UCL News


UCL to coordinate £16m project to crack difficult disease areas

15 July 2015

UCL has successfully coordinated a £16 million bid to work with the Medical Research Council (MRC), GSK and four other universities to improve scientists' understanding of inflammatory and fibrotic diseases that present a serious burden to patients.

Scientist examines samples under a microscope

The Experimental Medicine Initiative to Explore New Therapies (EMINENT) network will bring together teams of researchers from UCL, the Universities of Cambridge, Glasgow, Newcastle and Imperial College London, with GSK researchers to study the fundamental biological mechanisms responsible for a range of inflammatory and fibrotic diseases. It is hoped that combining the disease biology expertise of the academic scientists with GSK's drug development expertise and resources will lead to breakthroughs in understanding that could accelerate the development of innovative treatments for patients.

The bid was drafted and led by Professor Rachel Chambers, Vice-Dean (Enterprise) for the UCL Faculty of Medical Sciences and Director of the Centre for Inflammation and Tissue Repair. Professor David Lomas, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Medical Sciences, said:

"By bringing together world-leading researchers from across academia and industry, this programme will rapidly accelerate the development of new medicines. Professor Rachel Chambers prepared a strong bid to make this happen, which will now enable academics to work with industry for the ultimate benefit of patients. Researchers in the partnership will have access to GSK's advanced drug development equipment and know-how, sharing clinical and scientific expertise to create a truly open and collaborative partnership."

By bringing together world-leading researchers from across academia and industry, this programme will rapidly accelerate the development of new medicines.

Professor David Lomas

Drug development is a lengthy, costly and risky process, with the majority of treatments failing in clinical trials and never reaching patients as medicines. This is because the biological processes that underlie many diseases are still not fully understood.

By gaining a better understanding of the processes underlying major inflammatory and fibrotic, the collaboration aims to improve and accelerate the discovery of new treatments for these diseases.

Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman said: "Networks of biomedical researchers from hospitals, industry and universities are key to unlocking the biomedical breakthroughs that are transforming our understanding of the mechanisms of disease and developing new diagnostics and treatments for patients."

Through the unique EMINENT network, MRC funding of up to £8m will support the academic costs and these will be matched with GSK in-kind contributions, including access to a portfolio of currently available medicines, experimental compounds, screening facilities and the company's drug discovery and development expertise.

The initiative aims to support up to ten experimental medicine projects over five years. The academic research teams will work together with their industry colleagues at both GSK and university facilities, with a view to building a legacy of expertise in translational and experimental human research across academia and industry. The MRC anticipates that the network will grow beyond the first five academic partners.

Information and new discoveries will be communicated promptly across the network and beyond in a spirit of open innovation. This will enable breakthroughs in understanding to be applied across a spectrum of diseases, maximising the potential of the initiative to bring real benefits to patients.

Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive at the Medical Research Council, said: "Despite major progress made over the last 20 years in many disease areas, some hard-to-treat conditions still carry high morbidity and mortality continue to have few or no treatment options. Addressing these challenges successfully requires close, flexible, collaboration across a range of disciplines with complementary methodological expertise and disease understanding which is why initiatives such as this are so important to the MRC. We believe this innovative approach could be applied in other areas to combine the work of academia and industry."

GSK's president of pharmaceuticals R&D, Patrick Vallance, said:

"At GSK, we believe we have much to learn from scientists outside our own walls and vice-versa. By sharing our resources and research during the early stages of research we can stimulate innovation within the scientific community, strengthen our understanding of human disease and accelerate the development of new treatments for patients. We need to embrace opportunities to work together and share information about our successes and failures.

"The MRC's EMINENT initiative is a great way for us to do precisely this, allowing us to work alongside scientists from five top UK universities to drive forward our collective understanding of inflammatory disease, and we're confident this unique approach will make us better able to develop innovative new treatments in the future."

An independent panel of experts will assess the applications submitted by EMINENT collaborators. Projects will be assessed against the same criteria as any other MRC-funded research, based on the quality of the science. An oversight group, the Joint Steering Committee (JSC), reporting to the MRC, will ensure robust governance and alignment with MRC's strategic priorities.



  • Scientist examines samples under a microscope (credit: David Bishop, UCL)


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