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Government to fund diagnostic health tech projects

Six health projects across the UK, using technologies to detect chronic and terminal illnesses, will be given £13m in funding by the government, while £3m will come from Cancer Research UK

The government has announced it will fund a series of health technology projects, aiming to diagnose chronic and life threatening diseases earlier.  

A total of £16m will be available for six projects across the UK, with £13m coming from the government, while the remaining £3m will be funded by Cancer Research UK, specifically for cancer-related projects.

The projects all aim to use “disruptive technologies”, including artificial intelligence (AI), to find ways to detect and diagnose conditions such as cancer and Crohn’s disease.

This includes a project led by the University of Oxford, which together with cancer charities and health tech companies aims to improve lung cancer survival rates by using digital imaging and diagnostic science to identify lung tumours earlier.

Announcing the funding, science minister Amanda Solloway said the projects are bringing together “brilliant scientists and researchers” who are “harnessing world-leading technologies, such as AI, to tackle some of the most complex and chronic diseases that we face”.

“Tragically, we know that one in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime, while Crohn’s disease affects up to 180,000 people across the country,” she said.

“These six cutting-edge projects will improve early diagnosis, create more precise treatments, and crucially, save lives.”

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Another project receiving funding is led by Queens University Belfast, using AI to earlier diagnose cancer relapses, aiming to improve outcomes for the patients, while tech startup Motilent is leading another project, aiming to treat Crohn’s disease using AI to predict when to use medicines to control the condition.

The government funding for the projects is delivered though the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The fund was launched in 2018 by the then business secretary Greg Clark, who said it aimed to support better diagnosis and treatment by using innovative technology such as genome sequencing and AI.  

At the University of Glasgow, the funding will be used to identify growths most likely to develop into bowel cancer, while at the University of Cambridge, it will be used to diagnose oesophageal cancer earlier.

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