MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre

The MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre enables scientists to better understand and tackle diseases that are triggered by environment as well as genetic causes thereby increasing the potential to develop strategies for their prevention and treatment.

The Centre opened in 2013 to provide a service to researchers throughout the UK, offering fast, efficient and high-quality analysis of people’s phenomes. Many common diseases are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, such as diet and lifestyle. Studying the phenome will help determine how the environment and genes combine to affect biochemical processes that lead to disease.

A phenotype is the observable physical and biochemical characteristics or traits of a person and result from the expression of an organism's genes as well as the influence of environmental factors and the interactions between the two. Phenotype data and any other datasets available on samples are analysed using the sophisticated technology at the Centre to identify biomarkers associated with disease risk and environmental exposure to drive healthcare solutions and improve patient care.

The Centre works closely with NIHR’s Biomedical Research Centres and Units and is a collaboration between Imperial College London and King’s College London supported by analytical technology companies the Waters Corporation and Bruker Biospin. The MRC and NIHR are providing funding of £10 million (£5 million each) for its first five years to provide a national resource for both the academic and commercial biomedical research community.

The MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre offers an unparalleled resource to undertake large-scale metabolic phenotyping of healthy and patient populations using millions of pounds worth of nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry technology to give the most accurate readings to date of the exact chemical make-up of people’s blood and urine. The equipment measures the chemicals, such as fats, sugars, vitamins and hormones, produced by our bodies as well as those that come from our food, drink and medicines, and the air we breathe.

The Centre also includes an international training facility, which enables students, scientists and doctors from around the world to gain hands-on experience of using analytical technology to study the human phenome.

 

Further information:

NIHR briefing document