Grand biomarker hunt announced by UK's Medical Research Council

A ?17 million fund has been set up by the UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC) for research into biomarkers, the tell-tale body chemicals that are associated with particular diseases. Finding new biomarkers should help to improve disease diagnosis, develop better drugs, and also monitor patients’ responses to treatments.

’We’ve been using cholesterol and blood pressure as biomarkers of heart disease for years,’ explained Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the MRC. ’Now we’re going to evaluate promising markers that will speed the development of safer, more effective and better targeted treatments for a range of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease,’ he said.

The fund is to be split between 18 separate studies that will hunt for previously unknown biomarkers, develop better ways to measure them, and assess which biomarkers are the most useful indicators of disease.

The MRC have contributed ?8 million to the fund, with a further ?1 million from the British Heart Foundation and ?8 million from a range of pharmaceutical and analytical science companies. Money has been awarded on condition that the results are made freely available in open access scientific journals. The projects will run for three years.

’More research on biomarkers is urgently needed and this new initiative from the MRC is very timely,’ said Peter Barnes, who studies biomarkers at Imperial College London, UK. ’Biomarkers are needed in the assessment of new drugs, particularly in order to speed their development and reduce the need for very long trials. They may also be useful in predicting the response to therapy so that current and future treatments are used more effectively.’

James Mitchell Crow

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