UK government announces £50m funding for personalised medicine

15 Oct 2010

The Stratified Medicines Innovation Platform is a new government initiative providing over £50 million of funding for research and development in diagnostics and pharmaceuticals for personalised medicine.

The first competitions for funds, worth up to £11 million, will open in January 2011.

The Innovation Platform will initially focus on two specific areas:

  • tumour profiling in cancer, with an initial focus on breast, lung, colorectal, prostate, ovarian and skin cancers and associated technologies; and
  • biomarker implementation to provide validated tests for predicting responses to marketed drugs, or drugs in development, in health conditions of clinical and commercial importance to the UK.

The Technology Strategy Board, together with the Department of Health, the Scottish Government Health Directorates, the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is to bring the government, researchers and business together in a major initiative that will place the UK at the centre of a revolution in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Launching the initiative at the Innovate10 networking and innovation event in London this week, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "Tailoring medicines to patients is a key challenge for the $750 billion global pharmaceutical market. The UK possesses many strengths needed to accelerate the innovation of stratified medicines and lead the world in developing medicines targeted at smaller subgroups of patients. Today I am announcing a major new collaborative programme to bring together the private sector, researchers and policymakers to achieve this vision and help to rebalance the economy."

The aim of the new Innovation Platform is to place the UK at the centre of a new era of molecular-based healthcare by catalysing the commercial application of new technologies for diagnosing and treating disease. This will provide business, health and economic benefits to the UK in a competitive global market. It will also help the pharma industry to develop an increased number of more effective drugs targeted at smaller patient groups, the diagnostics industry to develop further the companion diagnostic tests that underpin this, and the healthcare providers to improve their cost effectiveness.

Building on the UK’s commercial and academic strengths, the assets of the National Health Service and the close liaison between research and policy, the Stratified Medicines Innovation Platform will focus initially on therapeutic areas that present a challenge to healthcare providers, are ready for a stratified approach and that provide a significant market opportunity.

Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “This is one of the most important programmes that Cancer Research UK has ever been involved in. We need to start work now to ensure that the NHS is ready to deal with the new generation of targeted treatments that are emerging. Through this project, we’ll have a wealth of genetic information in two years that could be used to develop the personalised cancer drugs of the future. Most importantly, cancer patients will have access to the best possible technology to help determine which treatments are best for them.”

Richard Barker, Director General of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said: "We have campaigned strongly for the UK to take a leadership role in this new era of personalised medicine, so we are absolutely delighted that the Technology Strategy Board is giving this initiative such strong support. The aim of Stratified (or Personalised) medicines is to use advanced life science technology to bring the right medicine to the right patient at the right time. This initiative will address some of the remaining barriers, such as co-development of medicines and companion diagnostics, to make this a reality for patients, here and around the world. It is a great example of the UK's vibrant life sciences sector pulling together to create growth strategies for Britain's future."

John Jeans, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council (MRC), said: “The MRC welcomes news of this major new investment by the Technology Strategy Board. Targeting treatments to find out which patients are most likely to benefit is a key issue not just for patients but for the NHS and healthcare providers globally.

"Building on a joint initiative with the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries ABPI, the MRC is working with TSB on the stratification of treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and rheumatoid arthritis and we look forward to extending this collaboration under the new Innovation Platform. Establishing how stratified treatments can best be developed and delivered is an important role for the innovative and world-leading UK biomedical research base, helping to make the UK the number one destination for industry investment.”


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