New partnership aims to identify new disease mechanisms and potential targets for treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease ranges in severity and can cause liver inflammation, which can lead to liver failure, an increase risk of cancer and death

A new partnership between scientists at the University of Birmingham and global healthcare company Novo Nordisk aims to discover new treatments for people suffering from fatty liver disease.

The University of Birmingham’s Centre for Liver and Gastrointestinal Research and Novo Nordisk have joined forces in a collaboration supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre.

The NIHR Birmingham BRC brings together the expertise of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Birmingham, both members of Birmingham Health Partners (BHP).

Professor Philip Newsome, Director of the Centre for Liver and Gastrointestinal Research and who leads the partnership, said: “It is estimated that up to a quarter of the adult population worldwide has a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which occurs due to the build-up of fat in the liver and it is commonly seen in patients who are overweight or diabetic.

“What is concerning is that the incidence of fatty liver disease is rapidly increasing world-wide as we are becoming a more sedentary society consuming diets which are high in fat and sugar.

“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease now therefore presents an enormous challenge for healthcare providers which is made worse due to the lack of approved and effective treatments.

“This exciting new partnership will see us working together with Novo Nordisk to harness our cutting edge translational research facilities and in vitro models to identify new disease mechanisms and potential targets for treatment.”

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease ranges in severity and can cause liver inflammation, which can lead to liver failure, an increase risk of cancer and death. Many patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease also have an increased risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease.

Professor David Adams, Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham and Director of the NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre and Birmingham Health Partners, said: “New therapeutic candidates are needed in order to manage the complex mix of liver injury, vascular disease and cancer risk in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

“This new collaboration is yet another example of how, through a strategic alliance, Birmingham Health Partners is harnessing research strengths between the University and NHS to deliver better treatments and care to patients. Together, we are delivering research that matters.”

The team at the University of Birmingham who will be involved in the collaboration are Professor Newsome, Dr Patricia Lalor, Dr Chris Weston, Dr Matthew Armstrong, Dr Celine Hernandez, Dr Thin Luu, Dr Stuart Hunter and Dr Paul Horn.

Karin Conde-Knape, Corporate Vice President of Cardiovascular and Liver Disease Research at Novo Nordisk, added: “We are very excited to work with such a talented group of scientists in order to understand better key drivers of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and find pathways and targets to deliver treatments for the patients suffering from this disease. 

“This is another example of how Novo Nordisk is striving to collaborate with translational academic institutions to increase further our disease understanding.”

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