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Researchers explore ‘personalised’ treatments

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    UCB has teamed up with the Catholic University of Leuven (UCL) to inaugurate a new Chair in inflammatory and systemic rheumatic diseases.

    Scientists at UCL hope that by deepening their understanding of severe diseases such as rheumatoid polyarthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), earlier diagnosis and better targeted treatments can be developed.

    The Chair has been created with the support of UCL’s Louvain Foundation and is coordinated by researchers Professors Frédéric Houssiau and Bernard Lauwerys from UCL’s Rheumatology Department.

    One of the things that struck me about this initiative is the potential “to personalise treatment according to each patient’s individual characteristics”, as Professor Lauwerys put it.

    Professor Houssiau went further. He said the long-term goal would be to develop a diagnostic kit which would help understand what stage the patient’s disease is at.

    This could be achieved by checking for changes in “molecular markers” – naturally-occurring chemicals which are associated with specific diseases: if the level of a particular molecular marker rises, doctors would have an insight into how far their patient’s disease has progressed.

    An intriguing aspect of this is the potential to predict the response patients will have to one treatment or another, “thereby preventing patients being exposed to treatments to which they will probably not respond or worse, which cause severe side effects”, Professor Houssiau said.

    It is a fascinating field of study which could have enormous implications for how patients with serious illnesses manage their condition.

    For UCB, this new partnership also follows a broader trend. We have been consistently reaching out to patient groups, industry, strategic research partners, and academic institutions. We have, for example, also joined forces with Harvard University in the US and Oxford University in the UK over the past 12 months.

    This says two important things about our company. For one thing, we are committed to innovative partnerships with all stakeholders committed to improving the lives of patients. For another, we view investment in new scientific knowledge as the bedrock for our continued success.
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