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Groundbreaking study to spot risks of disease

A groundbreaking study has launched in Leeds to better understand how proteins in people’s blood can help identify the risk of disease and enable health professionals to decide on the right care to prevent it.

The Leeds Centre for Personalised Medicine and Health has recruited the first patient to a Leeds ‘proteomics’ clinical trial, thought to be the first of its kind. The trial involves a simple but comprehensive diagnostic blood test developed by US biotech company SomaLogic and follows the announcement of the company’s partnership with Leeds last year.

The SomaLogic test is based on ‘proteomics’ – the study of proteins – and reflects a person’s real-time health status rather than more common tests based on genetics. SomaLogic’s test measures changes in the levels of 5,000 specific proteins in blood to calculate the risk that an individual will develop certain conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes.

The trial will study the effectiveness of the test and how it can influence changes in people’s lifestyles to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. If successful, it will then be rolled out across the city.

Digital innovation underpinning the trial means health professionals across the city can provide quicker support for patients, such as advising them about making lifestyle changes to help prevent the early onset of disease.

The Leeds Centre for Personalised Medicine and Health is working with partners across the city including Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, Leeds City Council, NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group and local GPs to recruit 1,000 patients from up to 24 general practices in Leeds.

Hosted by the University of Leeds, the Leeds Centre for Personalised Medicine and Health is a project of Leeds Academic Health Partnership.

The study also has the financial backing of Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN).

Neville Young, Director of Enterprise and Innovation at Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, said: This is a great example of how AHSN investment in Yorkshire’s academic-health institutions can support industry and catalyse exciting research to improve population health.”

Dr. Michael Messenger, Head of the Leeds Centre for Personalised Medicine and Health, said: “Personalised medicine lets us take a deeper look at each person’s individual biology so we can better understand what the right advice or treatment, at the right time, might be for that person.

“Advances in science, medicine and new technologies, such as this test, help us do exactly that, which is great news for patients and their families. The test results will mean GPs can discuss with those patients lifestyle changes they could make to help them avoid the onset of diabetes, for example, helping them live healthier lives for longer.”

Dr Stephen Williams, SomaLogic’s Chief Medical Officer added, “This is the first time in history that a broadly holistic health assessment based on thousands of proteins has been applied to preventative health. Congratulations to Leeds for this innovation.”

The clinical trial is using the city’s leading electronic health records using a system developed in Leeds.

The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s Electronic Health Record (PPM+) and the Leeds Care Record is for the first time linking the participating patients’ information with their results from the trial. By using the electronic system it means their results will be automatically linked to their health information record.

People who take part in the study do so voluntarily and can withdraw at any time. With their consent, their information is stored in a secure area of the electronic health record, accessed only by those people involved in the study.

Geoff Hall, Professor of Digital Health and Cancer Medicine at the University of Leeds said: “This is an exciting demonstration of the ability of Leeds health and social care to attract the best companies from across the world to work with us, using our electronic health platforms, to assess and deliver new innovations to our patients.”

Richard Corbridge Chief Digital and Information Officer of Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust said: “The ability to conduct this type of research in Leeds is hugely important for our clinicians, our academics and most of all our citizens. New treatments and preventative measures can be found through digital collaboration as is demonstrated here in Leeds on a weekly basis.”

Councillor Rebecca Charlwood, Leeds City Council Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults, and chair of Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “Our local universities are at the forefront of research and technological innovation, and play an essential part in meeting our ambition of being the best city for health and wellbeing. Through the Leeds Academic Health Partnership, we are able to utilise their expertise to help improve health outcomes for local residents.

“This latest trial is a great example of how that partnership is delivering on our commitment to early intervention and prevention. It will help us develop a more personalised approach that we hope will improve the lives of many people at risk of type 2 diabetes.”