The UK’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) has awarded six research and development consortia government funding of nearly £6 million in the latest round of investments made through the TSB-managed Stratified Medicine Innovation Platform (SMIP).

The investments, totalling £5.8 million, are for projects in the fields of tumour profiling and data capture, with the general aim of underpinning targeted oncology therapies. The six consortia are led by Affymetrix UK, Aridhia Informatics, IDBS, Life Technologies Corporation, Oxford Gene Technology and Source BioScience UK.

This is the third tranche of funding through the SMIP, a five-year partnership programme launched by the TSB in October 2010 with a budget of more than £60 million to support innovative R&D that could place the UK at the centre of a new era of personalised medicine.

The first SMIP investments were announced last month, covering four projects in the area of inflammatory biomarkers for more effective drugs, and three more relating to business models and value systems. Applications for the third stratified medicine competition closed on 28 April.

CRUK programme

As the TSB noted, the commercial outputs from the latest projects will be in line with the objectives of medical charity Cancer Research UK’s own Stratified Medicines Programme, which aims to test up to 9,000 tumour samples to demonstrate how molecular diagnosis of NHS patients’ tumours could be scaled up to provide a national service.

Cancer Research UK’s £5.5 million programme, which is supported by AstraZeneca and Pfizer, is designed to create a multi-gene panel that can test for genetic markers to tailor treatment with oncology medicines both already in use and in late-stage development.

The charity is one of the TSB’s partners in the Stratified Medicine Innovation Platform, along with the Department of Health for England, the Scottish Government Health Directorates, the Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, and Arthritis Research UK. 

James Peach, director of Cancer Research UK’s stratified medicine programme, said the TSB’s latest set of investments were “a vital part of our ambition to make molecular diagnosis of tumours a routine part of care for all cancer patients in the UK. Investing in tumour profiling will give us new ways to test tumours in the NHS, and the data capture work will allow us to develop better targeted cancer treatments in future”.

The six new R&D projects to be funded through the SMIP are:

-     Developing a robust, reliable multiplex clinical tool for guiding tumour therapy. Partners: Affymetrix UK Ltd (lead), ALMAC Diagnostics Ltd, Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine        


-      The Dundee Edinburgh Cancer Informatics Programme: Harnessing Excellent Research [DECIPHER]. Partners: Aridhia Informatics Ltd (lead), University of Dundee, NHS Tayside, University of Edinburgh    


-     Acropolis (Advanced Collaborative Research for Oncology Platform for Improved Outcomes, Learnings, Insight and Science). Partners: IDBS (lead), Quantix Ltd, Kings College London, Manchester University                                                                             

-     Next Generation Sequencing Analysis: A Clinical Study to Implement an Innovative Cancer Care Model in the UK, with Health and Economic Benefits. Partners: Life Technologies Corporation (lead), University of Oxford, AstraZeneca LLC, Johnson & Johnson         


-     Development of a fully integrated service for sequencing-based tumour profiling, including data interpretation and commercialisation of assay panel kit products. Partners: Oxford Gene Technology (lead), University of Southampton, University of Birmingham, CIS Healthcare         

-     Tumour Mutation Profiling Using Illumina Massively Parallel Sequencing. Partners: Source BioScience UK Ltd (lead), Barts Cancer Institute, Illumina Cambridge Ltd

More effective treatments

“Routine comprehensive profiling of tumours upon diagnosis has the potential to open up more effective treatment options and, together with related clinical data, could dramatically increase our understanding of the power of targeted therapies, which could then be applied to drug development,” commented TSB chief executive Iain Gray.

“These projects will lead to the development of products or services which can be readily adopted by NHS commissioners, for the improvement of patient outcomes,” he added.