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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Leading Edge Molecular Biology Lab to be Created from the London Olympics Doping Lab

(Photo courtesy of UK Mirror)

A good news story for science from the London Olympic Games. The news is that British scientists and others figured out a way to turn the London games into long term progress for science and humans. How? When the Olympics end, the labs assembled in London to check for doping during the Olympics will be turned into a new leading edge lab for molecular biology research. The story is told by the BBC and Science magazine.

The Brits are using the lab as part of their very smart move to seek a role as world leaders in molecular biology in particular and science in general. Indeed, David Cameron is personally involved in the annoucement and promotion for the new lab, as explained by the BBC:

"David Cameron is to announce the setting-up of a £10m science research centre on the site of the Olympic drug-testing laboratories.

The "phenome" facility will allow better understanding of physical characteristics such as hair and eye colour, as well as diseases including dementia and diabetes.

The prime minister will say the UK can "lead the world" in the research field.

He will address 500 leading figures from the global health industry.

The centre, in Harlow, Essex, is on the site of the London Olympics’ anti-doping laboratory.


Mr Cameron is expected to say: "When the Games close, all this incredible equipment and expertise will be used to establish a new phenome centre for research into biological markers of health and disease.

"This will take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities that lie in combining genetic data with the results of medical tests on tissues and blood.

"It will allow us to understand the characteristics of disease and how these link into genes and our environment."

He will add: "It’s an impressive example of collaboration between top-class research, the NHS and industry. It will produce new forms of drugs and it will lead the world in the development of precision medicine."

Science has more of the technical specifics:

"LONDON—The Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), both funded by the U.K. government, have arranged to take over the Olympics antidoping laboratory. They plan to transform it into a national center dedicated to metabolic phenotyping, a field that examines blood, urine, and tissues for the thousands of molecules produced by the body’s chemical reactions, with the aim of linking them up to diseases.

"There is nothing like this anywhere in the world," says Jeremy Nicholson, head of the surgery and cancer department at Imperial College London and a pioneer of the emerging field, who will become the center’s first research director.


A phenome describes all of a person’s physiological traits in the same way that a genome describes genetic features; metabolic phenotyping focuses on metabolites, the products of chemical reactions inside the body. By studying these unique biochemical signatures in fluids such as blood and urine, it’s possible to make connections between a person’s metabolism and the diseases they develop, which may lead to diagnostic tests and drugs targeted to a person’s individual biochemistry.

The antidoping lab has mass spectrometers and machines for high performance liquid chromatography and gas chromatography, allowing high-throughput testing of more than 6000 urine and blood samples from athletes. About 60% of this equipment will be reused.

MRC and NIHR are each providing £5 million of funding; the site and buildings belong to GlaxoSmithKline, while the U.S.-based equipment manufacturers Bruker BioSpin and Waters will provide instrumentation. The center will analyze about 25,000 samples in its first year, with the aim of scaling up to 100,000 a year."

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