The UK’s Wellcome Trust is putting £11 million into four new training programmes that will pool the expertise of academia and the pharmaceutical industry with the aim of fostering a new generation of clinicians with skills in translational and therapeutic medicine.

The pharmaceutical partners, which include Roche, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, have agreed to match the Wellcome Trust’s funding for the initiative. The academic institutions involved include Imperial College London and universities in Cambridge, Newcastle and Scotland.

The Trust cited Sir David Cooksey’s December 2006 report on health research funding in the UK, which called for better integration of basic and translational research. The Wellcome Trust has been at the forefront of a number of initiatives to bring together these two sectors and already has a well-established programme of technology transfer funding for translation science, it notes.

The new training programmes will enable clinicians from a range of specialities to pursue MSc, PhD and postdoctoral research opportunities, the Trust said. The objective is to “produce a cadre of clinicians with the expertise to design and conduct studies for developing and evaluating novel therapies in humans”.

The four Interdisciplinary Training Programmes for Clinicians in Translational Medicine and Therapeutics are:

- Clinical Pharmacology and Translational Medicine, focused on mitochondrial medicine, liver disease and diabetes, neuromuscular disease, inflammatory disease, rheumatology and dermatology, and chronic respiratory disease. The partners are Newcastle University, Roche, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-Aventis, Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, PTC Therapeutics and GlaxoSmithKline.
- Translational Medicines and Therapeutics at the University of Cambridge. Scientific focus: metabolic science, neuroscience, oncology, therapeutic immunology, clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, cardiovascular and pharmacological sciences. Partners: University of Cambridge and GlaxoSmithKline.
- Scottish Translational Medicine and Therapeutics Initiative. Scientific focus: cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, inflammatory disease, musculoskeletal disease, neuroscience and reproductive health. Partners: Universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow, Wyeth Research.

- Experimental Medicine for Therapeutics Development. Scientific focus: likely to include neuroscience, metabolic medicine, respiratory medicine, inflammation, cardiovascular sciences and renal medicine. Partners: Imperial College London and GlaxoSmithKline.

The new initiative recognises that, if novel therapeutics are to be developed, there is an essential need for researchers who understand drug development and design as well as human physiology, the Wellcome Trust says.

Both the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry have identified a decline in specialities such as clinical pharmacology, which until recently helped to provide the relevant training, it points out.