New Liverpool Biomedical Research Centre

Press release 22 Aug 2007
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A new, national research centre set-up to tackle infections is to be launched on Thursday, August 23, in Liverpool.

The Centre is being run jointly by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Royal Liverpool University Hospital and the University of Liverpool. It is now the UK’s leading specialist research centre for microbial diseases.

It is funded by the National Institute for Health Research and will ensure that the city becomes a pioneer in the development of new drugs and diagnostic tools for a range of conditions such as Clostridium difficile, HIV, tuberculosis (TB), cystic fibrosis and drug safety.

During the next five years, the Centre will deliver 13 groundbreaking projects. They are focused on four areas – pulmonary infections, sexual health, hospital and community acquired infections and the safety of antimicrobials.

Professor Peter Winstanley, executive director of the Liverpool Biomedical Research Centre, explained: “Our aim is to take research from the ‘laboratory bench’ and translate it into real patient benefit. We have 13 exceptional projects that will, in some cases, help us develop new ways to test for specific conditions to improve treatment or reduce the impact of some major infectious diseases”.

“We also have several projects that are likely to lead to the development of new drugs or vaccines for some of the most lethal health conditions worldwide. We are now looking forward to sharing our plans with the rest of the UK and getting on with making it happen.”

Examples of what the projects will deliver include:

  • a new diagnostic tool to predict who is more susceptible to acquiring Clostridium difficile to enable hospitals to more effectively tackle hospital acquired infections at an earlier stage;
  • using DNA and genetic testing techniques to develop a way of testing who is likely to be allergic to penicillin so that more effective alternatives can be used earlier;
  • a way to detect who is at risk of developing gastric cancer, the second most common cause of cancer-related death worldwide, which may lead to a new cancer therapy;
  • a method to identify a specific, harmful and life threatening bacteria in those people with Cystic Fibrosis in less that six hours – it currently takes between seven and ten days;
  • a new vaccine for pneumonia – a major cause of death in children and adults worldwide;
  • a new way to accurately diagnosis severe sepsis, which affects 18 million globally each year and is fatal to between 30 and 50 per cent; and
  • the identification of the factors that cause HIV patients to develop resistance to drug therapies.

The work of the Centre is being overseen by an external advisory panel. This group is made up of leading patient representatives for a variety of diseases as well as scientific and medical experts.

It includes Professor David Russell from Cornell University in America, who is a leading world figure in TB, as well Dr Rima Khabbaz from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, also a world leader in her field.

They will be joined by more than 120 experts in Liverpool later this week to hear more about the work of the Centre and its progress and future plans. They will also hear how Liverpool is developing itself as a national and international centre for biomedical research.

Councillor Warren Bradley, leader of Liverpool City Council, will give an inaugural speech at the event. He will outline the City’s vision for the future as a research hub and how the Centre further adds to the city’s health is wealth agenda.

He said: “This is a major feather in the cap for the City and one which we as a city council are delighted to be associated with and involved in. I believe that it will help the City become a pioneering base for the treatment and management of some of the most serious illnesses, affecting people across the globe.

“It will also enable Liverpool to become a focus for the development of new techniques for detecting infections and illnesses, meaning some of the worlds leading experts will have their eyes firmly fixed on Liverpool in the future. This can only be good news for Liverpool and will help further our links and networks across the world. I am absolutely delighted.”

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