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City pioneers drug scheme; Genetic breakthrough will help NHS.


TAILOR-MADE drugs based on patients' genetic make-up will be developed as part of a project at the University of Liverpool.

The "designer" treatments would save the NHS millions of pounds every year, by reducing the number of on patients admitted to hospital following adverse reactions to commonly prescribed medications.

The pounds 3m project is being funded by the Department of Health, which has designated the university the first and only Chair in Pharmacogenetics in the UK.

A new pounds 10m centre for personalised medicines will also be built and has been awarded pounds 2m by The Wolfson Foundation.

Professor Munir Pirmohamed, who is leading the pioneering programme, said: "The study of pharmacogenetics is vital to the public health of this country

"One of our recent studies showed that at any one time the equivalent of more than seven 800-bed hospitals are taken up with the patients who have suffered the side effects of drugs they have been prescribed.

"This new investment will allow Liverpool to tackle this problem by providing the evidence base that is necessary to revolutionise the way important illnesses are treated in the UK and worldwide."

The university estimates that up to 250,000 people are admitted to hospital in the UK each year suffering with side affects to medication. This costs the NHS pounds 466m annually.

Personalised medication is based on a patient's DNA or genetic make-up, allowing clinicians to prescribe the correct drug to the patient at the correct dose to achieve the maximum benefit and minimise the risk of drug side-effects.

Other factors are also taken into account such as the patient's diet and whether or not they smoke.

Professor Pirmohamed will lead a team of 11 scientists, researchers and nurses in identifying gene groups which dictate a patient's positive or negative response to a drug.

The team will use into the North West's patient base to collect genetic information to test against medication for illnesses such as epilepsy and asthma, which can be affected by a patient's genetic make-up.

They will be working from the new centre for personalised medications, based in the university's Old Royal Infirmary, which will also accommodate a new DNA archiving system.

The archive will hold up to 300,000 DNA samples of patients and will sort and select samples via an automated robotic system, enabling high-throughput genotyping and analysis.

Minister for Health Ben Bradshaw said: "I am delighted to announce the award of the contract to host the NHS Chair in Pharmacogenetics to the University of Liverpool.

"Pharmacogenetics has enormous potential to improve the effectiveness and safety of the treatment patients receive and this post will make a major contribution to both boosting research capacity and raising awareness of pharmacogenetics among NHS clinicians."

Could save NHS millions every year
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 6, 2007
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