National Physical Laboratory (NPL)

£1 million investment for CRACK IT Challenge


Source: National Physical Laboratory (NPL)

The Inhalation Translation CRACK IT Challenge, in which the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is a partner, has won funding of £1 million to complete the second phase of the project.

Led by King's College London and also involving the University of Hertfordshire, the Inhalation Translation Challenge aims to help reduce the number of animals used to test medicines for treating inflammatory diseases of the airways such as asthma.

Following a successful proof-of-concept study (Phase 1) and a 'Dragons' Den' style interview process, the project was the winning team chosen to deliver the Phase 2 Inhalation Translation Challenge, along with four other teams delivering different challenges.

Medicines for asthma and related diseases are usually taken by breathing them in, using an 'inhaler' device, and there has been very little innovation in these treatments over the past 50 years. Pharmaceutical companies are beginning to invest in dry powder delivery systems, which may offer advantages over the aerosols commonly used, but developing these therapies presents a number of challenges and current testing techniques are inefficient.

The consortium will develop in silico and in vitro methods to avoid compounds with safety issues entering non-clinical development and will provide more reliable and information-rich data. The Inhalation Translation challenge aims to identify solutions that have the potential to reduce the numbers of animals used at certain stages of drug discovery and development by up to 90%.

The National Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry Imaging (NiCE-MSI), which is based at NPL and was established in partnership with the University of Nottingham, is contributing advanced imaging facilities and expertise to the project.

NPL is developing measurements using mass spectrometry imaging techniques that will allow scientists to monitor multiple drug compounds, their associated metabolites and lipid biomarkers, in a single experiment, reducing the need for tests on multiple animals.

CRACK IT is the open innovation forum of the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) and is designed to bring together industry, academia and SMEs to solve challenges relating to scientific research on animals. The annual challenge-led competition is run in collaboration with the UK's innovation agency, Innovate UK.

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