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UKRI invests £13 m in life saving projects to improve diagnosis and treatment

Six projects that combine data from blood tests, tissue analysis, imaging techniques, genetic profiles and medical history, will share a £13 million grant from UKRI’s industrial strategy challenge fund.

Precision Medicine

They are the winners of a competition run by Innovate UK on behalf of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and form part of the government’s commitment to increase research and development investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

The projects, which focus on cancer, liver and bowel health, will use AI to bring together and better interpret data from multiple sources, leading to improved diagnoses, more precise treatments and fewer deaths and other health problems among affected people. They involve partners across the UK, including Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The projects will combine genomic, tissue analysis and other data, so that we can detect and diagnose disease more accurately and earlier and develop more precise treatments for a number of serious conditions that blight the lives of millions of people across the UK.

They bring together the different strengths of academia, charities, digital health and diagnostics companies and include both small businesses and bigger companies, like Roche, to attract nearly £16 million of private sector funding.

UKRI is also partnering with Cancer Research UK, which is contributing up to £3 million to the  cancer-focused projects.

The projects are:

  • The integration of genomics and digital pathology data using artificial intelligence to identify patients who can be spared toxic chemotherapy, as well as those that can benefit from more intensive treatments, improving the outcomes and quality of life for these patients. The project, called Actioned, will be led by Queen’s University Belfast.
  • A University of Cambridge project which will help to diagnose oesophageal cancer, which has increased 6-fold since the 1990s. Just 15% of people will survive for five years or more - often because it’s diagnosed too late.  Barrett's oesophagus, a condition that can turn into cancer of the oesophagus, is more common in patients who suffer with heartburn. By using a new test the project aims to diagnose up to 50% of cases of oesophageal cancer earlier, leading to improvements in survival, quality of life and economic benefits for the NHS.
  • Bowel cancer is the 2nd biggest killer among cancer-related deaths in the UK. A project, led by the University of Glasgow, will use cutting-edge technology and new data to develop a tool to more accurately predict which patients with pre-cancerous growths in their bowels, called polyps, will develop further polyps. This tool will improve patient care, by identifying polyps early and allowing them to be removed before they become cancer, reduce unnecessary colonoscopies and reduce costs for the NHS and the UK.
  • University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust-led into when liver scarring, which affects up to 4 in ten people, can lead to complete liver failure. Current tests pick up advanced scarring but don’t pinpoint early disease or those patients who are destined for much worse. The project will use software to come up with much better, much earlier answers.
  • A project, led by technology company Motilent, to more effectively manage Crohn's disease, a painful, lifelong, inflammatory condition affecting 180,000 people in the UK. Drugs can quickly control and suppress the inflammation but have a 60% failure rate which can lead to further, irreversible damage to a patient's bowel. The project is designed to more accurately predict when to start and stop drug use by combining magnetic resonance imaging and artificial intelligence and is being developed in partnership with University College London, University of Nottingham and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.
  • A project that aims to improve survival rates in people with lung cancer, led by Oxford University. Lung cancer kills more people in the UK than any other cancer. Both projects will bring together existing work being done by the NHS, universities, cancer charities, diagnostic and digital health companies to integrate the best of digital imaging, pathology, and protein and genetic analysis.

More information

  1. We originally announced a competition for the best integrated diagnostics innovations last year.
  2. More detail about each of the projects is below:

The INCISE project - INtegrated TeChnologies for Improved Polyp SurveillanacE – is a collaboration between University of Glasgow, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and Industry (Canon, BioClavis, OracleBio), which aims to deliver a tool to more accurately predict which patients with pre-cancerous growths in their bowels, called polyps, will develop further polyps. For all enquiries, please contact

DART (The Integration and Analysis of Data Using Artificial Intelligence to Improve Patient Outcomes with Thoracic Diseases), led by the University of Oxford, will accelerate lung cancer diagnosis, increasing the likelihood that treatment will be successful. Academics, NHS clinicians, the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation and industrial partners (Roche Diagnostics, GE Healthcare, Optellum) will work with the NHS England Lung Health Checks programme to combine clinical, imaging and molecular data for the first time using artificial intelligence algorithms. They aim to more accurately and quickly diagnose and characterise lung cancer with fewer invasive clinical procedures to improve patient outcomes.

ID LIVER is a new consortium, led by The University of Manchester (UoM) and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), which has been awarded £2.5 million from the UK Government’s Innovate UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to help patients with liver disease receive earlier, more accurate, and potentially life-saving diagnoses. For more information contact Kate Banks, Communications Manager, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust: on 0161 701 0260 / 07873 205 676 or Mike Addelman, Media Relations Officer, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, University of Manchester: or  0161 275 2111, 07717 881567.

Project DELTA aims to improve the diagnosis of oesophageal cancer. It is a collaboration between the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Kings College London, the PHG Foundation and Cyted. Advisory Board support is provided by Action Against Heartburn, Heartburn Cancer UK, the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance and Newcastle University. We will develop algorithms to identify individuals most at risk. These people will be offered a Cytosponge™-TFF3 test, which can be delivered in an office setting. Cyted will develop AI algorithms to assist pathologists with rapid diagnoses. People diagnosed with Barrett’s oesophagus can then be monitored regularly for early signs of cancer. Contact:

Motilent’s mission is to change the way we see the gut quite literally by developing tools to improve our understanding of digestive disease. This UKRI project will specifically develop technology to increase the speed and accuracy of routine testing in Crohn’s Disease helping to get patients on the right medication at the right time to minimise intestinal inflammation. Working with Great Ormond Street (GOSH), University College London and University of Nottingham we will develop technology that truly meets patient and practitioner needs and maximises value for the NHS in the treatment of this chronic and expensive disease.  Find out more at or visit

ACTIONED (integrAted moleCular soluTIons fOr diagNostics and Early Detection), a project led by Queen’s University Belfast, aims to improve early detection of relapse in patients with early stage colorectal cancer by integrating genomics data from blood and tumour samples with digital pathology data using deep-learning algorithms. Working in partnership with Roche Diagnostics and Sonrai Analytics, ACTIONED’s vision is to develop a novel approach to identify patients that can be spared toxicity from chemotherapy as well as those that will benefit from more intensive or targeted treatments. For more information contact Zara McBrearty