Why Scotland is taylor-made for Precision Medicine

An interview in the Scotsman newspaper with Dr Diane Harbison , CEO of the Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre on why Scotland is an ideal location to develop a  “cluster” of precision medicine companies. It has a small, stable population, a single unified health system, world-renowned universities, some of the best health data in the world, not to mention a high incidence of complex disease – all the right ingredients for making new discoveries in precision medicine.

 

 

International NASH Day

Today (12th June 2018) is the first International NASH Day – a day to help raise awareness of this silent epidemic which currently has no approved treatment. We’re working on a project which we hope will change this – but more about that later. 

First, some facts about NASH. 25% of the world’s population has non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the most severe form. It’s a disease which is strongly linked to modern unhealthy and inactive lifestyles – 25-30% of obese people have NASH.

Chronic liver disease (increasingly due to NAFLD) is the third most common cause of premature death in the UK. By 2020, it’s expected that NASH will be the leading condition for liver transplants. Early recognition of the disease and effective treatment is urgently required to reduce deaths.

This disease has an economic burden too – in Germany, France, Italy, and the UK combined, there are around 52 million people with NAFLD, with an annual cost of €35 billion.

So, what can be done? I’m currently the chief investigator of a team, managed by the Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre and led by industry partners Eagle Genomics, who are developing a ground-breaking project which could help develop new tests and treatments for patients with NASH. The team was awarded a £1.7M collaborative grant from Innovate UK (the UK’s innovation agency) earlier this year to develop a Data Commons, which will be the first in the world for NASH.

A Data Commons brings together data, storage and computing systems, and is a commonly used tool for analysing and sharing data to create a resource for patients, charities, clinicians and the research community.

As more health data is added, our NASH Data Commons will evolve into a smarter, more comprehensive knowledge system that will be used to make new discoveries to understand and treat this disease more effectively. It will help us to develop and validate new tests for NASH, and to identify patients who will benefit most from new therapies. 

The project will also involve partners at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, NHS Scotland and Glasgow and Edinburgh’s MRC Molecular Pathology Nodes.

Watch this space to find out more about this pioneering project as it progresses.

By Professor Jonathan Fallowfield, Senior Clinical Research Fellow/Principal Investigator, MRC Centre for Inflammation Research at the University of Edinburgh (SteatoSITE Clinical Lead)

 

International NASH Day 2018

On International NASH Day 2018, we’re sharing some key facts about this silent epidemic which affects the livers of one in four Scots. Find out what we and our partners Eagle Genomics and the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh are doing to find more effective tests and treatments for NASH at http://www.stratmed.co.uk/news-and-events/2018/february/17m-of-innovate-uk-funding-will-help-tackle-silent-killer-that-could-affect-one-in-four-scots/

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1 in 8 adults may have non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)

 

A new study has released new data which indicates that the prevalence of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) among UK adults could be as high as 12%. NASH is a progressive form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) which is now considered to be one of the major causes of cirrhosis of the liver.  Dame Sally Davies, UK Chief Medical Officer, has previously warned of the impact the growing prevalence of fatty liver disease will have on the nation’s health, and its impact on NHS resources.

The data, presented at The International Liver Congress in Paris, came from an analysis of UK Biobank, the world’s largest database of health information. Perspectum Diagnostics used  their LiverMultiScan technology to analyse quantitative MRI data from 2,895 UK Biobank participants to calculate the overall percentage of people in the database who are expected to have NASH. Their projected figure of 12% suggests the number of people with undiagnosed NASH could be significantly higher than the 2-3% previously estimated.

Currently most people with NASH are diagnosed using a liver biopsy. This only occurs when the disease has progressed and they are showing symptoms. Perspectum’s Multi-scan technology has the potential to enable doctors to diagnose this disease earlier using a less invasive test.

£1.7M of Innovate UK funding will help tackle silent killer that could affect one in four Scots

Eagle Genomics and the Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre (SMS-IC) have been awarded a £1.7M collaborative grant from Innovate UK (the UK’s innovation agency), for a ground-breaking project that could help develop new tests and treatments for patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

NAFLD, an accumulation of excess fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol, affects 25% of the world’s population. Strongly linked to type II diabetes and obesity, it is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in developed countries and there is no approved treatment. Chronic liver disease is now the third most common cause of premature death in the UK.

The progressive form of NAFLD, known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), usually precedes liver fibrosis, liver cancer and premature death. Early recognition of the disease, monitoring progression, and effective treatment in patients is urgently required in order to reduce deaths from end-stage liver disease.

Using Eagle Genomics e[automateddatascientist] platform as the foundation, the Innovate UK funding will be used to develop SteatoSITE, a Data Commons – a unified data system that allows sharing of genomic (RNA-Seq) and clinical information from patients with NASH, making it more accessible for further research. The Data Commons, which will be the first in the world for NASH, will lead to a deeper understanding of which tests and treatments are most effective for individual patients.

As more data is added, the Data Commons will evolve into a smarter, more comprehensive knowledge system that will assist important discoveries in chronic liver disease and increase the success of treatments for patients.

The Data Commons project will be led by SMS-IC’s industry partner, Eagle Genomics Ltd, an AI augmented knowledge discovery company. It will also involve partners at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, NHS Scotland and Glasgow and Edinburgh’s MRC Molecular Pathology Nodes. The collaboration pulls together world-class clinical expertise, data and access to research samples.

The project will involve genetic sequencing of 1000 liver biopsy samples from within the NHS Scotland’s biorepository network by Edinburgh Genomics, a global leader in DNA sequencing and genomics based at the University of Edinburgh. This new data will be combined with information from imaging, clinical and electronic health records.

Diane Harbison, Chief Executive of Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre, said:”SMS-IC is uniquely placed to deliver transformational health projects such as this one. Scotland is a world leader in terms of the health data it has available, and this project is a great example of making most of this data in order to identify successful treatments and improve our ability to ensure each patient gets the right treatment. NAFLD is a massive health problem which affects large swathes of the population, not just in Scotland but globally, and there is a desperate need for potential treatments. Taking a stratified approach – ensuring treatments are targeted based on each individual patient’s genes – means they are more likely to be successful.”

Dr Jonathan Fallowfield, Senior Clinical Research Fellow/Principal Investigator, MRC Centre for Inflammation Research at the University of Edinburgh (SteatoSITE Clinical Lead) said:

“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a silent epidemic with no approved treatment. Sharing information through this new data repository will be transformative for research efforts to better understand the disease. It will help to pinpoint patients at high risk of disease progression and will speed up the development of new therapies.”

Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak, Vice Principal and Head of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences (MVLS) at the University of Glasgow said: “The SMS-IC is one of the University’s key collaborative partnerships to further Precision Medicine in Scotland, and so on behalf of myself and everyone at the College, I am delighted to support this latest investment and the ongoing success of the SMS-IC.

“The work of the SMS-IC, and indeed this latest collaborative project, exemplifies the University’s ethos of the ‘triple helix’ partnership between the NHS, University and industry.”

Abel Ureta-Vidal, CEO of Eagle Genomics said: “This collaboration and funding is a great opportunity to further demonstrate the versatility of our e[automateddatascientist] platform to support translational sciences in the biomedical research field. Our platform is already deployed in other areas of Life Sciences research and development, such as animal health, personal care and cosmetics, food and crop sciences. This project will showcase its ability to accelerate innovation for pharmaceutical industry customers, to extend its use to other therapeutic areas of interest and play a key role in the digital reinvention of the Life Sciences research and development.”