By Kate Kelland
LONDON Aug 1 The anti-doping laboratory being
used to test athletes at the London Olympics is to be developed
after the Games into what officials say will be a world-class
research facility that could help revolutionise healthcare.
The lab was provided and equipped by British drugmaker
GlaxoSmithKline to carry out more than 6,000 drug tests
during the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
It is to become a so-called Phenome Centre for scientists
seeking to develop better and more targeted medical treatments.
A phenome is a person's entire chemistry - all the molecules
in the blood, urine or tissues that are the result of the
combination of genetics and lifestyle.
With input from universities and other research institutions
and funding from the government's Medical Research Council
(MRC), scientists will investigate the phenome patterns of
patients and volunteers using very rapid analysis of samples,
usually of blood or urine.
The facility "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," said John Savill,
chief executive of the MRC.
"Rather than losing this investment once the Games are over,
the collaboration... will provide a unique resource that will
ultimately result in benefits for patients."
The liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry testing
equipment being used at the anti-doping lab can screen up to 400
samples a day for more than 240 banned substances in less than
Britain is keen to maintain a position at the forefront of
scientific research and drug development, and its economy has
been particularly reliant on pharmaceutical firms for success in
manufacturing. But the industry has been under pressure in
recent years and forced to make cuts.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced the
plans for the centre on Wednesday, described it as "an
impressive example of collaboration between top-class research,
the National Health Service and industry".
"When the games close, all this incredible equipment and
expertise will be used..for research into biological markers of
health and disease," he said.
"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 will allow us to understand the
characteristics of disease and how these link into genes and our
Savill said the centre would be the first of its kind.
The phenome changes all the time and is influenced by
factors such as diet, environment and even stress levels. It is
also linked to how a person responds to disease or to
The researchers will focus on finding new so-called
biomarkers which can explain why one person or population may be
more susceptible to a disease than another.
The centre, in Harlow to the east of London, will be funded
over five years by an investment of five million pounds ($7.83
million) each from the MRC and the Department of Health's
National Institute for Health Research.