Will become the MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre and receive £10m over five years
The London 2012 anti-doping facilities provided by GlaxoSmithKline and operated by King’s College London during the Olympic and Paralympic Games are to be turned after the Games into a resource that could help revolutionise healthcare.
The MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre, to be funded over five years by an investment of £5m each from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Department of Health’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), will use the facilities to help develop better and more targeted treatment for patients.
The Centre, the first of its kind in the world, will enable researchers to explore the characteristics of disease to develop new drugs and treatments.
A phenome describes a person’s chemistry – all the molecules in their blood, urine or tissues – that are the result of their genetics and their lifestyle. This mixture of molecules is changing all the time and is influenced by factors such as diet, environment and even stress levels. It is linked to how a person responds to disease or to treatments such as drugs.
Researchers at the Centre will investigate the phenome patterns of patients and volunteers by analysing samples – usually blood or urine – rapidly and on an unprecedented scale. This will help them discover new ‘biomarkers’ to explain why one individual or population may be more susceptible to a disease than another. This knowledge will aid scientists in finding new, safer and more targeted treatments.
The MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre will be led by a collaboration of academic partners, headed by Imperial College London, and Bruker and Waters Corporation, suppliers of nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry equipment, respectively.
Professor Sir John Savill, chief executive of the MRC, said: ‘The GSK drug testing facility at Harlow, Essex has taken one of the major challenges associated with this type of research – achieving high-throughput alongside forensic quality control – to a new level, unprecedented anywhere in the world. Rather than losing this investment once the Games are over, the collaboration – involving the MRC, NIHR, UK universities, the NHS and NIHR Biomedical Research Centres, and industry leaders in the field – will provide a unique resource that will ultimately result in benefits for patients. This is a phenomenal legacy from the Games.’
Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, added: ‘This research Centre will transform our understanding of people’s physical characteristics and disease, and enable us to pull through these discoveries into real benefits for patients. The advances that will be made by the researchers will help develop new treatments, including treatments specially tailored for the individual. This has the potential to revolutionise the way in which we treat a wide-range of diseases.’