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18 June, 2021 - 11:50 By Tony Quested

Congenica funded to reduce fatal drug interactions by mapping genes

New software from Cambridge-based Congenica will help reduce adverse drug reactions thanks to a joint investment of £2 million from UK Research and Innovation and Legal & General.

Nearly half of older people in the UK take five or more medicines. This is associated with falls and cognitive impairment and in the most extreme cases, death, often because not everyone reacts to drugs, particularly multiple drugs, in the same way.

Funded under UKRI’s Healthy Ageing Challenge, the software being developed by digital health company Congenica – based at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute – will harness the power of pharmacogenetics. 

Healthy Ageing Pharmacogenetics and Polypharmacy will assess the health and economic benefit of pharmacogenetic analysis in general practice for patients over 50 years of age taking multiple medicines.

It will then use the results to create clinical decision software that uses that pharmacogenetics data. The software will alert doctors to the risks of prescribing specific combinations of medicines for individuals, so they can look at alternative medications or doses, to reduce that risk.

As part of the Healthy Ageing Challenge, UKRI provides funding alongside private investment in business-led research and development. Using this co-investment, businesses can produce and market innovations for healthy ageing that can be adopted at scale.

A total of £29 million in government grants, together with aligned co-investment from private investors, will be available until 2024 for projects of up to £3 million in eligible costs.

George MacGinnis, Healthy Ageing Challenge Director at UKRI, said: “Improving our understanding of how medicines interact will make a huge difference to the lives of older people, who are much more likely to be taking five or more medications at any one time. 

“Congenica’s innovation aims to help to reduce avoidable adverse drug reactions which are directly responsible for over 700 deaths per year in the UK, with a world-wide potential to save many times that amount.”

Congenica CEO Dr David Atkins added: “The promise of pharmacogenomics has been on the horizon for a number of years and it is incredibly exciting to be working with UK Research and Innovation and Legal & General to develop practical systems that can be used to deliver routine pharmacogenomic analysis.

“For Congenica, this is an important realisation of our vision to provide genomics to maintain health and wellness, as well as to characterise and manage disease.”

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