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Research

Background

The MRC’s Precision Medicine Initiative began in 2010 and continues to be a major part of our research strategy, with a commitment of  £75 million to fund a range of research consortia.

The overall aim of the Initiative is to improve our understanding of how to tailor treatments and interventions to the individual needs of people living with a wide range of diseases and conditions. The MRC is coordinating its activities in this area with other charities and funding bodies including Innovate UK, the National Institute of Health Research, the UK Health Departments, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Arthritis Research UK.

Stratification, underpinned by a sound understanding of disease, will also enable us to pin point novel targets for the development of new treatments and biomarkers that tell us more about disease progression and response to treatment within appropriate patient groups.

The MRC/Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Inflammation and Immunity Initiative pilot programmes were launched in 2011 and following on from this, the MRC adopted a disease-focused approach to its Precision Medicine Initiative.

The initiative’s first call was in 2012. The consortia funded via this call aim to identify and analyse patients to better direct therapy and to gain a deeper understanding of the differing mechanisms of disease and treatment responses. The success of these consortia is based on a multidisciplinary approach, drawing on the expertise of scientists, industry and patient charities, underpinned by the infrastructure of the NHS and the commitment of patients.

In July 2013, the MRC held a stratified medicine strategy workshop, to consider how the field’s opportunities and needs had developed. The goal of the workshop was to assess whether - and how - the MRC’s precision medicine strategy, might need amending in order to keep the UK at the forefront of this rapidly developing field. The workshop report (PDF, 1.38MB) contains the workshop background, recommendations and a synopsis of presentations.

In the initiative’s second call, held in 2014, we built on lessons learnt from the success of the pilot programmes and first call. We sought to develop additional UK-wide consortia, each focused on a specific disease area, in order to develop a deeper understanding of the mechanisms underpinning stratification.

The third call was held in 2017, where the remit of the call was broadened beyond stratification by response to treatment to include stratification by risk, diagnosis and/or prognosis. MRC, with co-funding from Cancer Research UK and Arthritis Research UK, supported a further four consortia which had shown a strong case for scientific advancement and major clinical unmet need: paediatric arthritis; prostate cancer; alcoholic hepatitis; and renal disease.