The Phenome Center Birmingham is a large-scale, international metabolic phenotyping facility that has been funded by an £8 million award from the Medical Research Council (MRC). The center opened in May this year as part of an MRC-led UK stratified medicine initiative. The first international phenome center to open was the MRC-NIHR Phenome Center at Imperial college, which opened in 2013.
The Phenome Center Birmingham offers the expertise, advice and capabilities to perform large-scale metabolic phenotyping of the human population using biological fluids such as plasma, serum and urine, as well as tissue samples and cell lines.
Metabolic phenotyping refers to the analysis of metabolites present in biological fluids or tissue samples. The metabolome is the term used to describe the entire collection of metabolites present in the body. Unlike the genome, the metabolome is highly sensitive to changes in the environment. This sensitivity to environmental stimuli can be used to understand mechanisms of disease and identify biomarkers that could potentially be applied in the prognosis, diagnosis and treatment of disease.
The aim of stratified medicine is to optimize diagnosis and treatment of disease at the individual level. The response patients have to a particular medicine or other intervention varies widely across the population due to differences in underlying disease mechanisms and other individual factors that affect the tolerance and safety of treatment. In some cases of disease, only a fifth of patients respond to standard treatment regimens. Stratification is a smarter approach to medicine that will allow treatments to be targeted towards specific disease pathways and improve the selection of certain treatments for individual patients.
The Phenome Center Birmingham will work in collaboration with other facilities in the global phenome network to stratify patients into classes of similar phenotypes, with numerous classes representing different phenotypes. For example, one phenotype class may respond to drug X, while another one does not. Drug X would fail to alleviate symptoms in the latter set of patients, meaning the use of another drug may be more appropriate.
Researchers from the phenome centers will apply metabolic profiling to stratify patients according to their risk of developing certain diseases; to perform screening that will identify disease at an early stage and to determine which drugs are the most effective for which patients. The outcome will be improved patient outcomes and reductions in healthcare costs.
The center will use nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, along with eleven ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometers to enable the physiological or pathological state of people to be biochemically classified in relation to their disease risk, diagnosis and prognosis.
In a recent interview, Dr Iris Mangelschots, President of Bruker BioSpin’s Applied, Industrial and Clinical Division, talked about two AVANCE IVDr NMR spectroscopy platforms from Bruker that the center will be using.
“Bruker has been involved in the phenome center network since its beginning,” says Mangelschots. “Several years ago, the whole visionary concept of a global phenome network was actually born with Jerry Nicholson and Bruker BioSpin has been part of it since the early stages.”
The AVANCE IVDr is a complete and standardized 600 megahertz NMR spectroscopy platform which Mangelschots says is the standardized platform for any phenome center member. It provides high-sensitivity and information-rich output and is equipped with advanced hardware, software, automation spectral libraries and standard operating procedures for the validation and pre-clinical screening of biological fluid assays.
Bruker will support Birmingham in using these platforms to measure data and prepare samples according to standard operating procedures (SOPs). Mangelschots describes these SOPs as critical in terms of generating reproducible data that will be exchangeable and able to be used for clinical research at any time, by any member of this global phenome network. “Birmingham can also use the data generated by all the members before they joined the network,” she adds.
Bruker’s NMR spectroscopy systems are already used in more than forty clinical research centers across the world. They are used in hospitals for health-related screening techniques and in large-scale human metabolomics studies to generate data and identify biomarkers.
Twelve phenome centers across the world have already been set up with Bruker as their NMR partner. Bruker NMR equipment at the Phenome Center Birmingham represents another great milestone.
“The role of Bruker BioSpin in this network is obviously to supply NMR capabilities, but moreover, it is about standardizing those capabilities so that all the data are measured in a reproducible way and can be used by any new member of this continuously growing phenome network,” Mangelschots says.
Contact Bruker for more information about the IVDr.