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£5 million investment in personalized medicines to cut patient deaths

A 5 million investment in the development of personalised medicines at the University of Liverpool will see the introduction of treatments tailored for individual patients.

Liverpool research estimates that a quarter of a million people are admitted to hospital in the UK each year following adverse reactions to a variety of commonly prescribed drugs which costs the NHS an average of 466 million annually. Personalised medication is based on a patients unique genetic make-up, allowing clinicians to prescribe the correct drug to the patient at the correct dose to achieve the maximum benefit and minimise the risk of drug side-effects.

The University has been selected by the Department of Health to receive a 3 million NHS Chair in Pharmacogenetics the first and only such position in the country. Professor Munir Pirmohamed from the Universitys Department of Pharmacology has been appointed to the Chair and will pioneer a major initiative to establish the clinical evidence base for safe and effective medication based on a patients unique genetic make-up and other factors such as diet and smoking.

Professor Pirmohamed will lead a team of 11 scientists, researchers and nurses in identifying gene groups which dictate a patients positive or negative response to a drug. The multidisciplinary team will tap into the North Wests large patient base to collect genetic information to test against medication for illnesses such as epilepsy and asthma, which can be affected by a patients genetic make-up. The Chair will complement a 10 million Centre for Personalised Medicines being created at the University.

The research, which will be carried out in collaboration with the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Royal Liverpool Childrens Hospital and other hospitals in the North West, will focus on areas of public health importance including:

  • Anticonvulsant therapy in epilepsy
  • Inhaled steroids in children with asthma
  • Acute coronary syndrome and variability in response to treatments
  • Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-induced peptic ulceration

Professor Pirmohamed said: The study of pharmacogenetics is vital to the public health of this country. One of our recent studies showed that at any one time the equivalent of more than seven 800-bed hospitals are taken up with the patients who have suffered the side effects of drugs they have been prescribed.

This new investment will allow Liverpool to tackle this problem by providing the evidence base that is necessary to revolutionise the way important illnesses are treated in the UK and worldwide.

It is important to note that the way we respond to drugs is determined not only by genetic factors but also by environmental factors such as our diet and if we smoke. Through this comprehensive research strategy, we will build up a very detailed clinical picture of each individual patient and link it to genetic profiles with the aim of maximising the efficacy and reducing the potential toxicity of treatments.

Minister for Health, Ben Bradshaw MP, said: I am delighted to announce the award of the contract to host the NHS Chair in Pharmacogenetics to the University of Liverpool. Pharmacogenetics has enormous potential to improve the effectiveness and safety of the treatment patients receive and this post will make a major contribution to both boosting research capacity and raising awareness of pharmacogenetics among NHS clinicians.

A further 2 million has been awarded to the University by The Wolfson Foundation toward the Centre for Personalised Medicines. The unique centre will accommodate the research activity of the Chair as well as cutting-edge equipment such as a state-of-the-art DNA archiving system. The archive will hold up to 300,000 DNA samples of patients and will sort and select samples via an automated robotic system, enabling high-throughput genotyping and analysis. Included in the archive will be rare samples from people who have experienced adverse drug reactions affecting the liver or skin.

Based in the Universitys Old Royal Infirmary, the new facility will accommodate the pharmacogenetics team who will work alongside partner NHS organisations to collect clinical information from patients in hospitals across the North West. The team will focus on several priority research areas including toxicity and efficacy of drugs used to treat infections such as HIV.

Philanthropic gifts from individuals and organisations are expected to generate a further 5 million towards new equipment and staff at the Centre. The Wolfson Centre for Personalised Medicines will open in 2009.


Contact: Joanna Robotham
University of Liverpool

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