29 September 2008

Innovative work into biomarkers for liver disease at UCL/UCLH has been recognized by the Medical Research Council, and has secured a major MRC development grant thanks to industry endorsement from market leading Hepatology therapeutics company, Vital Therapies Inc.

Dr Rajiv Jalan, a clinical academic at UCL who heads up the Liver Failure Group, has carried out key research that builds our understanding of the pathophysiological basis of liver failure and hepatic encephalopathy. He has, through key programmes at University College Hospital and the Royal Free hospital, established the unique ability to study inter-organ metabolism in patients with liver failure. His investigations have led to the discovery of novel therapies for encephalopathy, diagnostic biomarkers and a liver dialysis machine resulting in the filing of four patents and the emergence of a new clinical entity, referred to as acute-on-chronic liver failure.

The pioneering work of Dr. Jalan and his co-investigators, Dr Mookerjee and Dr Davies and his team at UCL has identified a novel biomarker (referred to as ‘DASIMAR’) that has the potential to identify which patients with liver disease are likely to proceed to developing liver failure. Earlier identification of patients would allow intensification of current therapies, determine eligibility for liver support strategies and allow a suitable organ to be found for transplantation. This invention has been recognized by the leading commercial player in the field of bio-artificial liver treatment, Vital Therapies Inc., based in California. Vital Therapies are currently carrying out the first clinical trials of their new ELAD (Extracorporeal Liver Assist Device) blood conditioning treatment in China, a country with some of the highest rates of liver failure in the world, with remarkable results.

Vital Therapies Inc. is supporting Dr. Jalan’s work with a major investment of £250,000, which in turn has unlocked a prestigious £670,000 grant from the MRC, who have agreed to a major award to further this exciting and potentially life-changing research.

Vital Therapies Inc.
Vital Therapies Inc. (VTI) is a private San Diego-based liver therapies company. VTI is developing the first human-liver cell-based system, ELAD® (Extracorporeal Liver Assist Device), which provides important metabolic support for patients with severe liver failure.

For more information, please visit the: Vital Therapies Website

Further Information
For further information contact Abbie Watts, Senior Business Manager, UCL Business PLC on 020 7679 9000 (a.watts@uclb.com) or Dr Rajiv Jalan (r.jalan@ucl.ac.uk).