Foster and Poots launch £11.5million Centre for Stratified Medicine at Altnagelvin

Photography: Harrison Photography

Pictured, left to right are Health Minister Edwin Poots, Prof Tony Bjourson and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Health Minister Edwin Poots today announced the opening of an £11.5million clinical research facility in Londonderry which will create 22 high-quality research posts.

The Northern Ireland Centre for Stratified Medicine is based at the University of Ulster and is a collaboration between the university’s Biomedical Sciences Research Institute, C-TRIC (the Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre) and the Western Health and Social Care Trust.

It will primarily focus on personalised medicine approaches to managing chronic diseases, in essence, tailoring healthcare to individual patients.

It has been offered £5.6million of support from Invest Northern Ireland, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund. The Department of Health has offered £1.5million towards the project with the balance of £4.4million provided by the University of Ulster.

Speaking at the opening of the centre, Arlene Foster said: “This project will help to establish Northern Ireland as a leader in personalised medicine, where discoveries are moved rapidly to commercial and clinical use. This both enhances health and supports economic regeneration.

“Health and Life Sciences is one of the fastest growing sectors in Northern Ireland and one that will play an increasingly important part in helping to strengthen our economy. This new centre will speed up commercialisation of intellectual property from our universities, positioning the economy to compete strongly in this high-value sector.

Stratified medicine is the term given to predicting how groups of patients will respond to a particular therapy and providing personalised treatment for them.

Edwin Poots said: “This multi-million pound investment is the first major initiative funded jointly through my Department and InvestNI since the signing of the Connected Health and Prosperity Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). It is a clear demonstration of how health innovations will benefit those who need services while at the same time boosting our economy.

“This investment will enable the creation in Northern Ireland of a major centre with significant expertise in areas such as translational science and computational biology. These skills, currently scarce locally, will enable effective research and development based upon data from the health services, for example, electronic patient health records or telemonitoring. It will allow key staff to gain experience of working in effective teams with clinicians to deliver evidence for healthcare interventions.

“This centre integrates long-standing excellence in Life Sciences research and development undertaken in universities and Trusts, with cutting-edge technologies. The Centre’s work plan will require the realisation of benefits both for healthcare and for the economy. It is expected to become a magnet for commercial inward investment as well as for funding from sources across the globe.”

Commenting on the new centre, Professor Tony Bjourson, University of Ulster, said: “This Centre aims to develop improved clinical tools that can provide accurate and personalised treatment decisions in chronic human diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. This Stratified Medicine approach to clinical care is amongst the most important concepts to emerge in 21st- century clinical science.

“Northern Ireland is emerging as an important region for stratified medicine research and this new centre marks a significant advancement in this strategic research area.”