Medical Research Council invests nearly £14m in new stratified medicine initiatives

Will investigate targeted treatments for lupus, cancer, heart disease and asthma

The UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) is to fund four new stratified or personalised medicine collaborations to the tune of £13.7m, the UK's Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman, has announced.

These collaborations will bring together UK universities, the NHS and commercial partners to investigate targeted treatments for the rare condition Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, as well as more common conditions such as cancer, heart disease and asthma.

The MRC has now funded 13 projects, with investment totalling more than £52m. They have attracted more than 50 small, medium and large pharmaceutical and biotechnology partners across the UK, Europe, and the US, as well as in China and Japan.

The collaborations also include 32 academic partners and a number of charities. Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation have co-funded projects in this funding round, with Arthritis Research UK helping to fund one of the initiatives already announced.

Previous MRC stratified medicine partnerships have used the approach to develop diagnostic tools and treatment strategies in rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis C, schizophrenia and primary biliary cirrhosis.

The goal of stratified medicine is to provide patients with the best treatments

Freeman said: 'Since the launch of our UK Strategy for Life Sciences in 2011 the industry has agreed over £3.5bn of investment in the UK, which is expected to create more than 11,000 jobs. In the wider context, Ernst & Young’s State of the Nation report in October showed that UK life-science companies raised £734m of innovation capital in the first half of 2014, surpassing the £483m raised in the whole of 2013, and figures just released show that £1.5bn in innovation capital was raised in the UK over the whole year.

MRC Chief Executive Professor Sir John Savill said: 'The goal of stratified medicine is to provide patients with the best treatments by ensuring that existing medicines are targeted at those who will derive most benefit but also by accelerating the development of new therapies. Achieving this goal requires partnerships that harness the diverse mix of knowledge, expertise and commitment of academia, industry and patients.

'Here in the UK, we’re ideally placed to be at the forefront of this field because we can combine excellence in research with access to some of the highest quality clinical resources and data in the world.'