New initiative will help minimise threat of infectious diseases

07 Oct 2008

New government-funded programme will look at how new technology might be developed to help minimise the impact of the threat of infectious diseases

Technology Strategy Board and the National Institute for Health Research to invest up to £55 million over the next five years to support innovative research and development

New technology will aim to help reduce number of deaths and cases of illness caused by infectious diseases

The Technology Strategy Board with the Department of Health and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are to bring the government, business and researchers together in an initiative to address the challenge caused by the threat of infectious diseases.

The new programme - called the Detection and Identification of Infectious Agents (DIIA) Innovation Platform - will see investment of up to £55 million over the next five years in innovative research and development into technologies that will help to reduce the number of deaths and cases of illness caused by infectious diseases, while also reducing NHS expenditure on treating such diseases, currently £6bn every year.

The research and development to be funded by the new programme will be aimed at producing new rapid diagnostic tests and Point Of Care (POC) devices for the detection and identification of infectious agents in both humans and animals.  With infectious diseases accounting for over a fifth of human deaths, there is likely to be significant global demand for state-of-the-art disease detection and identification technology.

Both the Department of Health and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have been closely involved in the establishment of the new Innovation Platform, helping to establish the scale of the problem, the cost of not addressing it, the performance specifications and the potential market size - in the UK and worldwide - for the new technologies.  DEFRA's interest in the initiative relates to the development of new technologies for the rapid diagnostic testing for notifiable and endemic diseases in animals.

Announcing the formation of the new Innovation Platform at today's Innovate08 conference, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham, said: "The new platform is targeting an area of great human interest - which is how we detect and identify infectious diseases more quickly and effectively. It plays to this country's great strength in medical research, to our international leadership in bioscience and pharmaceuticals. It promises benefits to people using the NHS."

Commenting on the decision to set up the programme, Professor Sally C. Davies, the Department of Health Director General of R&D, said: "About 10% of all deaths in the UK are caused by infectious diseases, while the estimated cost of treatment is £6 billion each year.  Also, over a third of all GP consultations in England are related to infectious diseases.    Rapid and accurate diagnosis of infectious diseases can lead to targeted and more efficient treatments, with improved outcomes.  So this initiative meets a real need and is why we are contributing in a major way to this initiative through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) invention for innovation (i4i) programme."

The Technology Strategy Board will invest £10 million a year for five years, alongside the NIHR, which on behalf of the Department of Health, will invest between £500,000 and £1 million a year over the same period.

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Last updated on Monday 08 December 2008 at 13:52

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