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03.07.20

Government issues £16m funding to speed up life-saving diagnoses

Patients may be set to receive earlier and more accurate diagnoses for potentially life-threatening diseases such as cancer and Crohn’s disease, following a new £16m funding package announced by Science Minister Amanda Solloway.

The government-backed funding, which will be delivered to six of the UK’s most innovative specialist health projects based across the country from Glasgow to Cambridge, will aim to harness the most disruptive technologies, including artificial intelligence, to develop more precise medical solutions and enable earlier detection and diagnosis of these serious and potentially fatal diseases.

In one particular project, led by the University of Oxford, work is being carried out to improve survival rates in people with lung cancer – the UK’s deadliest form of cancer. It will bring together existing work being led by the NHS, universities, cancer charities and digital health companies to integrate the best of digital imaging and diagnostic science to help identify cancerous tumours in the lung earlier.

Elsewhere, another project to receive a split of the funding is working on healthcare solutions designed to more effectively treat Crohn’s disease, a painful, lifelong inflammatory condition affecting 180,000 people nationally.

As part of the Crohn’s disease project, artificial intelligence is being used to accurately predict when to start and stop drug use to control the disease, which currently has a 60% failure rate, and which can lead to further, irreversible damage to a patient’s bowel.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “Our brilliant scientists and researchers are harnessing world-leading technologies, like AI, to tackle some of the most complex and chronic diseases that we face.”

“Tragically, we know that one in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime, while Crohn’s disease affects up to 180,000 people across the country.

“These six cutting-edge projects will improve early diagnosis, create more precise treatments, and crucially, save lives.”

Out of the £16m awarded in funding, over £13m will be delivered from the Government, while up to £3m will be made available from Cancer Research UK to specifically support oncology-focused projects.

The government-backed funding, delivered through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, is part of a government programme in data to early diagnosis and precision medicine. The competition is run by Innovate UK on behalf of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and forms part of the government’s commitment to increase research and development investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

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