LONDON (Reuters) - The London 2012 Olympic anti-doping laboratory will be developed after the Games into what officials say will be a world-class research facility that could help revolutionize healthcare.
The lab, which was provided and kitted out by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to carry out more than 6,000 drug tests during the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, 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.
Scientists working at the centre, which will involve universities and other research institutions and be funded by the government’s Medical Research Council (MRC), will investigate the phenome patterns of patients and volunteers by analyzing samples - usually of blood or urine - very rapidly.
“The GSK drug-testing 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.”
Savill said the centre would be the first of its kind in the world and would help scientists explore the characteristics of disease to aid the development of new drugs and treatments.
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 treatments such as medications.
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 new 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 Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Department of Health’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
Britain’s health minister Andrew Lansley said the research should lead to better treatments for patients with a wide range of common diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia.
“Patients will benefit from faster and more accurate diagnosis and researchers will be able to develop new drugs and treatments as we understand more about the characteristics of diseases and new sub-types of diseases are discovered,” he said in a statement. ($1 = 0.6382 British pounds)
Editing by Ken Ferris