheets of data had a marked effect on the audience.


The final session highlighted some of the exciting progress and bold upcoming projects from the industry sector.


Delegate feedback is currently being gathered, the results of this will be published here shortly. All the talks at the event were recorded and will be available to view in due course.

The 6th Annual Open Meeting will take place on March 20, 2019.

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A new study has found a blood test for cancer DNA could predict if a woman is responding to the breast cancer drug palbociclib, months earlier than current tests.

Scientists from The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, say the test could detect in two to three weeks whether the drug is working, although they caution the results need replicating before they are used clinically.

The research, published today in the journal Nature Communications, was largely funded by the MRC. The researchers tested women with oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer – the most common kind – who were taking part in a clinical trial of palbociclib for advanced breast cancer.

In November 2017, palbociclib was approved for use on the NHS by NICE for women with previously untreated advanced breast cancer.

Currently, women must wait two to three months to find out, using a scan, if palbociclib is working.

The new blood test instead looks for circulating tumour DNA – fragments of DNA shed by the cancer that have entered the bloodstream. The DNA mutations associated with the cancer can be detected in these samples.

The researchers found that they could predict if the palbociclib treatment would work by comparing the amount of a gene PIK3CAdetected in a blood test before treatment and 15 days after starting treatment. In the study, 73 women had the PIK3CA mutation and were given blood tests before and after starting treatment. Of these, 52 received palbociclib.

In these women, the researchers found that those who had a small decrease in PIK3CA circulating DNA at 15 days had a median progression-free survival (the length of time the patient survived and the cancer did not get worse) of only 4.1 months, compared with women with a large decrease in PIK3CA, who had a median progression-free survival of 11.2 months.

The test could allow the women in the first group for whom the treatment is not as effective to be identified early and they could consider altering their treatment.

Professor Nicholas Turner, senior author and Professor of Molecular Oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Palbociclib is one of a new class of drugs that delays cancer progression for patients with advanced breast cancer, but it's not effective for everybody. The problem is we have to wait for two to three months before doing a scan to see if the therapy is working. Our new study found that a blood test for cancer DNA in the first two weeks of treatment indicated whether the drug was likely to be effective. Having an early indication of how likely a treatment is to work might allow us to adapt treatment – switching some patients to an alternative drug that is more likely to benefit them.”

Dr Nathan Richardson, Head of Molecular and Cellular Medicine at the MRC, said: “It is exciting to see that using advances in diagnostic techniques, such as genetic tests for circulating tumour DNA, we may be able to more accurately define groups of patients and help us deliver the right treatment to the right patient sooner. This study provides early evidence that might help us understand sooner when a drug is successfully treating breast cancer, and if not, it can be discontinued and better approaches pursued.”

The research also received funding from the charity Breast Cancer Now and the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

Read the full story at the MRC website.

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The team behind an innovative pilot project has been announced as one of the AF Association “Healthcare Pioneers 2018 – Showcasing Best Practice in AF” winners at the Arrhythmia Alliance Awards Ceremony held at the International Heart Rhythm Congress for implementing genotype-guided dosing of Warfarin for atrial fibrillation to improve anticoagulation control.

Trudie Lobban MBE, Founder and CEO, AF Association on congratulating the 2018 Award winners stated, “The AF Association Healthcare Pioneers Award, is presented to examples of truly innovative best practice covering identification, diagnosis, management, treatment and care of patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), which we summarise as detect, protect, correct and perfect. Each year we share the published Healthcare Pioneers report with commissioners across the NHS urging them to use these case studies as a benchmark to drive improvement in processes and patient pathways for the diagnosis, treatment, and care of AF patients.”

“This year we had an exceptional number of entries, the highest number we have ever received and all were of an excellent standard, demonstrating tremendous innovation to improve the lives of AF patients. We thank everyone who entered, and especially commend those chosen as this year’s Healthcare Pioneers Award winners,” she added.

Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed from the Wolfson Centre for Personalised Medicine at the University of Liverpool said: “This is a great a collaborative project between the University of Liverpool, the North-West Coast NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC), the Innovation Agency (NW Coast AHSN) and Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC) to implement an innovative method for improving dosing of warfarin in the treatment of atrial fibrillation in 3 North West anticoagulation clinics.

“Warfarin remains an important anticoagulant, but there is wide variation in the dose required to anticoagulant patients safely. We have previously shown that variation in warfarin dose requirement is due to a combination of genetic and clinical factors. We developed novel algorithms which incorporated genetic factors – we were able to show in a randomised controlled trial that genetic dosing was more accurate than current dosing used in the NHS. We have then moved this forward to an implementation phase where nurses running the anticoagulant clinics were able to test patient genes (within 45 minutes), and dose them accurately using this information."

The team behind the project included -

Gail Fitzgerald, & Clare Prince, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, Wolfson Centre for Personalised Medicine at University of Liverpool, UK

Jennifer Downing, Collaboration For Leadership In Applied Health Research And Care North West Coast (CLAHRC), University of Liverpool, UK

Janet Dearden, Warrington And Halton NHS Foundation Trusts, UK

Lucy Langan, Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, UK

Janet Davies, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital NHS Trust, UK

Julia Reynolds, Innovation Agency North West Coast, UK

Andrea Jorgensen, University of Liverpool, UK

Munir Pirmohamed, University of Liverpool, and Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, UK


Read about this project and the other worthy winners at the AF Association Healthcare Pioneers Awards 2018 - click here to see the full report.

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Applications are invited for three Medical Research Council (MRC) Skills Development Fellowships (SDF), to be held at the University of Liverpool, a world-class centre for developing researchers in priority skills areas of importance to modern health and biomedical research. Skills Development Fellowships are 3-year research and training postdoctoral fellowships that will support capacity building in specific MRC priority areas.  An SDF is suitable for both very early career researchers (e.g. having just finished their PhD, or about to) or for more established researchers who wish to transform their career through delivering an ambitious research programme alongside targeted training opportunities to gain or enhance quantitative skills applied to biomedicine.

The University of Liverpool seeks to recruit outstanding postdoctoral scientists who are looking to establish their own independent research career. This prestigious award will provide a salary plus running expenses for 3 years, and enable the appointee to establish their own research programme at the University of Liverpool.

Liverpool is seeking candidates with a qualification in one or more of three quantitative disciplines (statistics, applied mathematics, computer science), who may have had little or no exposure to health research.  Suitable candidates will need to deliver a research programme of relevance to one or more identified scientific themes of stratified medicine, infection, regenerative medicine and/or public health. Fellows will receive relevant training and supervision in at least two of the quantitative skills areas of statistics, computer science and applied mathematics, whilst being part of a team undertaking world-leading research in one of the biomedical areas described. More information on all of these research areas can be found on the Liverpool Fellowships website: http://liverpoolmrcsdf.uk/

Applications for Fellowships are encouraged from across the global community and all appointments are made solely on merit. The University of Liverpool is committed to promoting equality and diversity, including the Athena SWAN charter for promoting women’s careers in STEMM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) in higher education. The University has a Silver Award for its commitment to gender equality in the workplace and welcomes applications from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Closing Date: 21st May 2018 

Interview Dates: 8th and 12th June 2018

For full details and to apply online, please visit: https://recruit.liverpool.ac.uk

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The AF Association have announced their "Healthcare Pioneers 2018" at the Arrhythmia Alliance Awards Ceremony held at the International Heart Rhythm Congress.

Trudie Lobban MBE, Founder and CEO, AF Association on congratulating the 2018 Award winners stated, “The AF Association Healthcare Pioneers Award, is presented to examples of truly innovative best practice covering identification, diagnosis, management, treatment and care of patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), which we summarise as detect, protect, correct and perfect. Each year we share the published Healthcare Pioneers report with commissioners across the NHS urging them to use these case studies as a benchmark to drive improvement in processes and patient pathways for the diagnosis, treatment, and care of AF patients.”

“This year we had an exceptional number of entries, the highest number we have ever received and all were of an excellent standard, demonstrating tremendous innovation to improve the lives of AF patients. We thank everyone who entered, and especially commend those chosen as this year’s Healthcare Pioneers Award winners,” she added.

One of the projects to receive recognition was an innovative pilot project to implement and evaluate practical use of genotype-guided dosing of Warfarin for atrial fibrillation to improve anti-coagulation control.

Read about this project and the other worthy winners - click here to see the full report.



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On February 20th, the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Genomics England announced reaching the 50,000 whole human genome sequences landmark within the 100,000 Genomes Project.

It is a milestone that sets the UK on track to fully realise the potential of genomic medicine, deliver better care for patients and establish the UK as the global ‘go to’ destination in the fast emerging genomics sector.

Genomics England was established in 2013 as a wholly owned company of the Department of Health and Social Care by the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt. It is tasked with the delivery of the groundbreaking 100,000 Genomes Project, which is sequencing 100,000 genomes from 70,000 people, focused on patients with rare diseases, their families, and patients with cancer.

In stimulating genomic research and discovery, Genomics England aims to improve patient care and establish the UK as the centre of the global genomics industry.

Achieving the 50,000 genomes landmark has only been made possible through the generous participation of tens of thousands of patients and their families – taking part in a Project at the edge of known science. Staff in NHS Genomic Medicine Centres (GMCs), as well as those in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, have worked tirelessly to not only deliver the Project, but in many cases, also pioneered totally new systems, processes and procedures to ensure that genomic medicine can become part of routine NHS care.


The project is already changing the lives of patients with a rare disease – often providing diagnoses for the first time after years of uncertainty and distress (known as the diagnostic odyssey), as well as working towards reducing costs to health and social care budgets. In cancer, significant progress has been made in tackling the global challenge of extracting of DNA of sufficient quality for whole genome sequencing – leading to significant redesign of tissue handling in the NHS.

The scope and scale of the 100,000 Genomes Project, unparalleled anywhere else in the world, has been made possible through the UK’s unique asset − its National Health Service. The NHS, as the single biggest integrated healthcare system in the world, is able to link lifelong healthcare information with whole genome sequencing data. It is a combination that brings benefit to patients whilst also demonstrating the UK’s competitive advantage in enhancing understanding of diseases, and developing products for earlier detection and treatment.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

“This incredible achievement shows once again why the UK is a world leader in genomic medicine.
“We’re backing our world-leading scientists and clinicians in the NHS to push the boundaries of modern science and embrace new technology – using data to transform the lives of patients and families through quicker diagnoses and personalised treatments.
“It is testimony to the hard work of the clinicians and scientists across the NHS and volunteers for the project that we can continue to harness the very best of the NHS and remain at the forefront of this pioneering field.

Genomics England Executive Chair, Sir John Chisholm, said:

The 100,000 Genomes Project was a stunningly ambitious project when announced by the (then) Department of Health five years ago. Since then Genomics England and NHS England (now joined by Scotland, Northern, Ireland and Wales), working with a huge number of ground-breaking partnerships, have built the infrastructure and protocols to deliver health-enhancing diagnostics from consented patients with undiagnosed rare genetic disease and common cancers, while at the same time enabling their data (in de-identified form) to provide the basis for research leading to improved therapies and treatments. Having built the platform and reached the 50,000 halfway point we are now able to operate at a scale to complete the target by the end of 2018.

Professor Sue Hill OBE, Chief Scientific Officer for England and Senior Responsible Officer for Genomics at NHS England, said:

This is an important milestone for the project and has only been possible because of the contribution and commitment of the participants in the project and their families.
“The milestone also marks how healthcare professionals from across the NHS have come together to transform care for the future, demonstrating how this technology can be utilised as part of routine care to improve patient lives and keep the NHS a world-leader in this important area of medicine. Working together patients and professionals have achieved so much and I would like to say a personal thank you to each and every one for playing their part.
“We are on track to complete recruitment to the Project this Autumn and, from then, the use of these cutting-edge genomic technologies will be embedded in the NHS through the new Genomic Medicine Service offering real benefits to patients and healthcare delivery.

Francis deSouza, President and CEO of lllumina (the 100,000 Genomes Project’s sequencing partner), said:

This important milestone in our partnership with Genomics England marks a significant step towards delivering whole genome sequencing at scale into the NHS and provides physicians with the data to make diagnoses based on a patient’s genome that will lead to better health outcomes.

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The UKCRC Tissue Directory are inviting UK-based Biomedical researchers to complete a survey on human sample use in research. The survey is for any UK-based researchers in academic or industrial Biomedical research. The survey will form part of the research project: 'Barriers to using an online directory to identify human samples for research'.

The results of the survey will inform the development of the UKCRC Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre, a national initiative which seeks to improve human sample access in the UK.

The survey will take approx. 7min to complete and you will have the option to be entered into a prize drawer for a voucher at the end of the survey.


Click here to take the Survey

If you have any questions or queries about the research please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Health Data Research UK, the UK’s new health and biomedical data science research institute, is awarding £30 million funding to six sites across the UK to address challenging healthcare issues through use of data science.  Each site has world-class expertise; a track record in using health data to derive new knowledge, scientific discovery and insight; and works in close partnership with NHS bodies and the public to translate research findings into benefits for patients and populations.

From April this year, the six sites will work collaboratively as foundation partners in Health Data Research UK to make game-changing improvements in people’s health by harnessing data science at scale across the UK. 

The successful Health Data Research UK sites are:

Cambridge – Wellcome Sanger Institute, European Bioinformatics Institute, University of Cambridge

London – UCL, Imperial College London, King's College London, Queen Mary University of London, The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Midlands – University of Birmingham, University of Leicester, University of Nottingham, University of Warwick, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

Oxford – University of Oxford

Scotland – University of Edinburgh, University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee, University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews, University of Strathclyde

Wales/Northern Ireland – Swansea University, Queen’s University Belfast

Each site’s research organisations will receive long-term funding awards and will become part of a collaborative research community working together to deliver the priorities of Health Data Research UK.  This initial funding is awarded following a rigorous application process, which included interviews with an international panel of experts. The scientific focus of the sites will be on four strategic themes: Actionable Health Data Analytics, Precision Medicine, 21st Century Trial Design, Modernising Public Health.

Professor Andrew Morris, director of Health Data Research UK, commented:

“I am delighted to make today’s announcement, which marks the start of a unique opportunity for scientists, researchers and clinicians to use their collective expertise to transform the health of the population. 

"The six HDR UK sites, comprising 22 universities and research institutes, have tremendous individual strengths and will form a solid foundation for our long-term ambition.  By working together and with NHS and industry partners to the highest ethical standards, our vision is to harness data science on a national scale. This will unleash the potential for data and technologies to drive breakthroughs in medical research, improving the way we are able to prevent, detect and diagnose diseases like cancer, heart disease and asthma. 

"I am grateful to our funders who recognise the importance of collaboration at scale, and the pivotal contribution of health data research to the UK’s ambition to be a global leader in life sciences, for health and economic benefit.”

This is the first phase of investment to establish Health Data Research UK.  A further £24million will be invested in upcoming activities, including a Future Talent Programme and work to address targeted data research challenges through additional partnership sites.  

Health Data Research UK is committed to the highest ethical standards and will work with experts in public engagement to ensure the public voice is central to its activity. It will work at scale and forge national and international partnerships to deliver:

  • New scientific discovery
  • A vibrant training environment for the next generation of data scientists
  • The creation of a trustworthy UK-wide research and innovation ecosystem for health data research.

Health Data Research UK is a joint investment coordinated by the MRC, working in partnership with the British Heart Foundation, the National Institute for Health Research, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Health and Care Research Wales, Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland), Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates and Wellcome.

For further details, please visit the Health Data Research UK website.

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Genomics England have completed the release of a second dataset from the main programme of the 100,000 Genomes Project. In brief, this consists of cancer and rare disease data for main programme participants, including:

  • genomic data for participants who have consented to participate in the Project
  • associated clinical data for all participants who have consented to take part in the Project, including those for whom we do not yet have a sequenced genome
  • all secondary data that we hold for participants, including those for whom we do not yet have a sequenced genome:
    • Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), including accident and emergency, admitted patient care, and outpatient care
    • Diagnostic Imaging Dataset (DID), which provides a record of diagnostic tests rather than the images themselves
    • Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs)
    • Mental Health Services Data Set (MHSDS).

A total of 235 GeCIP members – from the Neurology, Colorectal Cancer and Quantitative Methods, Machine Learning and Functional Genomics domains – now have access to the Genomics England Research Environment and can begin working on this dataset in line with their publication moratorium. Genomics England anticipate bringing more researchers into the environment in the next few months in order of Access Review Committee approval. If your domain has not yet submitted a detailed research plan, details of how to do this can be found on the Genomics England website.

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Innovate UK has up to £8 million to invest in new technologies through the digital health technology catalyst.

The catalyst was set up under the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to address challenges around the development of digital health innovations. Digital technology is seen as a significant opportunity to improve outcomes for patients and at a lower cost.

Projects could be in a number of priority areas for health services. This includes cancer diagnosis and treatment, mental health services, diabetes reduction, emergency care provision, management of primary care workload and enabling patient choice.

They could also include health services to maintain or improve care while reducing costs.

We expect to fund projects across a range of technologies including:

  • virtual and augmented reality
  • artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • use of sensors, internet of things, and networks
  • informatics, data analytics and process

They could help:

  • clinical decision-making
  • patients with their treatments
  • improve disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and long-term care

Click here to learn more.

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The following new funding opportunities are available:

Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme An NIHR and MRC partnership

17/142 Osteoporosis

17/143 Inherited myopathies and muscular dystrophies

17/144 Mechanisms of action of behavioural and psychological interventions to improve health

17/145 Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme researcher-led

17/146 Mechanisms of action of health interventions

Health Technology Assessment Programme

17/115 The role of prophylactic antibiotics for botulinum toxin A injections for overactive bladder

17/116 Letrozole for improving fertility in women with polycystic ovary syndrome

17/117 Therapeutic interventions for self-harm in adolescents - an individual patient data meta-analysis

17/118 The effectiveness of early treatment with amitriptyline for the prevention of post-herpetic neuralgia

17/119 Non-invasive neurally adjusted ventilator assist for neonates requiring respiratory support

17/120 Hyperosmolar therapy in traumatic brain injury

17/121 Gastrointestinal side effects in cancer immune checkpoint therapy

17/122 Joint distraction for knee osteoarthritis without alignment correction

17/123 Intensive day patient versus inpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa in adult specialised eating disorder services

17/124 Psychosocial intervention for internalised stigma to improve outcomes for people with schizophrenia

17/125 Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in adults with learning disabilities

17/126 Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor to prevent depression following traumatic brain injury

17/127 Partial removal of dentinal caries in permanent teeth

17/128 Sputum colour charts to guide antibiotic self-treatment of acute exacerbation of COPD

17/129 Exercise therapy for people with pulmonary hypertension 1

7/130 Pre-pregnancy weight loss for women on long acting reversible contraception (LARC)

17/132 Intervention or expectant management for early onset fetal growth restriction in twin pregnancy

17/133 Scanning laser ophthalmoscopy for diabetic eye screening

17/134 Identification of older patients likely to require enhanced care on discharge from hospital

17/135 Cytoreductive surgery with hyperthermic intraoperative peritoneal chemotherapy

17/136 Sepsis 17/137 Dose of oxytocin during induction of labour

17/138 Surgery for early osteoarthritis

17/139 Reducing the risk of anxiety disorders in children of parents seeking help for their own anxiety

17/140 Optimising the use of statin therapy in cardiovascular disease prevention

Public Health Research Programme

17/149 Public Health Research Programme researcher-led

17/151 Public Health Research Programme evidence synthesis

For more information and a list of all current funding opportunities, please visit the NIHR website.

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The following papers may be of interest to learn more about how the UK Government is supporting industry so the UK may become a world leader in biotechnologies:-

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The time for talking about the potential of genomic medicine is past. As England’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dame Sally Davies, writes in her report, Generation Genome:

Genomics is not tomorrow. It’s here today

Genomics will transform patient outcomes and healthcare systems – and NHS England is already moving to make a mainstream genomics medicine service a reality. Realising this potential fully, however, demands more. As the CMO notes, we need to make the leap from genomic medicine as a “cottage industry”’ to genomic medicine on an industrial scale. It may sound obvious, but this transformation can only take place with deep industry partnerships in place.

Kick-starting a UK genomics industry has been a core Genomics England aim from the outset. It recognises that − while NHS England, Genomics England and others build the data resources, infrastructure and systems − it is industry that develops the medicines, treatments and technologies that have such a big impact on patients’ lives.

Clearly, effective industry partnership also has the potential to deliver a boost to the UK’s economic health. The Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper focuses on the Life Sciences as a growth driver − already bringing £64 billion a year to the UK economy and employing over 220,000 highly skilled scientific staff. Seizing the opportunities of the genomics sector will generate ever-stronger growth.

The first Discovery Forum meeting, held on 21st November 2017


A catalyst for discovery

Building on learning from earlier industry partnership projects, Genomics England’s Discovery Forummarks an acceleration in our work to consolidate the UK as the global centre of genomic research, discovery and investment.

Fundamentally, the Forum aims to catalyse the entire genomics ecosystem: from small and specialised start-ups all the way through to the big pharma companies. The goal is to align the right companies with the right opportunities. It is a virtuous circle: high levels of investment stimulate the growth of new and existing businesses − which attracts the world’s best research talent − who create the most innovative technologies − which attracts high levels of investment.

We held our first Discovery Forum in November 2017 and the appetite from industry was clear − with more than 120 attendees representing more than 50 companies from the genomics domain. Importantly, and for the first time, investors joined the partnership.

Content focused specifically on areas that industry has identified as important: effective engagement with Genomics England; access to information and research; and maximising the usefulness of the Forum network. Sessions included:

  • Progress of the 100,000 Genomes Project;
  • Genomics England’s commercial and IP strategy;
  • Genomics England’s data and research platforms;
  • The NHS genomics environment – presented by Professor Sue Hill, NHS England’s Chief Scientific Officer;
  • Understanding how to access research and the work of the Genomics England Clinical Interpretation Partnerships (GeCIPs)
  • Exemplars of work between industry and Genomics England.

Read more at the Genomics England website.

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Healthcare giant MSD and diagnostics company Qiagen have unveiled plans to make major investments into the UK, providing a huge boost for the country's life sciences sector and creating hundreds of additional jobs in Manchester.

The investment announced by MSD, known as Merck and Co in North America, will support a new world-leading life sciences discovery research facility in the UK, supporting a total of 950 jobs in high-skilled and high-value research roles. This new state-of-the-art UK hub is intended to help ensure innovative research into future treatments for patients and pioneering medicines are completed in Britain, according to business secretary Greg Clark.

In addition, Qiagen is announcing details of a brand new partnership with Health Innovation Manchester that has the intention to develop a genomics and diagnostics campus in Manchester. This new campus will generate skilled jobs and attract companies from across the world to the North West, the government said, while the company has also confirmed that it is going to expand its current operations in Manchester with the potential to create 800 skilled jobs.

The news comes as the government reveals its flagship industrial strategy today (Monday, 27 November 2017), with a long-term plan for how Britain can build on its economic strengths, address its productivity challenge, positively embrace technological change, and support businesses and its workers.

Business secretary Greg Clark said: "Our life sciences sector is one of the UK's fastest developing industries, with a turnover in excess of £64bn, employing 233,000 across the UK.

"MSD's commitment today, and the wider sector deal investment we have secured, proves the process outlined in the industrial strategy can give companies the confidence and direction they need to invest in the UK. It will ensure Britain continues to be at the forefront of innovation and represents a huge vote of confidence in our industrial strategy."

MSD's research laboratories president Dr Roger M Perlmutter said: "Strong discovery capabilities and the pursuit of scientific excellence are foundational to MSD's mission to save and improve lives around the world. A new UK location will enable us to build on our proud legacy of invention and be an important contributor to the vibrant and rapidly growing UK life sciences community, while providing access for more collaborations within the European life science ecosystem."

Qiagen chief executive Peer M Schatz said: "We are very excited about this partnership with Health Innovation Manchester, and the essential engagement of the University of Manchester, the NHS trust and the UK government. Our success together can advance science and improve the lives of patients in the local region as well as worldwide."

Read the full story at InsiderMedia.com.

The Office of Life Sciences will present on the UK strategy for Life Sciences at the Pharmacogenetics and Stratified Medicine Network Open meeting on 21st March, click here for more information.



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The Business Secretary has confirmed today (27 November) that world-leading life sciences company MSD is set to make a major investment into the UK economy with the opening of a new state-of-the-art UK hub, helping ensure innovative research into future treatments for patients and pioneering medicines are completed in Britain.

The news comes as the government is set to unveil its flagship Industrial Strategy later this morning, with a long-term plan for how Britain can build on its economic strengths, address its productivity challenge, positively embrace technological change, and support businesses and its workers.

The Sector Deal agreement comes as a major endorsement of the government’s Industrial Strategy vision and has been secured through the upcoming Life Sciences Sector Deal, one of 4 such deals that government is set to confirm later today and announce in the weeks ahead.

Alongside the Life Sciences Sector Deal, government will confirm it has agreed deals with construction, artificial intelligence and automotive. Each deal represents a new strategic and long-term partnership with government, backed by private sector co-investment.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

We are at one of the most important, exciting and challenging times there has ever been in the history of the world’s commerce and industry.Powered by new technology, new industries are being created, existing ones changing and the way we live our lives – as workers, citizens and consumers – transformed.We are an open, flexible economy, built on trade and engagement with the world. We have a competitive business environment with a deserved reputation for being a dependable and confident place to do business, thanks to our high standards, respected institutions and a reliable rule of law.We are renowned for innovation and discovery, with some of the best universities and research institutions in the world producing some of the most inventive people on earth.We have commercial and industrial sectors – from advanced manufacturing to financial services; from life sciences to the creative industries – which are competitive with the best in the world.In this Industrial Strategy we set out how we will maintain and enhance these and other strengths and deploy them to our advantage.But any serious strategy should address the weaknesses that stop us achieving our potential, as well as our strengths, and this Industrial Strategy does that.Britain’s productivity performance has not been good enough, and is holding back our earning power as a country.So this Industrial Strategy deliberately strengthens the 5 foundations of productivity: ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and places.By acting together as a nation, and in a sustained way, to improve the underperforming conditions for productivity we can drive up our earning power.

MSD UK hub

The investment announced by MSD, known as Merck and co. in North America, will support a new world-leading life sciences discovery research facility in the UK, supporting a total of 950 jobs in high-skilled and high-value research roles.

Investments by a number of pharmaceutical companies into the UK will form a key part of the Sector Deal, a central Industrial Strategy measure, set to be signed in the coming weeks by the life sciences sector and government.

Announcing the investment, Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

Our life sciences sector is one of the UK’s fastest developing industries, with a turnover in excess of £64 billion, employing 233,000 across the UK.MSD’s commitment today, and the wider Sector Deal investment we have secured, proves the process outlined in the Industrial Strategy can give companies the confidence and direction they need to invest in the UK. It will ensure Britain continues to be at the forefront of innovation and represents a huge vote of confidence in our Industrial Strategy.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

I want patients to continue to be at the front of the queue for the best treatments available. The NHS has a proud history of spearheading medical innovation and today’s investment in our strong and growing life sciences sector will see patients in the UK continue to benefit from world-leading research and pioneering medicines.

MSD’s Research Laboratories president Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter said of the investment:

Strong discovery capabilities and the pursuit of scientific excellence are foundational to MSD’s mission to save and improve lives around the world.A new UK location will enable us to build on our proud legacy of invention and be an important contributor to the vibrant and rapidly growing UK life sciences community, while providing access for more collaborations within the European life science ecosystem.

MSD Managing Director in the UK and Ireland, Louise Houson said:

We believe the UK to be a unique bioscience centre of excellence and this investment presents a major opportunity for us to work in collaboration with the UK government to build on the forward thinking and ambitious Industrial Strategy white paper being published by the government today.

Chair of the Life Science Industrial Strategy Advisory Board, Sir John Bell said:

Today’s investment provides strong evidence that a coherent industrial strategy can have a real, tangible impact on economic activity in sectors that we need to strengthen and grow. It will drive this sector forward and simultaneously attract other investments into the UK.Investments by world-renowned companies like MSD and QIAGEN demonstrate that the UK’s science base is truly world-leading and an exceptional national strength.It is clear that the UK can, through a collaborative partnership between government, industry, academia, charities and the NHS, deliver the next wave of innovation that will benefit patients, transform the health care system, and generate economic growth and improved productivity.

The Sector Deal, confirmed in the white paper later today, will drive investment in the UK’s world-leading research infrastructure and boost productivity in the sector. It will be formally announced in the coming weeks, including a brand new partnership between leading diagnostics company, QIAGEN, and Health Innovation Manchester, that has the intention to develop a genomics and diagnostics campus in the city.

This new campus will generate new skilled jobs and attract companies from across the world to the north west, while the company has confirmed it is going to expand its current operations in Manchester, with the potential to create 800 skilled jobs.

CEO of QIAGEN, Peer M. Schatz said:

We are very excited about this partnership with Health Innovation Manchester, and the essential engagement of the University of Manchester, the NHS Trust and the UK government. Our success together can advance science and improve the lives of patients in the local region as well as worldwide.

Innovation at the heart of Industrial Strategy

Today’s investment builds on the announcement made by the Prime Minister last week that the government ambition is to deliver a step change in the level of investment in research and development (R&D), rising from 1.7% to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. This could mean around £80 billion of additional investment in advanced technology in the next decade, helping to transform whole sectors, create new industries, and support innovation across the country.

The uplift will help transform the UK economy and drive a long-term change in the use of R&D by industry, ensuring that the next generation of innovative technologies that create high-skilled jobs, revolutionise productivity and improve living standards, are produced in Britain. Government will be working with industry and academia to deliver this goal.

Grand Challenges

The white paper follows extensive engagement by government with industry, academia and business bodies who submitted almost 2,000 responses to the green paper consultation earlier in 2017.

In the strategy, the government identifies 4 Grand Challenges; global trends that will shape our rapidly changing future and which the UK must embrace and lead to ensure we harness all the economic and social opportunities they bring. The first 4 are:

  • artificial intelligence (AI): the rise of AI is changing the world we live in, the UK has to be at the forefront of this data-driven revolution and grasp the opportunities it presents through the AI Sector Deal
  • clean growth: the global shift to clean growth presents huge opportunities for innovation that government and industry must take advantage of by backing the development, manufacture and use of low carbon technologies
  • ageing society: to effectively meet the needs of an ageing population, the UK must harness innovations in medical care, technology and services
  • future mobility: from driverless cars to drone-delivered goods, the way we move people, goods and services is evolving rapidly and the UK needs to be a world leader in shaping what the future of mobility looks like

Each Grand Challenge represents an open invitation to business, academia and civil society to work and engage with the government to innovate, develop new technologies and develop strategies to seize these global opportunities.

Read the full story on the GOV.UK website.

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The first appointments to the Board of Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), the new data science and health research institute, have been made.  

Harnessing the power of health data, HDR UK will develop and apply cutting-edge data science tools and techniques to address the most pressing health research challenges facing patients and the public.

The members of the HDR UK non-executive Board are:

  • Dr Graham Spittle CBE (Chair) was until recently IBM's Chief Technology Officer, Europe, and Vice President, Software Group. Dr Spittle took on the role of Interim Chair HDR UK in July 2016.
  • Professor Sir Alex Markham is Director of the Leeds MRC Medical Bioinformatics Centre, Chairman of the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chair of the OSCHR Health Informatics Group.
  • Professor Jonathan Montgomery is Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and Chair of the Health Research Authority.
  • Professor Sir Jim Smith was Deputy CEO and Chief of Strategy at the MRC and Director of Research at the Francis Crick Institute prior to joining Wellcome as Director of Science.
  • Professor Dame Janet Thornton was Director of EMBL-EBI until 2015 and played a key role in ELIXIR, the pan-European infrastructure for biological data.
  • David Zahn is Head of European Fixed Income at Franklin Templeton Investments, a Board member at The Health Foundation and a Trustee of the Medical Research Foundation.

The Board will convene for the first time on 9 November. The appointment of the non-executive Board follows the announcement in March of Professor Andrew Morris as Director of HDR UK and confirmation of Dr Graham Spittle’s appointment as Chair of the Board.

Dr Spittle commented:

“The emerging HDR UK Board brings together a wealth of knowledge and expertise. In tandem with the executive team, the Board will bring passion and vigour to the goal of maximising health benefits from data science.”

Members of the non-executive Board share collective responsibility for the effective governance and development of HDR UK, setting its major policies and agreeing the strategic direction with the Institute Director. A small number of additional appointments to the Board will be made over the coming months.

HDR UK is an independent, not-for-profit company established through a joint investment led by the MRC, together with the National Institute for Health Research (England), the Chief Scientist Office (Scotland), Health and Care Research Wales, Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the British Heart Foundation and Wellcome.

Learn more at the MRC website.

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Researchers studying neurodegenerative disease can now look up cohort studies and make connections through a new online database.

The JPND Global Cohort Portal, created by the EU Joint Programme in Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND) for which the MRC is a founder member, is a searchable online database of neurodegenerative disease cohort studies.

Long-term studies which follow large groups of people over time – known as longitudinal cohort studies – are a rich, but currently under-used, resource. Finding and contacting relevant cohorts can be a difficult and time-consuming task for researchers.

The portal aims to overcome this challenge by allowing users to search for cohorts around the world that could be relevant for their neurodegeneration research. A summary of the cohort study, the data collected and the contact details are available on the portal, giving researchers the opportunity to make new connections.

Currently including 110 cohorts, the tool will continue to grow as new cohorts are discovered and added. The aim of the portal is to encourage information exchange and new collaborations within the neurodegenerative disease community, to support scientific progress.

After exploring the database, Dag Aarsland, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: “I was pleased to see that the JPND Global Cohort Portal offers a broad and overarching view of cohorts that have been funded in countries across Europe and beyond. In fact, after just a few minutes of exploring the JPND Portal, I identified a number of cohorts that I hadn't heard of before, which may be useful in my research.” Read the full interview with Professor Aarsland on the Portal.

Neurodegenerative disease-specific and general population cohorts, related to neurodegenerative disease research, are both included. To be considered relevant, they must be cohorts that were set up to follow a range of health or social factors as a population ages, or cohorts looking at other chronic diseases but using measures of risk relevant to neurodegenerative disease, for example metabolic or cardiovascular factors.

To be included, neurodegenerative disease-specific cohorts must have more than 200 participants, unless they are classed as rare conditions. General population cohorts must include over 1,000 participants.

To allow the database to grow and evolve, an online entry form is available for principal investigators to submit their cohort for inclusion after checks. Cohorts can also be updated to reflect changes, such as when new waves of data are available or upon the introduction of a new test.

Click here to read more on the MRC website.


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UK Research and Innovationopens in new window is a new organisation that, from 1 April 2018, will bring together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. Each will be led by an Executive Chair who will be supported by a Council of up to 12 members.

The Councils will have a pivotal role in ensuring the success of UK Research and Innovation, helping it achieve its strategic objectives to be the single, strong voice of UK research and innovation, and building on our world-leading reputation.

Council members will have a range of expertise and experience in research and innovation across higher education, industry and commerce, policy and/or civil society, reflecting different characteristics and professional backgrounds.

Click here to learn more on the MRC website.

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The PHG Foundation are pleased to announce Dr Mark Kroese as the new Director of the PHG Foundation. Mark will be taking over from Dr Hilary Burton, who stepped down as Director at the end of September.

Mark has an intimate understanding of the work of the PHG Foundation, first joining in 2002 as a Specialist Registrar in Public Health Medicine. In 2005, Mark was appointed consultant in public health medicine and associate director of public health at Peterborough Primary Care Trust, but retained close links with PHG Foundation. He returned in 2012 to take up his current post of Deputy Director, where he has been leading the development and delivery of the work programme and contributing to the strategic development of the organisation including the establishment of its consultancy services.

Commenting on his new role, Mark said:

I am delighted to become the next Director of the PHG Foundation and to have the opportunity to lead such an expert and successful team. We look forward to addressing the future health and innovation policy challenges. I would like to personally thank Hilary for her leadership, guidance and support. I feel very fortunate to be her successor and to be able to build on her achievements.

Mark graduated in medicine from the University of Edinburgh and trained in general practice before entering public health medicine. A fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Mark is also a member of the Diagnostics Advisory Committee of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Royal College of General Practitioners. His special interests include the evaluation and regulation of genetic tests and biomarkers and the commissioning of clinical genetics services. In addition to his work at the Foundation, Mark is the public health advisor to the UK Genetic Testing Network since 2006.

Dr Hilary Burton, founder member and Director since 2010, will continue to contribute her extensive knowledge and experience to the PHG Foundation work programme, particularly, but not exclusively, with My Healthy Future, PHG Foundation’s major new project.

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Two exciting new guides to support healthcare professionals to develop clinical academic careers have been launched.

The guides have been developed with Health Education England (HEE) to provide information on the various awards available through our two organisations, how to apply for awards, and how the awards work in practice should applicants be successful.

The guides also include case studies from award holders who talk about their experiences and the impact holding an NIHR or HEE award has had on their career.

There are two guides available:




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The Department of Health has confirmed the appointment of Professor Jonathan Van-Tam as the new Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.

Professor Van-Tam will take up the position on 2 October 2017. He replaces Professor John Watson who is retiring after 4 years in the role.

The Deputy Chief Medical Officers are senior public health leaders who support the Chief Medical Officer – the most senior adviser on health and medicine to the UK government.

Professor Van-Tam is an internationally recognised flu, vaccine and respiratory expert. During his 25-year career, he has advised the World Health Organization, the UK Government and The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on influenza and other respiratory virus infections.

He graduated in medicine from the University of Nottingham in 1987, trained in public health medicine from 1991, and became a Senior Lecturer at the University of Nottingham in 1997.

In addition to publishing 150 scientific papers, Professor Van Tam has also held the following posts:

  • 2004 to 2007: Head of the Pandemic Influenza Office at the UK Health Protection Agency
  • 2005 to 2009: part of the UK national Scientific Pandemic Influenza Committee (SPI)
  • 2007 to 2017: consultant to the World Health Organization on influenza
  • 2007 to date: Professor of Health Protection at the University of Nottingham
  • 2009 to 2010: part of the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) during the influenza pandemic
  • 2010 to 2017: leader of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Pandemic Influenza and Research
  • 2013 to 2017: Editor-in-Chief of Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses
  • 2014 to date: Chair of the UK Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threat Advisory Group (NERVTAG).

Professor Van-Tam said:

It is a great honour to be given the opportunity to serve as the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England. I am looking forward to the work ahead with enormous enthusiasm.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer said:

I would like to congratulate Professor Van-Tam on his appointment. His track record speaks for itself; he will bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the role and I look forward to working closely with him.

Professor John Watson has been a fantastic Deputy Chief Medical Officer. I would like to thank him for his huge contribution to public health and for his expert support.

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The UK Pharmacogenetics & Stratified Medicine Network is made up of academics, clinicians, industry partners, regulators and patient groups.

Our new node map allows website visitors to see which individuals and institutions belong to the network.


To use the node map to find a potential research partner, begin by selecting the relevant research interest, e.g. Adverse Drug Reactions.


Next, select from which sector you wish to find a research partner, e.g. Academic.


Now you can see the educational institutions that have network members researching in the area you previously selected. Now, choose an institution to see a list of network members, e.g. University of Liverpool.


Choosing one of the names will provide you with more information about that individual, e.g. Munir Pirmohamed.


Please click here to visit the node map.

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To coincide with the publication of the Life Science Industrial Strategy, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, announces £14.25 million funding to support 11 NIHR Medtech and In vitro diagnostic Co-operatives (MICs).

The NIHR MICs will build expertise and capacity in the NHS to develop new medical technologies and provide evidence on commercially-supplied in vitro diagnostic (IVD) tests. Funding will be provided over five years for leading NHS organisations to act as centres of expertise; bringing together patients, clinicians, researchers, commissioners and industry. 

Dr Louise Wood, Director of Science, Research and Evidence at the Department of Health said:

“The funding received by the 11 NIHR Medtech and In vitro diagnostic Co-operatives will make a real difference to patient’s lives and provide a focal point for the medtech and in vitro diagnostic industries to develop new technologies and generate the evidence needed by the NHS to support the uptake of new tests”

The NIHR MICs with launch 1 January 2018 replacing the NIHR Healthcare Technology Co-operatives and NIHR Diagnostic Evidence Co-operatives, incorporating and retaining the remits of both.

For more information about the NIHR MICs.

For more information about the Industrial strategy.

Click to read the story on the NIHR website.

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Over one million people in primary care have actively participated in research studies looking at healthier lifestyle, disease diagnosis and prevention, and management of long term illnesses such as diabetes, as reported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Clinical research is the way clinicians in primary care (including GPs, dentists and pharmacists) gather evidence about new treatments, in order to improve patient care in the NHS.

Simon Denegri is the NIHR National Director for Patients and the Public in Research, he said:

“This is fantastic news. The nature of the health challenges facing the UK means that GPs, in partnership with patients and carers, have a crucial role to play in developing treatments of patient benefit. That over one million people have volunteered to participate in clinical studies is a mark of how successful this partnership has become. The NIHR hopes that many more people and their families will be encouraged by this to also come forward and help us do more life-saving work. Research cannot happen without them.”

The NIHR Clinical Research Network provides clinicians with the practical support they need to make research studies happen, so that more research takes place across England, and more patients can take part.

In April 2006, the NIHR Clinical Research Network created the Primary Care Specialty to bring research opportunities for patients closer to home, where the majority of common illnesses and conditions are treated.

Of the 7,840 general practices in England, 42 per cent are now active in research. The Network works with key stakeholders to promote the successful delivery of research studies in the NHS and to help plan new studies that will address the needs of patients. Collaboration with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has meant that over 1,000 practices are now Research Ready® accredited. See the below Q&A with the RCGP to find out more.

Professor Paul Wallace has been in the Network since the Primary Care Specialty began. Currently Co Specialty Cluster Lead for Primary Care, he looks back over the last ten years:

"This is very exciting news, and it is really wonderful that we are reaching such a large proportion of the population. People all over the country now have the opportunity to take part in research in their local community as well as at their hospital. We have come a long way thanks to the Network, which has enabled us to give so many practices the mechanisms to help their patients get involved with research.

“To see the proportion of research active practices grow over the years has been phenomenal and reaching this milestone is a tribute to Network staff, primary care staff but above all, patients and the public who have given their time freely to make a difference in the NHS.”

In 2015/16 there were 249 open studies on the NIHR Clinical Research Network Primary Care Portfolio. The Primary Care Specialty also supports or is involved in research relating to the other 29 Network specialties such as Diabetes, Respiratory and Mental Health. This means that last year the Primary Care Specialty supported over one quarter of the recruitment to the NIHR Clinical Research Network Portfolio (total recruitment over 605,000).

Click here to learn more at the NIHR website.

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NIHR DEC Leeds has been successful in its bid to become one of the Government’s newly-funded MedTech & In Vitro Diagnostic Co-operatives.

The new organisation, called NIHR Leeds In Vitro Diagnostics Co-operative (NIHR Leeds IVD Co-operative), will launch on 1 January 2018, and will be led by Professor Gordon Cook, who is taking over as Clinical Director from Professor Peter Selby.

"Leeds hosting this very important infrastructure programme is a fantastic opportunity to bring together several talented researchers in Leeds to interface with industry and academia to impact diagnosis and ultimately benefit patients,” says Professor Cook.” We will build on the excellent work of NIHR DEC (Leeds) moving forward to generating more successful interactions and outcomes"

NIHR Leeds IVD Co-operative is one of 11 MICs established nationwide to build expertise and capacity in the NHS to develop new medical technologies and provide evidence on commercially-supplied in vitro diagnostic (IVD) tests. In particular, NIHR Leeds IVD Co-operative will continue to focus on catalysing the generation of high quality evidence on commercially-supplied IVDs that is required by the NHS, industry and other organisations.

Funding will continue for five years, enabling the MICS to act as centres of expertise, bringing together patients, clinicians, researchers, health commissioners and industry.

Dr Louise Wood, Director of Science, Research and Evidence at the Department of Health, said: “The funding received by the 11 NIHR Medtech and In Vitro Diagnostic Co-operatives will make a real difference to patients’ lives and provide a focal point for the medtech and in vitro diagnostic industries to develop new technologies and generate the evidence needed by the NHS to support the uptake of new tests.”

Read more at the NIHR website.

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In response to a report by Sir John Bell to the UK government, Sir John Chisholm, Executive Chair of Genomics England said:

“Genomics England welcomes Sir John Bell’s report to government from the life sciences sector – recognising as it does the critical role that genomics will play in the future health, well-being and economic prosperity of this country.

The UK has been quick to act on the opportunities of genomics, with significant investment in the 100,000 Genomes Project – harnessing the world’s biggest integrated healthcare system to deliver the world’s largest national sequencing project. Today’s report gives us the blueprint to build on our global lead in genomic science to drive NHS transformation, improve health outcomes and realise material economic benefits for UK plc.”

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Industry proposals to help the UK’s life sciences sector become an international benchmark for success were unveiled by Professor Sir John Bell during a speech at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Translational Medicine on 30 August 2017.

Attended by Business Secretary Greg Clark and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Sir John Bell outlined the industry’s vision for how government can work alongside the sector to boost businesses large and small across the £64 billion life sciences sector.

In the government’s Industrial Strategy green paper, launched in January, life sciences was one of five of the UK’s leading sectors tasked with working with stakeholders across the industry to identify opportunities for how government can support the industry.

The industry-led Life Sciences Industrial Strategy follows Sir John Bell’s comprehensive cross-sector review into the long-term future of the industry and brings together input and recommendations from a broad range of stakeholders, including global companies such as AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson, MSD, GSK and healthcare groups, SMEs and charities.

The report’s recommendations will be considered carefully by the government and used to work towards a sector deal between government and the global life sciences sector.

Sir John Bell said:

The vision for the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy is an ambitious one and sets out proposals for how the UK can continue to capitalise on its strengths in the sector, both to encourage economic growth and to improve health outcomes for patients.

We have created a strategy which capitalises on our strong science base to further build the industry into a globally-unique and internationally competitive life sciences eco-system, supported by collaboration across industry, government, the NHS, academia, and research funders to deliver health and wealth.

I look forward to working with government to consider the strategy’s recommendations, including those that can be taken forward as part of an ambitious sector deal.

From a cross-section of industry and trade association members of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Board:

We welcome the publication of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, led by Sir John Bell. The Strategy and Board demonstrate the breadth and vibrancy of the life sciences ecosystem in the UK, the importance of collaboration across the sector, the critical role of the NHS in delivering the development and use of new medical technologies, and the contribution of our sector to the UK economy.

The Strategy provides a holistic and collaborative framework to realise the many exciting opportunities in the future of life sciences in the UK and is a positive first step to cementing the success of our sector.

This should provide the springboard for any sector deal for the life sciences sector, including the NHS and other stakeholders; this will be vital to ensuring that the recommendations set out in this Strategy are fully implemented.

As the UK leaves the EU, collaboration with, and support from government is more important than ever to maintaining the UK’s position as a global life sciences ecosystem.

The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, a report to the government from the life sciences sector, is organised under 5 key themes – science, growth, NHS, data, and skills – with proposals to build on the UK’s strengths in each area. These include:

  • Science – Reinforcing the UK science offer by sustaining and increasing funding for basic science to match our international competition and by further improving UK clinical trial capabilities
  • Growth – Improving growth and infrastructure across the country, through a tax environment that supports growth and by attracting substantial investment to manufacture and export high value life science products of the future
  • NHS – Encouraging NHS collaboration by recommending the Accelerated Access Review be adopted with national routes to market streamlined and clarified, including for digital products
  • Data – Making better use of data and other evidence by establishing 2 to 5 regional innovation hubs that would provide data across regions of 3 to 5 million people.
  • Skills – Ensuring the UK has the talent and skills to underpin future life sciences success by delivering a reinforced skills action plan across the NHS, commercial and third sectors

The Strategy also recommends the establishment of the Healthcare Advanced Research Program (HARP), a programme through which industries, charities and the NHS can collaborate on ambitious and long-term UK-based projects to transform healthcare and take advantage of the medical trends of the next 20 years.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

The UK has always been at the forefront of scientific excellence. From the discovery of antibiotics to our world-leading 100,000 Genomes project, we have a proud history of medical breakthrough and innovation.

I want patients to continue to be at the front of the queue for the best treatments available, whether that means early access to trials, giving staff brand new innovations and technology to work with, or being at the heart of research to share best practice quickly across the health and social care system. A strong and growing life sciences sector ensures this, particularly as we negotiate our exit from the EU.

In welcoming the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, the Health Secretary is also announcing £14 million funding to support 11 medical technology research centres to encourage collaboration between the NHS and industry in developing and bringing new technologies to patients through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). This will mean patients will continue to benefit from new technologies which will help to improve diagnosis and get them the treatment they need quickly.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

The life sciences sector is of critical importance to the UK economy and UK health – with over 5,000 companies, nearly 235,000 employees and a turnover of £64 billion in 2016 – and the government is committed to continuing to help this sector go from strength to strength.

The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy demonstrates the world-class expertise the UK already has in this sector and represents the industry’s vision for how we can build on our world-leading reputation in this field.

We will be engaging with Sir John Bell in the coming months in an effort to work towards a sector deal that helps us seize the opportunities in this area.

Chief Executive of Innovate UK, Dr Ruth McKernan, added:

I know from my own experience that the UK is a world leader in life sciences. These new proposals underline our strength and will keep the nation at the cutting edge. At Innovate UK, we look forward to playing a key role in its delivery.

Working with the research community and exciting companies, with equally exciting ideas, we will drive innovation to create new jobs and deliver greater productivity.

At the launch of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, the Business Secretary reiterated government’s commitment to the sector, announcing the first phase of the government’s investment in life sciences through the Industrial Strategy, with £146 million for leading-edge healthcare, which is expected to leverage more than £250 million of private funding from industry.

This investment, part of the government’s flagship Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, will be spread over 4 years and covers 5 major projects supporting advanced therapies, advanced medicines and vaccines development and manufacturing. These projects are:

  • Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre: A £13 million competition to establish a new centre, in partnership with industry, that will accelerate the adoption of emerging and novel manufacturing technologies
  • Vaccines Development and Manufacturing Centre: To develop and manufacture vaccines for clinical trials and prepare for emergency epidemic threats, government is investing £66 million in a new centre of excellence
  • Advanced Therapies Treatment Centre £30 million investment in 3 new sites will help establish a network of centres, based in hospitals, that will transform the UK’s ability to develop and deliver cell and gene therapies to a large number of patients
  • Expanding the Cell and Gene Therapy Manufacturing Centre: Enhancing the UK’s offer in the fast-moving field of cell and gene therapy by investing £12 million in doubling the capacity of the Cell and Gene Therapy Centre in Stevenage
  • Research and Development to support innovation at the manufacturing centres: Through a new collaborative scheme, the government is investing £25 million to support SMEs working in this sector and boost innovation

Government has increased investment in research and development over the next 4 years by £4.7 billion to create jobs and raise living standards through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The Business Secretary has announced that the first £1 billion of investment is being made in 6 key areas in 2017 to 2018, driving progress and innovation that will create opportunities for businesses and sectors across the UK.

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The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has released for public consultation a concept paper on the development and lifecycle of personalised medicines and companion diagnostics that measure predictive biomarkers which help to assess the most likely response to a particular treatment. The concept paper is the first step in the preparation of a guideline that will address the development challenges of personalised medicines with companion diagnostics. Interested parties should submit comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 15 November 2017 using this template.

There is no common definition of personalised medicine, but in the context of this guidance the term refers to the targeted use of a treatment in a patient on the basis of the individual’s characteristics and genetic makeup and the understanding of how the treatment works.

The choice of a personalised medicine relies on the use of a companion diagnostic, a diagnostic medical device which allows identifying patients who are most likely to benefit from a specific medicine. The device can also identify patients who are likely to be at increased risk of serious adverse reactions as a result of treatment with the associated medicine. It is very important to clarify how evidence to support the validation of a companion diagnostic can be generated during the development of a medicine.

While EMA does not issue recommendations on companion diagnostics, the recently revised European Union (EU) legislation on in vitro diagnostic medical devices1foresees cooperation between medicines regulators and EU notified bodies, which conduct the conformity assessment of medical devices in the EU, in the evaluation of new companion diagnostics to obtain the CE label2.

The future guideline will replace the existing reflection paper on co-development of pharmacogenomics markers and assays in the context of drug development.

Learn more at the EMA website.

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Building on the MRC’s strong track record in establishing innovative collaborations with industry, the MRC has formed partnerships with two global pharmaceutical companies, UCBand AstraZeneca.

The deals will help speed translation of discovery research into potential therapies by giving academic researchers the chance to use industry infrastructure and expertise to further their discovery science research.

One of the partnerships gives researchers the chance to apply for unprecedented access to AstraZeneca’s high-throughput screening drug discovery capabilities at the MRC/AstraZeneca Centre for Lead Discovery.

High-throughput screening is a tool that has been used by industry for decades to search for small molecules with potential for use as future therapies. Developments in robotics and technology mean that facilities can now screen more than 300,000 compounds per day, helping to make the process of drug discovery smarter, faster and cheaper.

Successful applicants will have access to AstraZeneca’s drug discovery robotics platform (NiCoLA-B) and a high-quality, chemically-diverse compound collection of over two million compounds.

The other opportunity is the UCB Antibody Discovery Initiative.Scientists can apply for access to their cutting-edge technologies to discover therapeutic antibodies. Several early steps in the process are now automated to expand the capacity, increase the speed and improve the consistency of the antibody discovery process.

Biologics, including therapeutic antibodies, are becoming increasingly important in the treatment of disease. 30 years on from commercial development of the first therapeutic monoclonal antibody, by Sir Greg Winter at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, monoclonal antibodies are used to treat a wide range of diseases, including cancer and autoimmune conditions.

These new opportunities complement many existing ground-breaking MRC-industry partnerships. The world-leading MRC-Industry Asset Sharing Initiative involves access to deprioritised molecules of six global pharmaceutical companies. The pioneering Stratified Medicine Initiative has funded 13 consortia to date, leading to exciting and successful collaborations between 34 UK universities and more than 40 biopharmaceutical companies, ranging from small biotechs to pharma giants.

Neil Weir, Head of Discovery Research at UCB, said: “UCB is committed to increasing our collaborative networks to accelerate scientific discovery. We want to facilitate industry-academic interaction to generate potential therapeutics to benefit patients suffering with severe diseases. This joint initiative with the MRC is a world-leading collaboration between academia and industry with the aim of enhancing the pace of new drug discovery and improving patient outcomes”.

Mark Wigglesworth, Director of High Throughput Screening at AstraZeneca, said: “AstraZeneca is committed to creating a truly innovative and collaborative research environment and this first-of-its-kind initiative will enable our teams to work side by side with world-leading MRC scientists. AstraZeneca and the MRC share the same passion to push the boundaries of science to accelerate drug discovery and the development of new medicines here in the UK.”

Chris Watkins, Director of Innovation at the MRC, said: “We are really excited to have negotiated these industry-led collaborations that bring together the best UK-based scientists with the best technology in UK-based industry. Through access to AstraZeneca and UCB’s state-of-the-art technology we are hoping that these collaborations will enable scientists to deepen their understanding of disease, identify new therapeutic targets and kick-start the search for new medicines. We also hope they will strengthen links between academics and industry. The MRC continues to explore innovative new ways of working with industry to achieve our mission of improving human health through world-class medical research.”

Learn more at the MRC website.

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