Queen’s awarded share of £14 million to boost R&D in precision medicine

Professor Manuel Salto Tellez and Dr Jacqueline James of QUB's Precision Medicine Centre of Excellence
Professor Manuel Salto Tellez and Dr Jacqueline James of QUB's Precision Medicine Centre of Excellence

Queen’s University Belfast has announced its role in a consortium to receive a multi-million-pound investment of government and industry funding to advance the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in cancer diagnosis and precision medicine.

The announcement today by Greg Clark, UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) confirms that UK Research and Innovation will invest £14 million in PathLAKE (Pathology image data Lake for Analytics, Knowledge and Education) as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The university’s Precision Medicine Centre of Excellence (PMC) will join the PathLAKE consortium, which includes University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, University of Warwick, Universities and University Hospitals in Oxford and Nottingham and Philips Digital and Computational Pathology.

The project could make the diagnosis of cancer timelier and more accurate, positively affecting many thousands of patients suffering the disease in the UK every year.

Queen’s University’s PMC is a world-leading laboratory, focusing on diagnostics which can predict a cancer patients’ response to treatment. This will allow potentially costly drugs to be used more effectively by being prescribed only to those that can benefit from them.

“Digital Pathology and AI has the potential to drive huge improvements in cancer precision diagnostics and therapeutics,” said Prof Manuel Salto-Tellez, chair of molecular pathology at Queen’s and head of the PMC.

“I am very proud that Belfast is the recipient of the largest budget in the consortium to develop new tools to help cancer patients in the future. “This is a true recognition of the global leadership from Belfast in Digital Pathology, and a great achievement for the newly created PMC.

“I look forward to working closely with Philips to develop novel algorithms that are easy for pathologists to access and which we believe will improve targeted therapy and immunotherapy, and allow cancer patients live longer and better lives.”

Dr Jacqueline James, university reader in pathology and lead researcher at the PMC said: “A new challenge in personalising clinical medicine is before us.

“As a result, it is critical that we deliver education programmes with relevance, not only in the clinical practice of genomic medicine, but also in the application of novel technologies and artificial intelligence.”