University of Nottingham
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Nottingham Molecular Pathology Node

Samples of new drugs

The Nottingham Molecular Pathology Node (NMPN), is a collaborative research programme between the University of Nottingham, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and several industrial partners, developing world leading translational molecular diagnostic capabilities in gastrointestinal, liver and respiratory diseases.

Funded by £2.4m from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC), the NMPN will develop molecular pathology tests which will help deliver better targeted, more effective treatments - known as 'stratified medicine' - across a wide range of disease areas.

Bringing together informatics, computational modelling and molecular pathology the NMPN aims to find new biomarkers for a range of diseases – particularly those affecting the digestive and respiratory systems and the liver. These new markers will help doctors and pharmaceutical companies to identify the best treatments for patients. Another important feature of the Node is that it will train young researchers in these areas and share knowledge with other Nodes and industrial partners to help accelerate progress and strengthen research and development capabilities

Professor Alan Knox, Professor in Respiratory Medicine, and Head of the School of Medicine's Division of Respiratory Medicine, said: 

 This research will help ensure that in future patients are treated with the right drug for their condition at the most appropriate time and there will be suitable biomarkers to individually evaluate patients' responses to treatment. In the medium to long term this is likely to improve the quality of life and longevity of patients with a number of conditions, who currently have high morbidity and mortality. There is therefore a real possibility of a major impact on the nation's health.
 
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Stratified medicine

Stratified - or precision - medicine is an approach which subdivides patients who have the same disease into groups based on, for instance, the relative risk of their disease progressing or how well they respond to a particular drug treatment. Identification of these different groups can help researchers predict the most effective and safest intervention for individual patients in those sub-groups. In addition, by understanding the underlying mechanisms that cause these differences, researchers can develop new interventions for those groups whose needs are currently not well met.

Biomarker Research and Knowledge Transfer

Molecular pathology is a major tool in stratified medicine. Tiny samples of blood or tissue are taken from the patient – usually with minimal discomfort because of the small amount taken and the use of minimally-invasive methods of collection. The samples are then analysed for levels of large molecules (such as proteins and DNA). Combining these results with other information, such as imaging and clinical data, enables the precise subdivision of patients.  

Why target specific disease areas?

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) affects over one million people in the UK and kills 25,000 people a year.
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is commoner than all leukaemias combined and kills 50 per cent of patients within three years of diagnosis. 
  • Nottingham hosts the UK's National Centre for Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a disease which has no effective treatment.
  • Cystic Fibrosis (CF), the commonest life-threatening genetic disorder among people of European descent whose and median age of death is 35-40 is usually due to Pseudomonas bacterial infection.
  • Hepatitis B and C affect more than 500,000 people in the UK and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the commonest chronic liver disease. 
  • Helicobacter pylori bacterial infection affects one in six people in the UK and causes both peptic ulceration and gastric cancer.

Professor Knox said:

 The work will lead to the development and clinical application of molecular diagnostics and computer modeling algorithms in several important infective, inflammatory and fibrotic diseases of the respiratory, gastro-intestinal systems and liver and will likely be applicable to diseases in other organ systems.
 

Training programmes

The NPMN is committed to developing molecular pathologists to NHS and industry standards and will do this by offering high quality   MSc level programmes, short taught courses and summer training schools.

 

For more information

Visit the  NMPN website to see the 10 workstreams and updates to the project

Expert

Professor Alan Knox

Professor in Respiratory Medicine