Gentronix Ltd., Manchester UK, has been awarded a grant of £147,552 by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Technology Strategy Board under the joint £180 million Biomedical Catalyst programme.
The project funded by the award will look at the feasibility of developing a screening assay for compounds that may cause cancer as a result of epigenetic mechanisms.
Before being approved for use, chemicals such as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and consumer products have to be tested for genetic toxicity i.e. their potential to change the DNA sequence or the number of chromosomes in a cell.
Exposure to genotoxic chemicals can lead to the development of cancers. They can be identified by routine screening tests used by laboratories such as Gentronix.
There are also non-genotoxic carcinogens that alter patterns of gene expression without changing the number or sequence of chromosomes.
There are currently no widely used screening tests available for these and they might only be identified in later animal exposure studies, which are time consuming, costly and come quite late in product development - an expensive time to fail.
Epigenetics is a relatively new field, concerned with the regulation of genes by chromosome modifications which don’t change the DNA sequence or chromosome numbers.
Epigenetic changes can also lead to the development of cancers and it is this aspect of early toxicology screening that the team at Gentronix Ltd., led by Chief Scientist, Prof. Richard Walmsley will be looking to address under the award.
Gentronix CEO, John Nicholson said “Gentronix has an excellent track record of innovation, and though as a growing company we have to balance innovative research with customer priorities, the award of this grant gives us the opportunity to carry out important fundamental research; the results of which will allow us to make informed decisions about the commercial potential of an epigenetics-based assay as well as making a contribution to the science of genetics”.