Press release

Medical innovations backed by £18 million fund

Government funding for the next generation of medical advances has been announced today by Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman.

The next generation of medical advances have moved a step closer thanks to £18 million of government support announced today (8 August 2015) by Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman.

Twelve new treatments, diagnostics and medical technologies will receive funding from the eighth round of the Biomedical Catalyst (BMC), a joint programme run by the Medical Research Council and the government’s innovation experts, Innovate UK (IUK).

Successful projects include £759,000 funding for developing a device that patients can use at home to monitor for lung infections caused by bacteria and fungi. The project, led by Glasgow based Ohmedics Ltd, could help minimise lung damage and improve the quality of life for patients with chronic lung diseases, as well as help reduce the unnecessary prescription of antibiotics by GP surgeries.

Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman said:

The UK’s healthcare industry has a worldwide reputation for excellence. By providing early support to these latest treatment and diagnosis developments, we are not only going to potentially help improve or save lives, we are helping businesses grow and boost the UK’s productivity.

Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, Professor Sir John Savill said:

This round of awards is a further demonstration of the exceptional science coming out of the vibrant academic and industrial research base of the UK. The continued success of the Biomedical Catalyst illustrates the value of dedicated support to ensure that this country can rapidly exploit world-leading science for the benefit of patients and the UK economy.

Chief Executive of Innovate UK, Dr Ruth McKernan said:

Delivering efficient and effective healthcare has never been more important, and innovation is central to making that happen. Through the Biomedical Catalyst, Innovate UK have backed innovative companies that are taking on this challenge and developing the medical advances of the future that will potentially help to save lives and money.

The Biomedical Catalyst supports UK academics and small to medium-sized businesses seeking to take their research from discovery through to commercialisation to deliver patient benefit.

Notes to Editors

  1. For more information about the Biomedical Catalyst, please visit the MRC and Innovate UK websites.
  2. Any UK small or medium-sized business or academic institution undertaking research and development was able to apply to the Biomedical Catalyst in this latest round, with applications assessed by independent experts.
  3. This latest round brings the total number of Biomedical Catalyst awards to 318 since 2011, when it was established, with a total investment of more than £370 million split between the MRC, Innovate UK and leveraged funding from industry.
  4. The Medical Research Council (MRC) contributed £13 million of the total £18 million in this eighth round of the Biomedical Catalyst. Innovate UK contributed the remaining £5 million.
  5. The Medical Research Council is at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health. Today, MRC-funded scientists tackle some of the greatest health problems facing humanity in the 21st century, from the rising tide of chronic diseases associated with ageing to the threats posed by rapidly mutating micro-organisms.
  6. Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency. It works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy - delivering productivity, new jobs and exports and keeping the UK globally competitive in the race for future prosperity.

The winners

Ohmedics Ltd, Glasgow – £759,000

Ohmedics Ltd is a company that provides and deploys advanced diagnostic systems that are easy to use in the home or clinic as well as telehealth integration services for clinical providers based on our extensive experience and Intellectual Property portfolio in Bioelectronics.

Professor Patricia Connolly, CEO of Ohmedics Ltd said:

In the rapidly expanding world of home use diagnostic monitoring systems for telehealth it is vitally important that the systems that are developed to help patients come from a strong clinical base and are developed to meet the highest regulatory standards to ensure patient safety. Through the support of Innovate UK we are able to embark on this exciting programme to deliver medically qualified diagnostic systems for early detection of lung infection that patients will be able to use in the comfort of their own home.

MRC-funded awards in this round ranged from development of an infection-detecting wound dressing, to a targeted therapy for inflammatory bowel disease and pre-clinical development of a universal flu vaccine.

University of Bath – £900,898

Burn wounds can become infected if harmful bacteria get into them and if not treated early, an infected burn can lead to blood poisoning or toxic shock syndrome (TSS). However, current methods of infection diagnosis are timely which can result in inadequate care. Researchers at the University of Bath have developed an early prototype wound dressing which gives a quick and clear visual indication following the presence of key infection-causing bacteria.

Dr Toby Jenkins, project lead at the University of Bath, where researchers received funding to develop an infection-detecting wound dressing, said:

Translating research from the laboratory towards the clinic is fraught with complexity, but this award will allow us to start this critical translational pathway. Working with our industry partner, the funding will be used to design, manufacture and package a final prototype dressing, safe and ready for trial in humans.

Cytosystems Limited, Aberdeen – £495,205

This project has been researching the potential to assess bladder cancer by means of a urine test and avoid the need for uncomfortable procedures using fibre optic tubes. This project will allow the urine collection and processing to be easily carried out in the clinic or general practice followed by an automated system to analyse the cancerous cells. Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men and seventh in women and is one of the most expensive to manage, and this new test should significantly reduce costs.

Brainomix Limited, Oxford – £633,553

Brainomix has developed the medical imaging software, e-ASPECTS to automate the measurement of stroke damage. This will automate the procedure to measure tissue at risk and identify patients who can benefit from mechanical reopening of the brain artery. Worldwide annually, 13,000,000 patients suffer a stroke. Mechanical clot removal improves patient outcome but as it costs up to £23,000 per patient, patient selection is crucial for its adoption.

MISSION Therapeutics, Cambridge – £1,892,918

MISSION Therapeutics, a UK-based small business has identified a small molecule inhibitor with potential to be developed for treating soft tissue sarcomas and other cancers. The project will aim to develop these inhibitors to create a first-in-class treatment for some of the most difficult to treat cancers.

Sentinel Oncology Limited, Cambridge – £943,160

This project will aim to develop a new treatment for Fragile X syndrome, the single largest cause of genetically inherited disability amongst diseases categorised within the autism spectrum disorders. It will treat the underlying cause of the disease rather than the symptoms and potentially provide cost savings in terms of reduced needs for ongoing care and education assistance.

Kings College London – £2,908,102

Crohn’s disease is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease, which can cause severe symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhoea and weight loss, but for which there is currently no cure. Existing therapies are focused on reducing inflammation of the bowel lining and providing temporary relief of symptoms, but researchers at Kings College London and the NIHR Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre are searching for a cure. The team are the first in the world to trial a personalised treatment using T-cell therapy in patients with the disease with the hope that, if successful, their research could help other debilitating autoimmune disorders.

University of Sussex – £1,777,756

Valium was once hailed as a ‘wonder drug’, but its sedative side effects have limited its use as a treatment for anxiety. Researchers at the University of Sussex are looking at ways to ‘retool’ the drug to remove the sedation to allow it to once again be considered a frontline treatment for anxiety disorders.

University of Oxford – £677,290

The current flu vaccine needs to be updated every year, as experts attempt to predict which strain of the constantly evolving influenza virus we need protection from. Researchers at the University of Oxford are working alongside Mount Sinai in New York to bring 2 leading approaches to fighting flu together for the first time. Focused on attacking the core of the virus that doesn’t change, the new vaccine is designed to boost T-cell production and induce protective antibody responses, to create what would be the ultimate universal flu vaccine.

University of Oxford – £634,024

Spraying a fluorescent dye onto the lining of the bowel could help doctors distinguish between normal and cancerous tissue in the bowel. Normal endoscopy to look for bowel cancer can only spot visible, physical changes to the lining of the bowel. The new approach, to be trialled in 50 patients, will coat the bowel in the dye – it will only stick to healthy tissue leaving a ‘black spot’ where cancerous cells are. They hope that the technique will help spot cancers earlier, when it is more likely that they can be treated successfully.

University College London – £5,501,648

Research by the Macular Society estimates that as many as 40,000 people a year develop neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Researchers at University College London will conduct a Phase I/IIa clinical trial of a humanised monoclonal antibody, firstly in patients who are no longer responsive to standard treatment and later in newly diagnosed patients. If the trials are successful the treatment could be a major step towards improving the eyesight of patients with wet AMD.

Newcastle University – £780,643

A potential cure for Graves’ hyperthyroidism in young patients. Around 700 young people a year are diagnosed with Graves’ disease – where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone – but have very few treatment options, with only a quarter ever being cured. Doctors in Newcastle are leading a trial to see if one dose of rituximab, a drug used to treat arthritis and leukaemia, could be given in conjunction with the standard treatment to see if it improves the chances of a cure.

Published 8 August 2015