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Establishing a new Precision Medicine Accelerator

by Guest Author on 23 Dec 2019

Early in the new year, we’re launching a scheme to help speed up progress in translational research – and take research from the lab to the clinic faster. Here, our Clinical Director Professor Patrick Chinnery tells us more about the plans.

An independent report, published in September 2019, showed that our funding schemes for translational research – building on basic research to create new therapeutics and diagnostics – have been boosting the UK’s life sciences industry since we introduced them in 2008.

We commissioned the report to determine if these funding schemes had delivered innovation into health care and strengthened the return on investment from discovery research. We were pleased to find that the report showed the schemes had been successful.

Importance of sustained funding

The findings highlighted the cultural impact of sustained funding for translational research programmes, beyond directly supporting the development of innovative products and successful spin-out companies. The report highlighted the growing prominence of MRC translational programmes within UK academia, with a growing pool of experts with translational experience enabled by visible support for exciting careers for translational scientists and pathways for commercial investment.

To build on these successes, our Council has just endorsed the establishment of a new UKRI-MRC ‘Precision Medicine Accelerator’, to launch in early 2020. This new framework will immediately reconfigure our clinical-translational portfolio to enhance the pull-through of the most exciting ideas emerging from our four Scientific Discovery Boards into early clinical application in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

There will be an increased focus on mechanistic studies in human participants, with regular calls for proposals support research to understand disease pathways and discover how new treatments work. Funding in three crucial areas, interventional mechanistic studies (to better understand how interventions work), preclinical and early clinical refinement (currently supported by the MRC’s Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme) and then early clinical validation of new therapies and diagnostic tool (aligned to the MRC-NIHR Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme), will be overseen by an over-arching panel of experts.

Accelerating progress

As well as making funding recommendations, the panel will give strategic guidance to applicants across the whole translational landscape – from proof of concept through early product development. Our annual ‘Confidence in Concept’ competitions for devolved funds will be enhanced, breaking down roadblocks to translation and enabling UK Universities to quickly and flexibly support the best projects as they emerge.

With other UK funders, both in England and the devolved administrations, we’ll take advantage of our infrastructure to enable transformative redefinitions of disease, with precise subgroups of patients tied to targeted treatment development, harnessing whole genome sequencing and bringing precision medicine to the heart of what we do. With the new investment we will accelerate progress towards transformational treatments, directly addressing our mission of improving human health through world-class medical research.

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