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26 March 2024

£10million awarded to make medicines work for everyone

Researchers have been awarded £10m to launch a world-leading hub to drive understanding of why some patients don’t respond to treatments.

liquid drug

The new King’s College London’s UK Smart Trials Development Hub funded by Research England’s flagship UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) will integrate diverse patient data and samples to enable the discovery and development of precision therapeutics.

Recent advances in therapeutic development have delivered transformative benefits to patients with common life-threatening diseases, but not all treatments benefit all patients.

However, there are two significant challenges. There is a lack of understanding about the biological reason why some patients don’t respond to therapy and this can be attributed to a multitude of factors ranging from genetics, environment, ethnicity, a disease’s stage, and lifestyle differences. Secondly, clinical trials across the world often under-represent the population so the biological diversity in ethnic minorities is frequently also not considered. King’s College London’s UK Smart Trials Development Hub is the first facility in the world to meet these challenges and will combine clinical, academic and commercial expertise.

The facility will generate state-of-the-art experimental data and use AI-driven techniques to define individual patients' disease characteristics. The Hub will integrate analysis of patient tissue, clinical data and small-scale representations of their tissue in the lab (called ‘organoids’) to create ‘digital biological twins’. This will enable a comprehensive understanding of each patient's unique characteristics to better treat their disease. This innovative approach enables accurate predictions of which patients will benefit from existing and new therapies – critical for designing efficient, cost-effective and inclusive clinical trials.

King’s College London’s UK Smart Trials Development Hub is a game-changing facility that will accelerate understanding disease biology and enable development of therapies to treat each patient. We know there are differences in drug response due to ethnicity and genetic background but we, as a scientific community, do not understand why.

Professor Maddy Parsons, Dean for Academic Research Excellence Frameworks at King’s, and Scientific Director for the Hub

She added: "

Our unique facility will use advanced technology to drive a greater understanding of biological variation in cells and tissues. This will enable precision therapeutic development for conditions such as cancer, autoimmune and respiratory disease”.

The Smart Trials Development Hub will be housed in Guy’s Hospital, part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, and open in Spring 2025. This Trust cares for some of the most ethnically diverse communities in the UK.

Professor Parsons added: “There are many diseases where existing therapies do not benefit all patients. For example, triple negative breast cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of the disease and has a higher occurrence in women of black and African origin. Women of this origin present with much more aggressive disease and don’t respond as well to current available treatments as women from white ethnic backgrounds. The Hub will advance molecular understanding and drive better treatment options for these patients”.

Professor Richard Trembath, Senior Vice President of Health & Life Sciences at King’s College London and Executive Director of King’s Health Partners, said: “The UK Smart Trials Development Hub is a unique facility that draws upon King’s Health Partners’ world-class expertise to make clinical trials more inclusive and provide better options for all patients.

"This initiative, made possible through the King’s Health Partners Centre for Translational Medicine, is also an integral pillar within the broader SC1 life sciences innovation district which is dedicated to creating partnerships between academics, clinicians and industry. I am excited by the opportunities this will bring for patients of all backgrounds both locally and around the world.”

Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Chair at Research England, said: “I am pleased to be able to award four more universities funding from our flagship UK Research Partnership Investment Fund to create four centres in a diverse range of topics, from net zero aviation to wound research, and disease therapies to future transport.

“The fact that we have been able to fund 60 research centres and facilities from the fund since 2012, investing £1 billion to tackle some of today’s biggest research challenges, from developing treatments for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease to tackling global inequalities, and finding better treatments for cancer to net zero growth, is something I am immensely proud of.

“I very much look forward to seeing how these new facilities deliver against a variety of diverse challenges over the coming years.”

In addition to funding from Research England, this opportunity was made possible by co-investment from Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Bruker Corporation, Teledyne Photon Machines, GSK, AstraZeneca, UCB and Apollo Therapeutics.

In this story

Maddy Parsons

Dean of Research Excellence Frameworks

Richard Trembath

Senior Vice President (Health & Life Sciences) and Executive Director of King’s Health Partners