Imperial College London

Quartet of ministers put Imperial healthcare innovation in the spotlight

Gordon Brown at Imperial

- <em>News</em>

Tuesday 14 July 2009
By Abigail Smith

The latest developments in personalised medicine were on show at Imperial today, when the Prime Minister plus three government ministers visited to launch the Office for Life Sciences Blueprint, a new government vision for healthcare innovation.

PM Gordon Brown was joined by Lord Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Lord Drayson, Minister for Science and Innovation, and Lord Darzi, Health Minister for Quality and Innovation, who is also Professor of Surgery at Imperial.

The Blueprint was launched with a debate on how the environment for life sciences companies in the UK can be transformed to ensure faster access for patients to cutting edge medicines and technologies. Plans announced include an ‘innovation pass', which would make new medicines available for a limited time on the NHS, giving small patient groups, such as those suffering from late-stage cancer, access to new drugs without waiting for them to go through the NICE appraisal process.

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Following the debate, Imperial's Rector Sir Roy Anderson led the four ministers on a tour of Imperial's Institute of Biomedical Engineering. The tour took in the medical imaging and robotics lab, where researchers are developing robot-assisted surgery techniques which greatly reduce patient trauma and speed up recovery times.

The group also viewed the labs of Imperial spin-out company DNA Electronics, which is developing a handheld device that can quickly assess whether an individual's genetic makeup may cause them to react adversely to prescription drugs. The device, known as SNP Dr, analyses genetic variations in Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), the parts of our DNA that make us all respond differently to bacteria, viruses, toxins or medication. The researchers hope SNP Dr will be particularly useful in the case of drugs, such as certain cancer drugs, that are currently considered too expensive to be available on the NHS because they are effective only for a small sub-set of patients.

"If doctors had a method of screening patients to see whether these drugs work, then suddenly these therapies would be more cost effective to use," said Dr Leila Shepherd, Chief Technology Officer of DNA Electronics, who showed the technology to the ministers.

PM Visit 14-7-09

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