A new consortium, led by The University of Manchester (UoM) and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), has been awarded £4.5 million to help patients with liver disease receive earlier, more accurate, and potentially life-saving diagnoses.
The UK Government’s Innovate UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will provide £2.5 million, with another £2 million matched in-kind funding from industry partners GE Healthcare and Roche Diagnostics.
The Integrated Diagnostics for Early Detection of Liver Disease – or ID LIVER consortium – will develop new software integrating patient and diagnostic data from different diagnostic tests.
Currently, the tests can only identify liver disease when well established. None identify early signs of liver disease or pick up patients destined for much worse outcomes.
ID LIVER is one of seven projects that will receive a share of a £16m grant from the fund, all of which intelligently combine data from blood tests, tissue analysis, imaging techniques, genetic profiles and our medical history.
The Manchester ID LIVER project is in partnership with colleagues from The University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, as well as major industry partners GE Healthcare and Roche Diagnostics.
The Challenge Fund recognises the value of bringing together university researchers, NHS experts and industry partners, large and small, to address major health challenges that no individual team could address on its own. The consortium is completed by Jiva.ai, Perspectum Diagnostics, Health Innovation Manchester, Trustech Smart Healthcare Ventures, Sectra, NorthWest EHealth, Octopus Ventures, and The Sollis Partnership. The project is also supported by the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) in Greater Manchester (through Health Innovation Manchester) and the East Midlands, which will drive the clinical innovation and provide a route to NHS adoption of the new diagnostic approaches.
Liver disease is a silent killer as patients will often have no symptoms in early stages. In the UK almost four in 10 people suffer health problems due to their livers not functioning correctly.
A proportion of these patients develop liver scarring that can often progress to complete liver failure – one of the UK’s largest health challenges, for which there is currently no solution apart from transplantation.
Professor Neil Hanley, Director of Research and Innovation at MFT, and the ID LIVER Project Lead, said: “I am thrilled that we have won this Innovate UK award, bringing together our best researchers in the university, NHS and technology sector. This would not have been possible without the research and research and development (R&D) support of global leaders, Roche Diagnostics and GE Healthcare and the enthusiasm of our SME partners. Transforming this aspect of healthcare is particularly important for the population of Greater Manchester as we have one of the UK’s highest rates of advanced liver disease.”
Prof Hanley, who is also a Professor of Medicine at The University of Manchester, added: “By identifying liver disease in a primary care setting we are aligning the care of liver disease to the NHS Long Term plan, of prevention rather than treatment. Bringing together clinical, academic and industrial R&D is also exactly what our Citylabs Innovation Campus is about, driving Manchester jobs and investment around health and life sciences.”
Sir Mike Deegan CBE, Group Chief Executive of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Manchester is uniquely positioned, through our devolved health and social care system, and the research and innovation infrastructure we have developed here, to tackle the challenge of liver disease. The ID LIVER consortium represents what Manchester does best; working together to deliver innovations that benefit our patients. It shows the power of partnership working and reflects our ambition to become an internationally recognised force in integrating diagnostics.”
Diagnostic tests brought together within ID LIVER include Perspectum Diagnostic’s magnetic resonance imaging technology ‘LiverMultiScan’, which provides quantitative measures associated with liver tissue characteristics.
Combining imaging-based metrics with other clinical data will allow healthcare professionals to make faster decisions, with greater confidence. By doing so, the team aims to identify patients with early-stage liver disease and those at risk of progressive life-threatening liver disease, including liver cancer.
By integrating clinical data with Jiva.ai‘s artificial intelligence and data science, people at risk of progressive liver disease who would previously attend hospital for diagnosis, often too late for preventative or curative treatment, will now be identified earlier by hospital-led screening in their local community.
Professor Graham Lord, Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, said: “Prevention and early detection of disease is one of our priorities and this funding success will enable scientists in the Piper Hanley lab, part of the University’s Wellcome Centre for Cell-Matrix Research, to take novel discoveries in liver fibrosis through to the clinic and out into the wider community for patient benefit.”
Dr Abdullahi Sheriff, Strategic Partnerships and Solutions leader at GE Healthcare UK and Ireland commented: “We are delighted to be working with the world class team from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and the consortium of partners on this ground breaking project. We believe in the power of partnerships in improving health outcomes and the transformative potential this partnership has to improve the early identification and treatment of liver disease and cancers at scale in the UK.”
Geoff Twist, Managing Director UK and Ireland and Management Centre European Agents at Roche Diagnostics Ltd, said: “We are thrilled with these funding awards, because it gives us the opportunity to work towards groundbreaking innovation in early diagnosis and because working in partnership is vital to achieve success in the health system. By bringing together the collective knowledge and expertise of these academic, medical and industry partners, these projects have the potential to impact patient care globally through new diagnostic solutions in cancer as well as thoracic and liver disease.”
Pamela Healy OBE, chief executive at the British Liver Trust said: “This is incredible news which could be the catalyst required to significantly improve early detection of liver disease in the UK. Three-quarters of patients are diagnosed in A & E when the disease is advanced and treatment options are limited and costly. Increasing investment into early diagnosis is vital as if caught at an early stage, simple lifestyle changes or treatments can be enough for the liver to recover. This would save lives and could save the NHS millions by reducing the burden of advanced liver disease.”
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “Our brilliant scientists and researchers in the North West are harnessing world-leading technologies, like AI, to tackle some of the most complex and chronic diseases that we face. Tragically, we know that liver problems, which affect up to four in ten people, are often not picked up early enough. The University of Manchester project we are backing today will help ensure more lives are saved and improved, by using state of the art technology to identify liver damage earlier and more accurately."
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