Healthcare iNet grant enables Pfizer investment in lung disease research

Posted by egg3 at Jul 08, 2014 10:05 AM |
Collaboration involving University of Leicester researchers attracts £900,000 investment from pharmaceutical company

Issued by the Healthcare and Bioscience iNet on 8 April 2011

Scientists are shedding new light on the molecular basis of lung diseases thanks to a collaboration set up by the Healthcare and Bioscience iNet between the Universities of Leicester and Nottingham with the help of a £50,000 iNet Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) grant. Also involved in this collaboration is the Nottingham-based international diagnostic and genetic analysis company Source BioScience which is providing its next generation sequencing services. This collaboration, including two internationally-renowned teams of researchers, has attracted new investment to the two universities worth over £900,000 from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

The collaboration builds on the work of a consortium, comprising 96 scientists from 63 centres led by Professor Martin Tobin, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Public Health in the Department of Health Sciences and the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester and Professor Ian Hall Dean of the Medical School and Deputy director of the Nottingham Biomedical Research Unit in Respiratory diseases at the University of Nottingham. Initial findings in early 2010 reported five common genetic variations linked with lung function. Spurred on by this early success, Professors Tobin and Hall have developed a strong East Midlands collaboration aimed at understanding the genetic causes of lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

The grant has enabled this partnership to develop to include more powerful studies to search for common genetic variants across the whole human genome and to investigate in detail the millions of nucleotides (chemical bases) that comprise the regions of the human genome so far linked to lung function. The research provides hope for better treatment for lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In the past it has been difficult to develop new treatments because the molecular pathways that affect the health of the lung are not completely understood. It is hoped the new pathways discovered could in the future be targeted by drugs, helping to deliver more personalised medicine.

This research wouldn’t be possible without access to ultra-fast and sophisticated next generation DNA sequencing techniques. This is where Source BioScience comes in; the Group uses the latest genetics technology platforms in its state-of-the-art laboratory in Nottingham. It is one of the few companies in the world with the technology and experience to do this work.

Professor Tobin says: “A large reduction in lung function occurs in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which affects around 1 in 10 adults above the age of 40 and is the fourth most common cause of death worldwide. Smoking is the major risk factor for development of COPD. Lung function and COPD cluster within families, indicating that variations in genes also predispose individuals to reduced lung function.

“Rapid advances in genetics have provided new tools to study the causes of disease. Studies can now examine the effects of more than a million genetic variants in each study participant. Such genome-wide association studies have led to long-awaited breakthroughs in understanding the genetics of some common diseases.”

Professor Hall says: “By identifying the genes important in determining lung function, we can start to unravel the underlying mechanisms which control both lung development and lung damage. This will lead to a better understanding of diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. Crucially, it could open up new opportunities to manage and treat patients with lung conditions”.

Dr Nick Ash, CEO of Source BioScience says: “ We believe our UK-leading expertise and capacity in ultra-fast DNA sequencing can help the teams at Nottingham and Leicester make significant inroads into the understanding of lung disease and, in the long term, lead to the development of targeted and personalised drugs to treat patients. We look forward to working with the teams from Leicester and Nottingham universities on this lung disease study.”

According to recently-published research by NESTA¹, collaboration improves the capacity for innovation, which is critical at a time when the biomedical industry’s R&D productivity rates continue to fall and pharma increasingly looks to external partners for it drug discovery.

Dr Ian Barr, director of the Healthcare and Bioscience iNet says: “If the UK is going to retain its strong international position in healthcare and bioscience research, we need world-beating collaborations like this one that can attract funding from the private sector. Bringing people together from different organisations and turning them into effective collaborations is not easy but is more likely to happen through initiatives such as the iNet and its CRD grant.”

The Healthcare and Bioscience iNet is funded by the East Midlands Development Agency (emda) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).


Media contact

Louise Third: 0115 912 4350

Integra Communications for Healthcare and Bioscience iNet


¹Marston, L., All together now: improving collaboration in the UK, NESTA, Research Report March 2011).

Professor Ian Hall is Dean of the Medical School and Deputy director of the Nottingham Biomedical Research Unit in Respiratory diseases at the University of Nottingham. Professor Martin Tobin is a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Public Health in the Department of Health Sciences and the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester, and an Honorary Consultant in Public Health in Leicester City Primary Care Trust.

The Healthcare and Bioscience iNet helps people in the sector, particularly in East Midlands’ businesses and universities, to develop new technologies, processes, products and services in order to build a healthy economy

Innovation is a key strategic priority for East Midlands Development Agency (emda). Four sector specific Innovation Networks (iNets), including Healthcare and Bioscience, have been established to help turn innovative ideas in to business opportunities.

The iNet concept was developed by emda and East Midlands Innovation (the Regional Science and Industry Council) to bring together businesses, colleges, universities, public sector representatives and individuals with a shared interest in a market or the tecnology that underpins it.

A key aim of iNet is to provide a sector-specific focus that enables organisations to exchange knowledge and form collaborations to exploit new ideas.

The Healthcare and Bioscience iNet is based at BioCity in Nottingham, a renowned life science industry centre of excellence but it covers the whole region.

About ERDF nationally

The ERDF Programme aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the European Union by supporting regional economic development.

The ERDF objectives for England are:

  • Promoting innovation and knowledge transfer

  • Stimulating enterprise and supporting successful business

  • Ensuring sustainable development, production and consumption

  • Building sustainable communities

  • Improving accessibility and connectivity (for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly only – as part of their Convergence Programme).

A Programme Monitoring Committee consisting of regional stakeholders such as Government Offices, RDAs, Regional Assemblies, Local Authorities, Sub-regional Partnerships, Higher Education Institutions, Trade Unions, and the private and voluntary sectors will monitor and oversee programme implementation in each region.

About ERDF in the East Midlands

The East Midlands is eligible for €268.5m (approximately £236m at current exchange rates) between 2007 and 2013, which when combined with match funding, provides a programme value of approximately £472m – a significant investment in the economic development of the region.

The East Midlands qualifies as a competitiveness and employment region under the EU’s Cohesion Policy, which aims to meet the EU Lisbon objective to become ‘the most competitive and dynamic knowledge based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social inclusion.’

East Midlands Development Agency (emda) is responsible for the programme management and delivery of the region’s 2007-13 ERDF Competitiveness Programme. The responsibility for ERDF programme management was transferred from the Government Office for the East Midlands (GOEM) to emda following a decision by the UK Government to seek greater alignment between ERDF and regional strategies and funding streams. The 2007-13 ERDF Programme is therefore set firmly within the framework of the Regional Economic Strategy.

A Programme Monitoring Committee, chaired by the Regional Director of Government Office for the East Midlands (GOEM), guides the strategic direction of the programme and works closely with emda.

About emda

East Midlands Development Agency (emda) is one of nine Regional Development Agencies in England, set up in 1999 to bring a regional focus to economic development.

Ten years on, independent evaluation shows emda has:

  • Had a significant impact on the region’s economy

  • Generated economic benefits that substantially outweigh its overall costs

  • Put back over £9 of economic output (or GVA) into the regional economy for every £1 it spends

  • Produced more than £1 billion in economic benefits per year

  • A wider impact on people, places and businesses in the East Midlands that cannot be captured by figures alone.

emda is committed to supporting the region through the current downturn and has put in place a range of measures to provide real help during these challenging times.

Over the long term, emda’s aim is to deliver the 2006 Regional Economic Strategy (RES) by working in partnership with public, private and voluntary organisations. The RES highlights the themes of productivity, sustainability and equality and sets out key priorities until 2020 to ensure the vision for ‘a flourishing region’ can be achieved.

About Source BioScience

Source BioScience plc (LSE: SBS) is an international diagnostic and genetic analysis business serving the healthcare and research markets. The Group has three divisions, Healthcare, LifeSciences, and PharmaBiotech. In this collaboration, it is the

the LifeSciences division which is providing core laboratory research support from conceptualisation to implementation, calling upon a wide range of cutting-edge technology platforms. This incorporates next generation sequencing, conventional sequencing, microarray analysis and whole genome amplification. The Group has its headquarters in Nottingham, UK where it operates state of the art reference laboratory facilities, with additional UK laboratory facilities in London, Cambridge and Oxford and European facilities in Berlin and Dublin. Source BioScience is CPA, GLP and GCP accredited and is licensed by the UK Human Tissue Authority.

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