The University of Manchester has been awarded £24 million to tackle dementia, improve clinical sample testing and improve our understanding of basic cell biology, Chancellor George Osborne announced today.
The funding for the University is part of a total package of £230 million designed to support innovation in clinical research across three areas – stratified medicine, dementia and single cell functional genomics.
Manchester has been successful in all three areas of the new scheme, overseen by the Medical Research Council (MRC), including an individual award of £13 million to set up a Clinical Proteomics Centre.
This new facility will be able to measure many proteins within a sample – such as blood, urine, or from tissue such as a tumour biopsy – in a single step. These techniques will allow clinical researchers to see the differences between samples from, for example, healthy people and people with a specific disease – giving opportunities for earlier treatment and better understanding of who will respond to specific drugs.
In addition, measuring the effects of these drugs will, in the future, help patients by reducing side effects and making it more likely that a patient will benefit from a particular treatment. This will have huge benefits for sufferers of psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, for example and for economic use of medicines.
A further £6 million of capital funding has been awarded to Manchester as part of the UK Dementia Platform (UKDP). The UKDP is a radically new approach to dementia research.
A network of PET/MR scanning facilities across the UK (one in Manchester) will be created to enable studies on the molecular processes in the brain that cause dementia. The UKDP will also bring together as many different types of data as possible and optimise how researchers and clinicians use them.
Manchester will specifically manage projects on physical activity monitoring and in the field of stem cells, the network will take cells from adults with and without dementia to find out how they change as the dementia process begins and progresses.
The third award of £5 million will set up the Manchester Single Cell Research Centre (SCRC). The human body contains trillions of cells of many different types and functions, yet all are descended from the same embryo.
The lack of detailed understanding about their similarities and differences is a huge barrier to the design of all therapies that need to target particular cells within the body. The MRC award will put in place a pipeline from sample collection, through to identification and characterisation of single target cells within each sample, to the design of treatments that target these specific cells.
Researchers will focus on characterising a group of rare cells (called circulating tumour cells, or CTCs) that give rise to drug-resistant cancers such as certain lung cancers, and specific stem cells that can enable the regeneration of damaged tissues such as muscle, joints, skin and blood vessels.
Professor Ian Jacobs, Vice-President and Dean of the University of Manchester’s Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, said: “These awards reflect the breadth of expertise within the University and the way we have organised our research effort to best take advantage of them.
“They will allow our researchers to work on new solutions to some of the biggest health and medical problems in outstanding research facilities.”
Speaking of the awards, Chancellor George Osborne said: “The funding will go to 23 truly innovative projects from across the UK today that represent the best of British ingenuity and scientific exploration. The Government, charities, universities and industry will be working together to advance our knowledge in combatting the biggest medical challenges of our time.”
For more information about the overall funding announcement, please visit the MRC website.