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Olympics facility to become medical research centre

Facilities developed to test whether athletes in the Olympic and Paralympic Games have used performance-enhancing drugs are to be turned into a medical research centre.

The Phenome Centre will analyse differences in people’s molecular make-up to help understand why some are more susceptible to particular diseases than others, and develop safer and more specific drugs.

During the Games, over half the athletes will have blood or urine tested for banned substances. The testing equipment was provided by GlaxoSmithKline, which will leave everything considered useful for the centre’s work.

However, while the company expects the researchers to build on and improve the technologies, GSK said it will have no further involvement with the research, or any claim over treatments developed there.

The centre—named from the term for the complete set of molecules in a person’s body—will be the first of its kind in the world.

Sally Davies, the government’s chief medical officer, said it will “transform our understanding of people’s physical characteristics and disease, and enable us to pull through these discoveries into real benefits for patients”.

Information acquired will be used to create a set of biomarkers that will identify how a person is likely to respond to a particular drug.

The MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre, due to open in January 2013, will be funded for five years by £5 million each from the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health’s National Institute of Health Research.

Further equipment and technical support will be supplied by the US-based Waters Corporation and analytical equipment providers Bruker.