13 Oct 2010   |   News   |   Update from Innovate UK
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UK to set up £50M personalised medicine programme

The UK Technology Strategy Board has set up the Stratified Medicines Innovation Platform to oversee an investment of over £50 million in personalised medicine.

The UK Technology Strategy Board (TSB) has set up the Stratified Medicines Innovation Platform to oversee an investment of over £50 million in personalised medicine, covering areas including tumour profiling and biomarker development.

The first competition for funding, worth up to £11 million, will open in January 2011.

Speaking at the launch of the initiative, Science Minister David Willetts said tailoring medicines to patients is a key challenge for the $750 billion global pharmaceutical market and will lead to the development of medicines targeted at smaller subgroups of patients. “This major new collaborative programme [will] bring together the private sector, researchers and policymakers to achieve this vision.”

The aim of the Innovation Platform is to catalyse the commercial application of new technologies for diagnosing and treating disease. The Department of Health, the Scottish Government Health Directorates, the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will all be involved in the programme.

Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, said it is one of the most important programmes that Cancer Research UK has ever been involved in. “Through this project, we’ll have a wealth of genetic information in two years that could be used to develop the personalised cancer drugs of the future. Most importantly, cancer patients will have access to the best possible technology to help determine which treatments are best for them.”

Richard Barker, Director General of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said the association has been lobbying for the programme to be set up. “This initiative will address some of the remaining barriers, such as co-development of medicines and companion diagnostics, to make this a reality for patients.”

The Innovation Platform will initially focus on three specific areas:

Tumour profiling in cancer, with an initial focus on breast, lung, colorectal, prostate, ovarian and skin cancers and associated technologies.

Up to £5.6 million will be invested in collaborative research and development projects in the area of tumour profiling and data capture to inform cancer care by providing cancer specialists with information specific to the patient’s tumour, which will enable more targeted treatment to be provided.  

The commercial products from this competition will support the aims of Cancer Research UK’s own Cancer Stratified Medicines Programme which aims to demonstrate the benefit of routinely testing up to 6,000 tumour samples as a standardised, cost effective process. Cancer Research UK will organise the collection of samples from consenting patients over the next two years and collate their genetic and clinical data to inform research.  

Biomarker implementation to provide validated tests for predicting responses to marketed drugs, or drugs in development.

Up to £4 million will be invested in developing biomarkers in the area of inflammation and immunology, to predict how groups of patients will respond to inflammation and immunology therapies.  

Developing Business Models and Value Systems. Up to £1.5 million to bring together diagnostics and pharmaceutical companies to determine the best ways to co-develop drugs and companion diagnostics, and the ways in which subsequent reimbursement can be distributed across the value chain.  This should increase the number of stratified treatments that are developed, the speed of their development, and their adoption by healthcare providers. 

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