The UK's Technology Strategy Board and Medical Research Council (MRC) are to jointly invest over £3.7 million in seven major project which, they say, will help put the UK at the forefront of developments into personalised medicine.

This investment is the first to be made through the Stratified Medicine Innovation Platform (SMIP), an initiative first announced last October which aims to place the UK at the centre of a new era of molecular-based healthcare by catalysing the commercial application of new technologies for diagnosing and treating disease. SMIP is managed by the Technology Strategy Board - which is sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) - and will oversee an investment of over £50 million of government funding over five years in innovative R&D. 

The seven projects will be led by AstraZeneca UK Ltd, GlaxoSmithKline (three projects), Ig Innovations Ltd, Janssen UK and Randox Laboratories Ltd. Including contributions from the project partners, the total value of the R&D will be over £7 million.

Four of the projects are in the area of inflammatory biomarkers for more effective drugs. The projects will develop the use of biomarkers to predict how groups of patients will respond to inflammation and immunology therapies. In this way, therapies could be given only to relevant patient sub-groups for better results in alleviating symptoms and side effects.

The other three projects relate to developing business models and value systems. The projects will try to determine the best ways to co-develop drugs and companion diagnostics, and the ways in which subsequent reimbursement can be distributed across the value chain. This should increase the number of stratified treatments that are developed, the speed of their development and their adoption by healthcare providers.

The charity Arthritis Research UK will be a full partner in the SMIP, helping to advance the programme particularly in the area of inflammatory disease. Other partners are the Department of Health in England, the Scottish Government Health Directorates, the MRC, The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and Cancer Research UK.

Speaking at the investments were announced, Ian Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said the UK has many of the strengths needed to accelerate the innovation of personalised medicines and to become a world leader in developing medicines aimed at smaller sub-groups of patients.

"These investments are the first in a programme that is bridging scientific research, businesses and policymakers together to develop the personalised, targeted drugs and treatments of the future," he said.

- Applications closed on April 28 for a third stratified medicine competition, relating to tumour profiling and data capture to improve cancer care, and the results are likely to be known in early June.