A new research facility has recently been opened at Imperial College London – the MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre. Funded by the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research, the center presents a partnership between London Universities Imperial and Kings College London and companies Bruker Biospins and Waters Corporation.
The facility will allow the analysis of approximately 100,000 urine and blood samples per year; focusing on ‘phenome’ studies. Such studies link an individual’s genome with environmental factors. Director of the centre, Jeremy Nicholson, explains, “The sequencing of the human genome generated a lot of excitement among scientists and the public, but studying our genes has revealed less than we had hoped about common diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. By studying the phenome we can examine the effects of our genes, our lifestyle and our environment.”
The facility houses the latest in NMR and MS technology. As Frank Kelly, co-investigator at the centre and Director of the analytical and environmental sciences division at King’s College London explains, “This technology is already in use in medical research but only on a small scale. With the creation of this new facility, it will now be possible to get a complete and accurate biological read-out of thousands of individuals.”
The ultimate aim of this research is to “help determine the causes of disease and indicate how treatments can be tailored for individual patients.” The centre will provide this service to researchers throughout the UK, with one of the first projects led by Nilesh Samani (University of Leicester), studying how blood pressure is linked to chemicals present in the samples.
In addition, during the first 5 years, the centre will test samples already stored by researchers, gathered at the NIHR’s biomedical research centers. The hope is that this collaboration with NHS hospitals will ensure that patients will more directly benefit from the medical research carried out at this new facility.