The anti-doping facilities currently operated by King’s College London at the Harlow research site of GlaxoSmithKline, official laboratory services provider for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games, will be converted once the Games are over into a centre for investigating phenome patterns to underpin more targeted drug development.

The UK's MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre, which its academic and industry partners say is the first of its kind worldwide, will be supported by funding of £5 million apiece from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Department of Health’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) over a five-year period.

It will build on the anti-doping capabilities developed at the Harlow facilities, including state-of-the-art nuclear magnetic-resonance and mass-spectrometry equipment provided by industry partners Bruker and Waters Corporation.

These suppliers will lead the Phenome Centre initiative in collaboration with Imperial College London and other academic partners. The aim is to make world-class phenotyping technology and expertise available to both academic researchers and the life sciences industry, accelerating the translation of medical discoveries into better healthcare.  

New biomarkers

Researchers at the Centre will analyse samples (usually blood or urine) from patients and volunteers to help them discover new biomarkers that will illuminate factors contributing to disease and guide the development of safer, more personalised treatments.

“The GSK drug-testing facility at Harlow has taken one of the major challenges associated with this type of research – achieving high-throughput alongside forensic quality control – to a new level, unprecedented anywhere in the world,” commented MRC chief executive Professor Sir John Savill.