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New Manchester research unit to test medicines for children

A new unit is being set up at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital (RMCH) to help develop and test new medicines and treatments for children. It is the first in the North West and one of only four across England.

The Wellcome Trust Children's Clinical Research Facility (WTCCRF) will be run by Dr Nick Webb and a team of colleagues, to ensure that new drugs and treatments being developed are safe for children. They will work closely with the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility, which hosts clinical trials for both adults and children.

The new unit is also supported and funded by the National Institute for Health Research. "At present, over 50% of medicines given to children do not have a paediatric licence, and as such accurate dosing and safety information may not be available. It is not simply a case of reducing the adult dose of a medicine to make it suitable for babies and children,"

Explained Dr Webb "We need to tailor treatments specifically for children, taking into account factors not necessarily important in adults, including growth and development."Many children who are treated at RMCH and their families are keen to take part in trials of new treatments for long term conditions such as cancer, kidney disease and metabolic disorders, as well as acute problems such as burns and other injuries."

The new unit will have six beds and access to RMCH's cutting edge equipment and highly trained nursing staff, so that children can take part in in-patient studies of new medicines alongside their ongoing treatment. It will offer paediatric medicine experts and pharmaceutical companies developing new medicines a state of the art facility which complies with all current clinical trials and research legislation.

The unit was officially opened on Thursday 12th November by Professor Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust and former Professor of Medicine at Imperial College London. The first trials are ready to begin, and will include studies on metabolic and renal conditions. Welcoming the new unit in Manchester, Dr Vanessa Poustie, Assistant Director of the National Institute for Health Research Medicines for Children Research Network, said: "A key component of our activity is focused on experimental medicine and on increasing network capacity to undertake early phase and translational research. The creation of this additional unit will significantly enhance our ability to meet the requirements of the pharmaceutical industry and the academic community."

New EU legislation introduced in 2007 makes it mandatory for pharmaceutical companies developing new drugs to carry out drug dosing, safety and efficacy studies in children. The lack of children's CRFs has limited the amount of testing that can be done in the UK. A spokesman for the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries (ABPI) said: "We welcome the establishment of the new research unit at RMCH. It will help drive the development of medicines specifically designed to treat children and reinforces the standing of Manchester as a leading hub for biomedical research and life sciences."

Added Dr Webb: "Manchester has an outstanding reputation for its world class research. As home to one of the UK's leading children's hospitals and the Manchester Biomedical Research Centre, the city is the ideal location for this new unit. In time, it will help to make a huge difference to the health and well-being of children across the North West and beyond."