GSK to leave phenomenal Olympic legacy for biomarker research

Olympic fever is gripping the U.K. and the rest of the world, but the world-class anti-doping facilities created for London 2012 by GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and King's College London could have a longer-lasting impact than even the most excited news reports, by supporting long-term biomarker research. The World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory, using facilities and equipment from GSK and analysts from King's, will become the MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre, reported to be the first of its kind in the world.

The phenome is the collection of physical characteristics and chemical markers throughout the body. The center will look at the patterns within the phenome, including biomarkers in blood, urine and tissues, in patients and volunteers and will see how this is influenced by genetics, lifestyle, diet, environment and stress. The aim is to find new biomarkers to predict disease risk and outcomes, including why some people are more susceptible to disease than others, and to forecast how people will respond to different drugs. All of these will help doctors to create better-tailored treatments.

The opening of the center will be announced by British Prime Minister David Cameron, according to BBC News, saying: "When the Games close, all this incredible equipment and expertise will be used to establish a new phenome center for research into biological markers of health and disease. This will take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities that lie in combining genetic data with the results of medical tests on tissues and blood. It's an impressive example of collaboration between top-class research, the NHS and industry."

Funding for the first 5 years, to the tune of £10 million (about $15.7 million) will come from the U.K. Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Department of Health's National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), with another £20 million or so (around $31.3 million) from NMR and mass-spec supply companies Bruker and Waters. This will create a public-private partnership with academic partners, led by Imperial College London.

"The GSK drug-testing facility at Harlow has taken one of the major challenges associated with this type of research--achieving high-throughput alongside forensic quality control--to a new level, unprecedented anywhere in the world. Rather than losing this investment once the Games are over, the collaboration--involving the MRC, NIHR, U.K. universities, the NHS and NIHR Biomedical Research Centers, and industry leaders in the field--will provide a unique resource that will ultimately result in benefits for patients. This is a phenomenal legacy from the Games," says professor Sir John Savill, MRC's chief executive.

By focusing on biomarkers, research from this center could lead to better diagnostics and therapeutics, and will boost the U.K.'s reputation in life sciences research. This long-term use for the state-of the-art facility fulfills the hopes that Sir Andrew Witty, GSK's CEO, expressed back in January.

- read the press release
- see the piece in The Financial Times
- check out the BBC News article