New lung disease network to benefit patients and boost UK economy

Scientists and clinicians in Nottingham are to work more closely with industry to develop new ways of diagnosing and treating lung disease.

Nottingham has been chosen as one of just nine centres across the UK to host a Government-spearheaded ‘Therapeutic Capability Cluster’, which aims to forge closer links between academia, the NHS and the life sciences industry to speed up the process of getting new drugs from lab bench to bedside.

The new cluster will draw on the world-leading research expertise of scientists at The University of Nottingham and clinical excellence of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust to help pharmaceutical companies develop clinical trials for potential new treatments for a range of respiratory diseases.

Professor Alan Knox, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at The University of Nottingham and Director of the Nottingham Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to develop new treatments for patients with lung disease.

“The clinical trials that will result from this new cluster will offer respiratory patients in Nottingham the chance to access new drugs being developed to treat their illness and to take part in research which could potentially benefit many more people like themselves.

“Collectively in Nottingham and the other cluster centres we have a unique mass of respiratory research expertise. In terms of industry, the specialist guidance we can provide on the design of studies and clinical trials will offer added value to companies planning early phase studies of new medicines. By encouraging companies to carry out these studies in the UK this will stem the loss of business overseas and strengthen the UK economy.”

Dr Brian Thompson, Nottingham University Hospitals’ Director of Research and Development, said: “This relationship between the NHS, academia and the life sciences industry is precisely the innovation model we have been striving to promote for Nottingham.

“It presents a perfect opportunity to coalesce our efforts around the ideal partnership structure for biomedical sciences, starting with respiratory diseases.”

In recent years, few new chemical compounds have been discovered to effectively treat respiratory illnesses such as asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and new therapies have relied upon modifications of existing molecules.

It is hoped that the cluster will support initiatives led by the MRC and NIHR to identify treatments which may be effective for smaller groups of patients suffering from particular symptoms within the overarching diagnosis of one disease, such as asthma.

It will also go hand-in-hand with an initiative sponsored by the MRC and Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries to devise robust new methods of studying human cell systems for the development of drugs for asthma and COPD before they go into clinical trials.

The Respiratory Capability Cluster is supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the Public Health Agency, Welsh Assembly Government, Technology Strategy Board and Chief Scientist Office.

The clusters were born out of the Life Sciences Blueprint published by the Government in July 2009, which recognised the need for a new approach to collaboration in the life sciences which would provide opportunities for partnership between the academic and health service communities and the commercial sector for patient and economic benefit.

It will help to standardise procedures for studies, fast track approval for clinical trials and, hopefully, result in the quicker development of treatments which are also more effective.

The University of Nottingham has a broad research portfolio but has also identified and badged 13 research priority groups, in which a concentration of expertise, collaboration and resources create significant critical mass. Key research areas at Nottingham include energy, drug discovery, global food security, biomedical imaging, advanced manufacturing, integrating global society, operations in a digital world, science, technology & society and children and childhood.

Through these groups, Nottingham researchers will continue to make a major impact on global challenges.

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