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UK Universities Awarded £16M to Develop MDx Tools

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The UK's Medicare Research Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council this week announced £16 million ($24.9 million) to fund six nodes developing molecular diagnostic tools for stratifying patients. 

The nodes are led by the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow,  Leicester, Manchester, Newcastle, and Nottingham. Collaborating with industry and clinicians, researchers at the universities will develop MDx tools that can be used to stratify patients based on their response to certain therapies. The disease areas of focus include cancer, respiratory illnesses, digestive ailments, infectious diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and lupus, MRC said. 

"Advances in medical genetics and the use of data are making it possible to design a new generation of stratified and precision medicines which work more effectively with fewer side effects in more targeted groups of patients," Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman said in a statement. He added the investment will enhance the UK's ability to deliver new diagnostic technologies while complementing efforts such as the Precision Medicine Catapult "to make sure that groundbreaking medicines and technology are adopted by the [National Health Service] and delivered to patients as quickly as possible." 

Among the six nodes, the University of Edinburgh is receiving £2 million to integrate genomic and epigenomic technologies to diagnose acutely sick children. It also will develop liquid biopsies to analyze circulating tumor DNA. 

The University of Glasgow is being awarded £3.4 million to create a center for molecular diagnostics research, discovery, and development. 

Also, the University of Leicester is receiving £2.5 million to develop breath-analysis tests that may be useful in diagnosing cancers, respiratory infections, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 

The University of Manchester will use a £2.9 million award to develop biomarker tests, initially to help determine the most appropriate therapies for diseases including inflammatory conditions and to evaluate response to treatment. 

Newcastle University will use a £2.7 million grant to develop tests for rare and chronic diseases. It will also help train molecular pathologists in the delivery of precision medicine. 

Lastly, the University of Nottingham is being awarded £2.4 million to discover biomarkers for a range of diseases, in particular, those that affect the digestive and respiratory systems and the liver. The biomarkers will help clinicians pick the best treatments for their patients.