BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Funding of £74 million (US$135.9 million) was announced for the UK Clinical Research Collaboration to create a single gateway to the largest pool of patients in the world in the National Health Service (NHS), with the aim of making the UK the best location for clinical trials.

The money is coming from a number of sources, with the Wolfson Foundation and the Wellcome Trust putting up £30 million for the creation of purpose-built clinical research centers, at which universities and hospitals can work together.

The Medical Research Council is committing £15 million to promote the translation of laboratory research into clinical practice, while central government will provide £5.8 million annually to the program to build the infrastructure in the NHS and develop career paths for clinical research staff.

The UKCRC is not a contract research organization, but will provide and coordinate access to patients. The need for greater investment in clinical research was highlighted in BioScience 2015, an industry-sponsored report, which pointed out the UK was not realizing the clinical research potential offered by the NHS.

Following publication of the report in November 2003, the UKCRC was launched in April 2004. Glyn Edwards, CEO of Antisoma plc and a board member of UKCRC, told BioWorld International: "I'm really encouraged by what [it] is doing. I'm not usually a big organization person, but a hell of a lot of people are involved, and there is a serious amount of money. The announcement of £74 million spending would be impressive in isolation, but it is backed by a serious commitment."

Edwards said the UKCRC won't make much difference initially to companies such as Antisoma that already have clinical development expertise in place. "I'm sure it will soon make a difference to smaller companies that need clinical data to be able to license their products, because it's no longer just a case of getting some [toxicology] data. You need far more sophisticated data, such as the effects on X or Y mutation, and so on."

However, Edwards said the level of commitment means that in the long run clinical trials processes will be speeded up, benefiting all companies sponsoring trials in the UK.

A key component of the UKCRC is the creation of dedicated research networks that will bring together all UK activities in individual disease areas. Since UKCRC was founded, networks in children's medicines, mental health, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and stroke have been set up, based on the National Cancer Research Institute, established in 2001. That provides a single point of access to information on all cancer trials running in the country. Over time, all diseases will have a dedicated research network.