Service launched to support UK companies and biobanks

Rachel Cresswell 28 February 2018

New collaboration to unlock tissue samples for drug discovery research


Human samples including tissue, blood and urine, which are essential for medicines research and development, are difficult for small companies working in the field to access. The Medicines Discovery Catapult has launched its second collaborative project to solve this problem. Tissue Solutions, a Scottish provider of ethically sourced human samples required for preclinical drug development and research, will work with the Medicines Discovery Catapult to help UK SMEs and biobanks work together on medical research projects.

A recent report published by the Medicines Discovery Catapult and the BioIndustry Association, based on interviews and surveys with senior executives from the UK drug discovery field, found that 93% of UK SMEs considered access to NHS biosamples for commercial development as hugely important, yet 64% had difficulty in accessing UK tissue samples for medical research. Difficulties due to access leads to 75% of diagnostic SMEs using non-UK sample sources instead. The key issue faced by companies is the process of agreeing and delivering sample access. Although some biobanks in the UK have overcome this issue, many have not and the problem of access to UK samples remains an area of concern.

Medicines Discovery Catapult is helping to tackle this issue via a new collaboration project which will create a joint team with Tissue Solutions, focussed on supporting UK research companies making agreements with UK biobanks for commercial R&D.

The partnership is a two-year commitment supporting the use of consented human samples from UK patients for medical research and development. The partnership complements Medicines Discovery Catapult’s current collaboration with the UK’s Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre, which will make consented samples easier to find.

Chris Molloy, Chief Executive of the Medicines Discovery Catapult, said: “The UK has millions of samples and billions of data points collected from UK patients who have generously agreed for them to be used in medical research. Yet we know small companies struggle to access them. That’s a major barrier to the UK’s R&D productivity and represents a missed opportunity for growing the sector. In a globally competitive environment, we must ensure SMEs involved in drug discovery are given all they need to maintain the UK’s strong heritage position in medicines R&D”


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