Medical technologies receive £25m government funding

A pen that can diagnose Parkinson’s disease and a liver cell printer are among the projects awarded £25.9m of biomedical funding.

Thirty-five medical research projects, which also include a smartphone app for delivering cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and a novel implant for replacing knee cartilage, will receive funds from the government’s “Biomedical Catalyst” programme.

Science minister David Willets also announced yesterday, July 31 that the planned £38m National Biologics Manufacturing Centre (NBMC) will be based in Darlington, and that £29.3m of Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and private money will go towards funding competitions in areas such as personalised and regenerative medicine.

The Biomedical Catalyst is designed to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and research groups from any sector or discipline commercialise innovations in healthcare.

Projects in the late-stage of development include a sensory pen that analyses motion when drawing and writing for early diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Manus Neurodynamica will receive £178,000 to perform a clinical trial with Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust.

Early-stage awards include £450,000 for Manchester University to develop and test a smartphone app to deliver CBT to people who have experienced a first episode of psychosis, in order to help patients manage their condition more independently and prevent relapses.

‘By investing in new technologies now we are maintaining the UK’s position as a world leader for innovation,’ said Willetts in a statement.

‘The biomedical industry is a fast moving, high growth sector and the Catalyst has proven to be extremely successful in supporting new business ideas. This investment further drives forward our life sciences strategy.

Commenting on the new Darlington centre for manufacturing of biological medicines such as antibodies and vaccines, he said, ‘The new National Biologics Manufacturing Centre will significantly increase the UK’s manufacturing capability in biologics, keeping us ahead in the global race and strengthening the UK’s position as the location of choice for life sciences companies.’

The government’s June 2013 spending review allocated an additional £185m for commercialising research including extra money for the Biomedical Catalyst, which is funded through the TSB and Medical Research Council and is now accepting entries for its fourth round of grants.

The TSB’s other three new funding competitions include £7.3m for personalised approaches to healthcare (stratified medicine), £8.5m for new rapid diagnostic tests for tuberculosis (TB), and £13.5m for regenerative medicine and cell therapy.

MRC chief executive Prof Sir John Savill said: ‘Several of the MRC and Technology Strategy Board awards announced today build on previous MRC funding and this research is now reaching an exciting stage of clinical development.

‘It’s fantastic to see this investment beginning to bear fruit. It clearly demonstrates that the Biomedical Catalyst is fulfilling its goal of providing seamless support from early research in universities through to commercialisation by small and medium-sized companies.’