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New base for cancer screening pioneers


A North American business specialising in pioneering skin cancer and sun-damaged skin testing is to establish a base in the UK to continue its world-leading research.

Canada-based Genesis Genomics (GGUK), a cutting-edge biotech research corporation, is currently developing a new early warning system to aid the effective treatment of skin cancer and skin damaged by sunburn. It plans to use its new base at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to push the commercial development of its world first ‘skin physical’ test – using information gleaned from new advances in DNA research into sun-damaged cells.

GGUK’s new ‘skin physical’ test will give patients a reliable measure of the extent of sun-damaged skin and provide personal lifestyle advice to minimise future damage. The research arm of the company will also work to provide an early indicator of skin cancer development. A collaboration between One NorthEast’s Strategy for Success, Inward Investment and Research and Development teams, working alongside Newcastle University and the Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences (CELS), helped attract GGUK to North East England.

The new operation will be based at Newcastle University, calling on the expertise of Professor Mark Birch-Machin in the Faculty of Medical Services at Newcastle University, who is a co-founder of Genesis Genomics and managing director of GGUK. One NorthEast has agreed a £200,000 Research and Development Grant to help establish GGUK at Newcastle University. The company hopes to create an initial 15 new jobs.

Prof Birch-Machin, of Dermatological Sciences at Newcastle University, said: “I am excited to see that the future success of the UK business will help to make a significant contribution to the decrease in skin cancer, which has one of the fastest growing cancer incidences in Europe and totals 70,000 new cases each year in the UK. “Our research group at Newcastle University is leading world advances in this field. The unique element of our work is being able to measure the sun burnt DNA in normal, healthy people rather than just in people who are suffering from skin cancer. “We have managed to find a particular DNA marker which tells us ‘I have been damaged and how much I have been damaged’.

“This development will let people know how sun damaged their skin is and the preventative steps that can be taken to reduce future risk.”

Prof Birch-Machin is also working with Newcastle University researchers on the next generation of sunscreens to protect DNA from sun damage. He hopes people will eventually be able to buy his early warning skin test product from health centres and dermatologists.

This product would involve skin samples being sent by purchasers to the Genesis Genomics testing centre at the university, which would analyse their sample and send results back electronically or by post.

Norman Kribs, GGUK Director of Operations, said: “GGUK is ready to offer the skin physical test this summer while the research arm of GGUK will work to provide an early indicator of skin cancer development by 2006. “The £200,000 grant from One NorthEast was made possible through a matching investment by parent company Genesis Canada of over £850,000, which intends to employ up to 15 people in the first instance at its Newcastle base.”

David Allison, One NorthEast Director for Business and Industry, said: “I am delighted that Genesis Genomics has chosen the North East as the base for its UK operation. “One NorthEast has placed a major emphasis on the exploitation of science and knowledge as a key driver of the future North East economy through its Strategy for Success. The £200m strategy is now beginning to bear fruit and the arrival of GGUK will be a major boost to life sciences in the region.”

Keith Morris, from the Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences, said: “As part of attracting GGUK we had to do a considerable amount of work highlighting the potential growth of the region’s life science and healthcare sector and the amenities that would be available for companies choosing to locate here. But as more companies of the calibre of Genesis Genomics choose the North East as their base, this job will get easier.

“We hope by helping GGUK smoothly integrate into the region’s existing healthcare and life science work, we may attract more companies of this standing to the region.”

Prof Mark Birch-Machin | alfa
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