Health projects awarded £23million

Awarded under the Biomedical Catalyst (BMC) programme jointly run by Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council a series of projects have received £23 million of government funding.

The projects include software which enables radiologists to diagnose breast cancer more effectively and gene therapy to combat kidney disease.

Life Sciences Minister Lord Henley, said: “From new software to diagnose breast cancer to improved gene therapies for children with leukaemia, these projects show the life-changing effect UK research can have.”

“The Biomedical Catalyst programme demonstrates our modern Industrial Strategy in action; supporting businesses to develop innovative products and creating the high-skilled jobs of the future whilst improving the lives of people throughout the country.”

Dr Kath Mackay, Interim Director – Ageing Society, Health & Nutrition, Innovate UK added: “Increasingly, new technologies and treatments are able to address debilitating and chronic conditions that are hard to treat. By continuing to invest in innovation through programmes such as the Biomedical Catalyst, we can continue to transform outcomes for patients and support and grow the UK’s world-leading health sector.”

Nine early stage projects have received total funding of almost £7.5 million. These include:

  • Mammo, Kherion Medical Technologies Ltd – Mammography breast cancer screening software that helps radiologists in the early detection of breast cancer which is critical to survival of women.  The software assists breast units to deliver an enhanced breast-screening service (faster, reduced unnecessary recalls/biopsies and lower anxiety). Reduced recalls will save NHS significant unnecessary costs.
  • TRUEinvivo Ltd – around 40% of people who have cancer undergo radiotherapy. TRUEinvivo is developing a 3D cavity dosimeter and image analysis software that can accurately measure the radiation delivered to the tumour along with surrounding organs making the process safer for patients and helping clinical decision making.
  • Freeline Therapeutics Ltd – advanced gene therapy product to treat a rare kidney disease, potentially the first ever effective therapy for this specific condition

Fifteen feasibility projects have received total funding of just over £2 million. These include:

  • Toxicity Alert Biosensor, Altair Medical Ltd – smartphone monitoring of patients taking opioids, in which sensor is analysed by artificial intelligence to monitor drug use and advises on safe timing of doses, tailored to each individual patient, reducing the risk of overdose. Should this fail, it detects overdose and alerts first responders to administer naloxone, the powerful opioid antidote.
  • Cohesion Medical Ltd, Cancer Early Detection And Risk (CEDAR) System – using big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide a digital early-warning system for cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment toxicity. This will enable the generation of individualised cancer risk profiles, suggestions for changes to patient behaviour and the prediction of adverse toxicity reactions for individual patients. The system will have economic, social and personal impact through earlier cancer diagnosis, more targeted cancer treatments and earlier adoption of new cancer medicines.

In the latest round of awards, the MRC committed almost £13.5 million funding to BMC projects, including:

  • University of Nottingham – Dr Weng Chan – A new, pathogen-specific antibiotic to treat and prevent recurrent Clostridium difficile infection, the most common hospital-acquired infection associated with high death and morbidity rates in elderly. Current front-line antibiotics are unsuitable due to lack of selectivity and low gut concentrations.
  • University of Cardiff – Professor John Atack – A new drug that may offer the effects of “Valium without sedation” could transform the treatment of anxiety disorders, which affect at least 5% of the population during their lifetime and are estimated to cost the UK economy around £10 billion each year.
  • University College London – Professor Waseem Qasim – The next generation of genome-edited immune cells may offer additional treatment options for children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia that fails to respond to current therapy. Creation of ‘off the shelf’ cell banks may overcome issues associated with having to make individual treatments and improve access to therapy.

Dr Louise Jones, head of translational research at the MRC, said: “These latest projects are further demonstration of the world-leading science coming out of the vibrant academic and industrial research base of the UK. The success of the Catalyst’s funding schemes shows the value of dedicated support in the development of therapies, diagnostics and devices that will benefit both patients and the UK economy.”