Frequently asked questions

We intend to answer many of the questions we are often asked about metabonomics and the CPC. If you have have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us, we will happy to answer you in more detail!

Frequently asked questions:

What is metabonomics?

Professor Jeremy Nicholson first defined Metabonomics as "the quantitative measurement of the dynamic multiparametric metabolic response of living systems to pathophysiological stimuli or genetic modification" (Nicholson et al. Xenobiotica 1999, 29, 1181). 

Schematic of the 'omics hierarchy. These techniques enable the detection and identification of many different molecules, such as DNA, RNA, proteins and metabolites, that are present in biological samples and expressed in the body.

It is a top-down systems approach which involves the generation of information-rich metabolic profiles of biological samples and studies the dynamic response of these metabolic profiles following a perturbation due to a toxic insult, genetic changes or external stimuli.  The metabolic profiles provide a broad coverage of metabolites (compounds resulting from metabolism), which could include mechanistic or diagnostic markers of disease. Metabonomics has been a rapidly expanding approach which has been already applied to an array of fields, including toxicological, pharmacological, nutritional and clinical studies.

The terms metabonomics, metabolic phenotypingmetabolomics, metabolic profiling and metabolic fingerprinting are often used interchangeably.

What is the phenome?

The phenome can be broadly described as the effects of our genes, our lifestyle and our environment and can be examined analysing biological samples. What we discover about the causes of disease by studying the phenome, and relating this to available clinical and other data, can be used to inform healthcare.

What types of samples can you analyse?

SampleWe routinely analyse urine and blood (serum or plasma). Samples must be fit for purpose, have a minimum volume and linked relevant clincal data for the study.  We also have the capacity to analyse other biological samples, including cerebrospinal fluid, vaginal swabs, faecal waters or tissue samples (either intact or after metabolite extraction). Please note that depending on the sample matrix, further sample handling development might be required. 

Consent and ethics approval for the requested studies must also be in place and relevant documentation provided prior to start of analyses.

What type of service do you provide?

We provide a comprehensive service to handle all aspects of metabonomic research, from sample preparation and analysis to data processing and multivariate statistics. We offer a wide range of assays, including both global metabolic profiling (for broad-coverage discovery applications) and targeted analysis (focused on a metabolite class or specific pathways). The range of assays offered in our portfolio is gradually expanding and we can develop specific targeted assays to fit your needs. The two main analytical techniques used are 1NMR spectroscopy and MS. Samples can be intruduced into the mass spectometer either via direct infusion or via prior chromatographic separation.

CPC services are offered as a fee-for-service basis. The standard service provided includes preparation of the samples, instrumental analysis and data pre-processing (feature extraction). It does not include statistical analysis, although it can be requested aside. Please note that depending on the sample matrix and the metabolites of interest, further sample handling optimisation or method development might be required. Analysis not offered as part of our standard assays portolio are considered on a case by case basis

What volumes of samples are required?

The sample volume required will vary depending on the type and number of sample as well as on the type and range of assays undertaken. The more information you would like to get from your samples, the more assays would be required, and thus, the larger the sample volume we would need to receive. For estimates of the volumes required for each of the assays available in the Centre, please contact us. 

What are the differences with the National Phenome Centre?

We are closely associated with the MRC-NIHR National Phenome Centre (NPC). Both research centres are part of the Division of Systems Medicine, within the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, and use similar analytical techniques and protocols. The CPC is dedicated to the profiling of samples collected or being analysed by Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust staff members whereas researchers from outside Imperial College can request access to the NPC. 

The NPC is more focused on population screening (epidemiology studies) looking at disease risk and prognostic biomarkers whereas the CPC is more focused on individual patients looking at treatment stratification biomarkers. The NPC  is set up to handle larger numbers of samples but is more restricted in the type of samples it accepts i.e. only urine, plasma or serum samples are currently analysed using NMR and a series of defined MS profiling assays. The CPC is more customer orientated and can, therefore, analyse a wider range of biological samples as well as develop project dedicated methods if necessary to better understand the patient journey.

Who can request access?

 The CPC is dedicated to the profiling of samples collected or being analysed by Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust staff members.

How long will it take to receive my results?

We aim to provide results in the shortest time possible. However, depending on the number of samples in the project, what services have been requested, and the number ofactive projects in the queue, the time frame varies between a few weeks to a few months. Once your samples (and clinical data) arrive to the CPC, the project will enter the queue and we will be able to provide an estimated delivery time .

How shall I acknowledge the CPC?

The acknowledgement of our work is very important to assess the impact and ensure continued funding. Please add a statement similar to the following one in the publications resulting from work supported by the CPC

 (1) Direct Funding from the BRC

Any publications or original research articles arising from a project directly funded by the NIHR Imperial BRC must acknowledge the funding source and include a disclaimer, i.e.:

“This <article/paper/report> is independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health.”

In case of word limits being enforced by the journal, the following phrase must be included as a minimum requirement:

“…<article/author> was supported by the NIHR Imperial BRC…”

(2) Infrastructure / Indirect Support from the BRC

“This work is/was funded by grants from <funder1 and funder2>, and infrastructure support was provided by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).”


“The Department of <department/section name> is funded by grants from <funder1 and funder2>, and infrastructure support is provided by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).”


“Infrastructure support for this work was provided by the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre.”

If you have any questions or queries about the NIHR Imperial BRC funding, please do not hesitate to contact the BRC Office (

1 August 2017