The Strategy for UK Life Sciences: One Year On report summarises the progress made in the 12 months since the strategy was launched and also announces a number of new measures, including a £20 million investment in regenerative medicine as part of the £600m science capital funding unveiled in the Government’s Autumn Statement earlier this month.
Among the successes has been the establishment of the MRC/Technology Strategy Board Biomedical Catalyst, which so far has committed £49m to 64 projects. This will leverage at least £25m of private sector funding. The Catalyst is designed to support academics and businesses to explore the market potential of their early-stage scientific ideas, and accelerate the development of innovative solutions to healthcare challenges.
The update also highlights recent MRC funding of £7m for 15 research projects awarded through its groundbreaking ‘compound collaboration’ with AstraZeneca. This was the first scheme of its kind, and gave scientists access to 22 AstraZeneca compounds which are now being used by academics to study a broad range of conditions from diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer and lung disease through to rarer conditions such as motor neurone disease and muscular dystrophies. In November 2012, this ground-breaking initiative won ‘Best Partnership Alliance’ at the annual SCRIP Awards event in London.
Other initiatives by the MRC included in the One Year On report are:
• An investment of £60m over three years through the MRC Experimental Medicine Challenge Grants. A large number of outline applications have been received and 30 full-stage applications are now being assessed through rigorous international peer review.
• £9.6m provided for the expansion of UK Biobank. This will include 8,000 brain scans, and one project aims to help scientists discover why some people develop dementia and others do not.
• An investment of £10.6m in three large-scale collaborative awards under the MRC’s Stratified Medicine Initiative. These stratified medicine consortia will tackle diseases which have a huge impact on patient’s lives – rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis C and a rare condition called Gaucher disease. This builds on £11.5 investment in pilot consortia focusing on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes (the MASTERMIND consortia).
• A joint commitment by the MRC, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to jointly invest £25m over five years to maximise the potential of the Cell Therapy Catapult.
• A consortium of 10 UK government and charity research funders led by the MRC has awarded £19m to four e-health research Centres of Excellence based in London, Manchester, Dundee and Swansea.
• The MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre, which will analyse thousands of samples of blood, urine and tissue to discover how our genes interact with our environment to cause and affect the course of disease, will open at Imperial College London in 2013.