UK Government commits over £30m to cutting edge medical advances


Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council will deliver the funding through the BioMedical Catalyst

Life-saving drugs for patients in the UK have moved a step closer following the announcement of investments totalling more than £30m in emerging new treatments and technologies.

Prime Minister David Cameron pledged that Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC) would deliver the new money through rounds five and six of the BioMedical Catalyst (BMC), part of the Government’s Life Sciences Strategy.

Twenty-nine companies and universities from London to Edinburgh now have the funding they need to develop further new medicines, diagnostics or devices to tackle healthcare challenges.

Innovate UK is providing just over £15m across 16 separate business-led projects, while the MRC has also awarded over £15m to 13 academic-led projects at UK universities.

London-based Modern Biosciences, for example, has received £2.4m to invest in a revolutionary new treatment to reduce swelling in rheumatoid arthritis, and Cambridge-based Domainex has been awarded nearly £1.4m towards the development of a new treatment for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

These investments demonstrate just how many businesses and universities across the country are developing life-saving treatments

Dr Sam Williams, Chief Executive of Modern Biosciences, said: 'We are delighted to be offered a second award under the Biomedical Catalyst initiative and we are grateful to Innovate UK for its support. Our first award from Innovate UK allowed us to take our rheumatoid arthritis programme to a point at which we can enter clinical studies, and this further award will now enable us to demonstrate the utility of the drugs in patients.'

Eddy Littler, Chief Executive at Domainex, said: 'Domainex is delighted to receive this award, which will enable our COPD programme to advance until regulatory studies. We are now evaluating ways to progress this first-in-class COPD drug into the clinic.'

Heptares Therapeutics, meanwhile, based in Welwyn Garden City has received £1.5m for pre-clinical development of a novel oral therapy for treating severe hypoglycaemia in rare diseases.

Malcolm Weir, Heptares' Chief Executive, said: 'The Biomedical Catalyst grant, combined with our expertise in structure-based drug design and the disease expertise of our academic partners, provides a powerful driver to advance our discovery and pre-clinical development programme to develop a novel oral therapy for severe hypoglycaemia in rare diseases.'

Cambridge-based PhoreMost has won funding of nearly £1.4m to optimise the potency and selectivity of a promising new class of drug candidate for pancreatic cancer. The company has developed a new technology called ‘Protein interference’ that can systematically identify the best new targets for tackling highly complex diseases, such as cancer.

On the academia side, in Scotland, scientists from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, at the University of Edinburgh, have been awarded an initial £2m to carry out the world’s first clinical trial using a new type of cell therapy to treat liver cirrhosis.

Scientists at the University of Oxford have been awarded £1m to tackle the challenge of delivering gene therapy to Huntington’s disease patients.

In addition, Dr Mike Murphy from the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit and colleagues Dr Thomas Krieg (University of Cambridge) and Professor Raimondo Ascione (University of Bristol) will use their grant of nearly £800,000 to build on previous MRC funding to develop an experimental compound into a drug that could protect the vital organs from damage following a heart attack.

This new awards announcement builds on the 23 separate feasibility awards totalling over £3m, made earlier this year, and brings the BMC’s total investment since opening in 2012 to more than £200m. In that time it has supported innovation from some 250 small and medium companies and universities, and attracted an additional £100m in private investment.

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Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman said: 'These investments demonstrate just how many businesses and universities across the country are developing life-saving treatments while adding real value and vitality to their regional economies. With Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council, we are helping ensure this industry has a global reach built on solid local success.'