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UK Plans $240M in Capital Funding for Stratified Medicine, Genomics, Biomed Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The UK's Medical Research Council plans to invest more than £150 million ($241 million) to beef up its national clinical research chops in key areas by funding the acquisition and development of new technologies, MRC said yesterday.

The technologies being targeted by the funding are to be aimed at advancing methods of genomic research and studying diseases in humans, as well as for stratifying diseases.

The investment will support clinical research innovation, including funding new technologies and facilities for use in clinical research and bolstering translational partnerships between researchers and industry.

The funding call centers on supporting technologies for research in three fields: stratified and experimental medicine, single cell-level functional genomics, and dementia research.

MRC also wants applicants to seek out or create partnerships with industry and with existing clinical research infrastructures, such as the National Institute for Health Research’s Biomedical Research Centres and Units, Genomics England, and similar health department entities.

These investments will be managed as components of a national research base, MRC said, and will support technologies that are interoperable. Sharing and access arrangements will be required for these regional and national capabilities.

The first core investment area, which MRC expects to receive the most funding, will include innovative technologies for stratified and experimental medicine, including clinical sensing and imaging and ex vivo analysis tools. These will include molecular tools and technologies for characterization and diagnostics, including genomics and proteomics, that could be used to advance stratification and experimental studies in humans; the integration of next-generation tools for clinical research, such as MRI, PET, or implanted monitoring tools; and for ex vivo analysis of samples, remote sensing of physiological functions, and real-time visualization of biomedical processes.

These awards will provide up to £20 million per project.

MRC will provide up to £5 million per proposal to support single-cell functional genomics technologies. These investments will focus on funding equipment for analyzing single-cell genomics, expression and proteomics, and cell isolation, tracking, and molecular imaging.

The aim of these investments will be to support new tools and platforms for understanding pathology at the cellular and molecular level in the following priority areas — molecular analyses of heterogeneous phenotypes in rare diseases; the evolution of genetic and molecular changes in cancer tumor cell populations; tissue regeneration and new cell therapy approaches; and human immune responses to infections and immunotherapy. These projects will be expected to have a strong focus on clinical research, MRC said.

MRC also will provide capital funding focused on supporting research associated with the UK Dementia Platform, including enhancing facilities for imaging, high-throughput phenotyping, and cell modeling. Specifics on the dementia funding call, which will support awards of up to £15 million, will be announced in April 2014.