In response to the recommendations, the MRC and EPSRC launched the Molecular Pathology Nodes call in 2014, with the overall aim to increase the capability and capacity of UK molecular diagnostics. Six nodes were funded in 2015, totalling c. £16m.
Each node is a multidisciplinary centre of innovative molecular diagnostic test discovery and development bringing together the research base, pathology/genetic NHS services and industry.
In addition, the nodes are expected to cooperate as a network for the benefit of the UK, through sharing of best practice and assisting in the evaluation and diffusion of next generation tests.
The nodes and network will also complement major investments from others in the field including the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Innovate UK.
The six nodes are based at:
- Edinburgh-St Andrews
Edinburgh-St Andrews Consortium for Molecular Pathology, Informatics and Genome Sciences
Professor Tim Aitman, University of Edinburgh
The main aim of this node will be to train a new generation of molecular pathologists, development of new tests and clinical applications and the creation of new algorithms and standard operating procedures. It will focus on areas of clinical need where genome-based assays will most rapidly enter the clinic, particularly the genetic diagnosis of acutely ill children and babies, genetic diagnosis in foetuses with congenital malformations, inherited subtypes of common diseases in adults, and the diagnosis and monitoring of patients with cancer through development of ‘liquid biopsies’ from cell-free DNA in circulating blood.
Glasgow Molecular Pathology Node
Dr Karin Oien, University of Glasgow
The Glasgow Molecular Pathology Node aims to create a dynamic platform that integrates laboratory medicine, including pathology, and informatics disciplines, which handle and analyse the large datasets which emerge from molecular research. Scientists, pathologists and clinicians will work together to develop and perform new tests, and interpret, deliver and act on results for patient benefit. The vision is to develop new tests to better diagnose patients and guide their best treatment in cancer, inflammatory diseases and in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
East Midlands Breathomics Pathology Node (EMBER)
Professor Chris Brightling, University of Leicester
EMBER will develop novel breath analysis tests to help understand disease processes and clinical decision making. Exhaled breath contains substances known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are derived from the lung and also from more distant organs. The range of clinical conditions for which breath tests could be useful is very large. EMBER will initially focus upon respiratory infections, lung cancer, chronic respiratory disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disorders such as heart failure.
Manchester Molecular Pathology Innovation Centre (MMPathIC)
Professor Tony Freemont, University of Manchester
MMPathIC builds on specific strengths in translational research in inflammatory disease, notably lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, and the significant capital investment already made by the MRC to the Stoller Biomarker Discovery Centre Centre (which links innovative proteomic data to genomics and health records), and capability and breadth exists to work across clinical specialities and ‘omic technologies. The MRC/ EPSRC funding will establish an infrastructure of staff and expertise to build a pipeline which will facilitate the effective translation of markers from discovery research, through to implementation of novel pathology tests in the NHS to enable the expansion of stratified medicine in the clinic.
The Newcastle Proximity Laboratory
Professor Andy Hall, Newcastle University
Building on strengths in discovery science, this node will provide world-class training to a new generation of molecular pathologists, producing a step-change in the delivery of precision medicine. It will prioritise the development of in vitro diagnostics in chronic and rare diseases, ensuring pull-through to industry and clinical practice by using well established links. Initial projects undertaken will build on current expertise in the fields of liver, inflammatory bowel and mitochondrial disease and childhood cancer. In addition, the node will also promote research activity in the fields of biomedical engineering and computing science.
Nottingham Molecular Pathology Node (NMPN)
Professor Alan Knox, University of Nottingham
NMPN aims to create an infrastructure to drive molecular diagnostic biomarker research down the development pathway by utilising molecular pathology/biobanking expertise and integrating computational/bioinformatics expertise. NMPN will develop translational molecular diagnostic capabilities in gastrointestinal/liver and respiratory diseases. The work will lead to the development and clinical application of biomarker/molecular diagnostics and computer modelling algorithms applicable to these diseases and potentially those in other organ systems.