Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman has announced a further $20.6 million investment in stratified medicine collaborations funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC). Four new awards bring the total of stratified medicine consortia funded by the MRC to 13, with investments totaling over $21 million—part of the government’s $195.4 million commitment to stratified medicine set out in the U.K. life sciences strategy.
Stratified medicine research uses diagnostic tests or techniques to group patients within a disease area through their genes or by their symptoms. This enables doctors to provide more targeted treatment for patients based on their risk of disease or how they are expected to respond to treatment.
As well as the benefit for patients and those who treat them, this approach has benefits for industry because of the potential for more efficient therapeutic development—as well as the market expansion for new treatments. The 13 collaborations have attracted more than 50 small, medium and large pharmaceutical and biotechnology partners from across the U.K. and also from Europe, the U.S. and wider afield, including China and Japan.
The consortia also include 32 academic partners and a number of charities. Two charities—Cancer Research U.K. and the British Heart Foundation—have co-funded collaborations in this round, and Arthritis Research U.K. helped fund one of the initiatives already announced.
The consortia funded in this round cover a spectrum of diseases from the rare condition Systemic Lupus Erythematosus to more common conditions affecting millions of patients.
Previous MRC stratified medicine partnerships have used the approach to develop diagnostic tools and treatment strategies in rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis C, schizophrenia and primary biliary cirrhosis.
Freeman said, “Since the launch of our U.K. strategy for life sciences in 2011 the industry has agreed over $5.3 billion of investment in the U.K., which is expected to create over 11,000 jobs. In the wider context, Ernst & Young’s State of the Nation report in October showed that U.K. life science companies raised $1,103.2 million of innovation capital in the first half of 2014, surpassing the $726 million raised in the whole of 2013, and figures just released show that $2.3 billion in innovation capital was raised in the U.K. over the whole year.”
Professor Sir John Savill, the MRC’s chief executive, said, “The goal of stratified medicine is to provide patients with the best treatments by ensuring that existing medicines are targeted at those who will derive most benefit but also by accelerating the development of new therapies. Achieving this goal requires partnerships that harness the diverse mix of knowledge, expertise and commitment of academia, industry and patients.
“Here in the U.K., we’re ideally placed to be at the forefront of this field because we can combine excellence in research with access to some of the highest quality clinical resources and data in the world,” said Savill. “This is attracting small, medium and large companies from across the U.K. and internationally to partner with us. The consortia we are supporting are keen to work with new partners and we shall be considering further disease areas that might benefit from this approach.”