The University of Liverpool has won a contract from the Department of Health to host a National Health Service Chair in Pharmacogenetics. The new post – for which the DH will provide funding of £3 million over five years - will be held by Professor Munir Pirmohamed.

According to the DH, the appointment comes under a commitment made in the June 2003 genetics White Paper, Our Inheritance, Our Future - realising the potential of genetics in the NHS, and adds to an earlier investment of £4 million in pharmacogenetics, the study of how genetic makeup can affect people’s responses to medication.

Amongst Prof Pirmohamed’s primary goals will be to help expand research capabilities in the field as well as develop a leadership role to heighten understanding of pharmacogenetics’ potential in improving healthcare, the DH said.

'Enormous potential'

"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,” commented Health Minister Ben Bradshaw.

And Prof Pirmohamed added: "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.”