A £10m scientific research centre is to be based on the site of Olympic drug testing laboratories, David Cameron has announced.
The world’s first phenome centre will allow experts to learn more about physical characteristics like hair and eye colour, as well as better investigate diseases such as diabetes and dementia, paving the way for new treatments and drugs.
The facility will occupy the 2012 Games’ anti-doping centre in Harlow, Essex. This is where scientists analyse samples from all medallists, including 16-year-old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen, who sparked controversy when American coach John Leonard described her world record-breaking performance as “disturbing”, prompting claims she took banned substances.
The prime minister is expected to say later: “When the Games close, all this incredible equipment and expertise will be used to establish a new phenome centre for research into biological markers of health and disease.
“This will take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities that lie in combining genetic data with the results of medical tests on tissues and blood.
“It will allow us to understand the characteristics of disease and how these link into genes and our environment.
“It’s an impressive example of collaboration between top-class research, the NHS and industry. It will produce new forms of drugs and it will lead the world in the development of precision medicine.”
The centre, run by drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, will be funded by £10 million over five years from the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health’s National Institute for Health Research.
Mr Cameron, who is expected to reveal more details in a speech to 500 world health leaders at the Global Health Policy Summit in London later today, believes the project will form part of the Games’ legacy.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Our investment in this new centre, the first of its kind, promises better-targeted treatments for patients with a wide range of common diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia.
“Patients will benefit from faster and more accurate diagnosis and researchers will be able to develop new drugs and treatments as we understand more about the characteristics of diseases and new sub-types of diseases are discovered.”
England’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said: “This research centre will transform our understanding of people’s physical characteristics and disease, and enable us to pull these discoveries into real benefits for patients.
“The advances that will be made by the researchers will help develop new treatments, including treatments specially tailored for the individual.
“This has the potential to revolutionise the way in which we treat a wide range of diseases.”