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Biotech partnership to tackle disease before it starts

Biotech partnership to tackle disease before it starts

A new partnership in Leeds has been agreed to evaluate the benefits of a diagnostic blood test which can help predict whether someone is likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

The test, developed by US biotech company SomaLogic, measures protein indicators or biomarkers in a blood sample.

If the test is effective, it will enable GPs to work with their patients to find the best way to keep them healthy or to steer them towards better health.

The Leeds Centre for Personalised Medicine and Health will be working with SomaLogic to explore how to assess the effectiveness of the test through a number of clinical studies across the city, to see if it can be used to try and prevent cases of type 2 diabetes.

A greater understanding of individuals’ current and future health needs means GPs can provide the most effective advice to stay healthy.

Dr Mike Messenger

Figures from Public Health England (PHE) estimate that 3.8 million people have diabetes, nine out of 10 having type 2, which PHE said was largely preventable or manageable through lifestyle changes. However, it said prevalence of the condition was due to carry on increasing and one of the key risk factors was being overweight.

It has been estimated that the cost of treating diabetes and its complications now accounts for 10 per cent of the NHS budget. PHE said tackling the disease was fundamental to the sustainable future of the NHS.

Testing based on protein analysis 

The SomaLogic test is based on proteomics where the levels of 5,000 specific proteins are measured to calculate the risks that an individual will develop certain conditions, such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes.

The first phase of the partnership, which has been supported by the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network, will focus on the effectiveness of the test in health initiatives designed to prevent type 2 diabetes.

At the moment, people are assessed as being at high risk of type-2 diabetes if they have a raised level of a biomarker called HbA1c. Those people are offered regular screening and support on possible lifestyle changes.

However measuring HbA1c is not foolproof at predicting whether someone will go on and develop the condition.

New test 'more accurate'

Studies suggest that SomaLogic’s test could be more accurate at predicting if an individual will develop the condition, allowing GPs to better target and tailor interventions at those patients at the greatest risk.

Dr Mike Messenger, Head of the Leeds Centre for Personalised Medicine and Health, said: “For a number of years, doctors have spoken of personalised medicine – a move away from ‘one size fits all’ to a process of tailoring treatment using biomarkers, as SomaLogic is suggesting. Doing so would identify the right intervention for the right patient at the right time.

“A greater understanding of individuals’ current and future health needs means GPs can provide the most effective advice to stay healthy. In some cases the evidence may point to more regular monitoring of a patient or advice about lifestyle changes; for others, it might mean medication or treatment at an earlier stage.

“This is important research which could help to improve the health of people across Leeds for years to come.”

Dr Steve Williams, Chief Medical Officer at SomaLogic, said: “This application of a personalised and comprehensive decoding of protein signals will enable people to assess their underlying biology to enhance health decisions by addressing the fundamentals of: ‘how much should I be concerned’ and ‘what should I do about it’.”

The Leeds Centre for Personalised Medicine and Health is hosted by the University of Leeds and is part of the Leeds Academic Health Partnership, which brings together leading expertise from core partners including three of the city’s universities, NHS organisations and Leeds City Council. The Partnership identifies, attracts and implements innovation and inward investment that responds to the challenges facing health and care, including reducing health inequalities across the city.  

City-wide drive for better health

Councillor Rebecca Charlwood, chair of Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “Our partnership with local universities and the NHS is based on a strong commitment to early intervention and prevention, and stopping diseases from starting in the first place.

"We are committed to using innovative technologies to improve outcomes, particularly in our poorest communities where type 2 diabetes has the greatest impact. This trial could help us develop a more personalised approach that we hope will improve the lives of many people at risk of type II diabetes."

Further information

Journalists requiring more details or who have interview requests should contact David Lewis in the University of Leeds press office on 0113 343 8059 or email d.lewis@leeds.ac.uk.

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