Our Vision


Our vision in the Liverpool Pancreas Biomedical Research Unit (PBRU) is to reduce patient mortality and morbidity due to digestive diseases of pancreas through development of new treatments and diagostic strategies.


This vision is being addressed through research and development themes, which include:

  • Drug discovery and development of new interventions
  • Application of new diagnostic and imaging strategies
  • Validation of new biomarkers and screening protocols
  • Early Phase Trials
  • Collaborative Technology Platforms
  • Industrial Partnerships
       The PBRU will advance world-leading research to bring benefit for patients with pancreatic digestive diseases through outstanding science by partnering Industry and leading research institutions to solve major problems caused by these complex diseases. The PBRU will be the essential kernel of an ever-growing UK and international network of clinical, scientific and industrial biomedical research and translation focussed on improving pancreatic patient care.

Strategic Objectives

In the short-term, our objectives are to implement the PBRU; to progress the project pipelines within the Research Areas and Facilities; and to establish a broad range of PDPs through industrial partnership as well as new, expanding collaborations with leading research institutions. In the medium-term, our objectives are to take a majority of projects beyond the first translational gap, with proven patient benefit in a minority; to lever further, increasingly substantial institutional commitment to experimental medicine; and to top the international premier league in Pancreatology in terms of translational delivery, training, funding, publications and importance to patients. In the long-term, our objectives are to lever major alliances with industry; to secure multiple licences and/or Spin-Out companies; and to secure up to half of our research income from private sources for sustainability.  

The Problems of the Pancreas

Pancreatic digestive diseases develop in an estimated 6 million people per year in the world, causing major morbidity and mortality. Acute pancreatitis occurs in ~50 per 100,000, mostly due to gallstones and alcohol. Severe acute pancreatitis results in death of 20-30%, but prediction of severity remains imprecise.

Worse still, in spite of >200 randomised clinical trials over the last 40 years; there is no specific drug for the treatment of acute pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis due to alcohol, hyperlipidaemia, autoimmune or genetic factors is found in ~75 per 100,000 as a painful, debilitating disease with a markedly increased risk of pancreatic cancer: ~x20 in sporadic and ~x70 in hereditary disease. There are no biomarkers for chronic pancreatitis, and no drug has been shown to alter its clinical course.

Pancreatic cancer is among the top ten cancers in the world, with the lowest survival rate of all major cancers. Early diagnosis remains difficult, and over 80% of patients present too late for resection and typically survive less than six months; gemcitabine with or without erlotinib is the only licensed chemotherapy, but has limited effect. Hereditary pancreatitis, most frequently caused by mutations of the cationic trypsinogen gene, is an autosomal dominant disease with 80% penetrance. This disease presents with recurrent acute pancreatitis, progresses to chronic pancreatitis, and carries a 40% lifetime risk of pancreatic cancer; secondary screening is not yet validated.

Acute Pancreatitis: In the UK at least 25,000 people per year suffer acute pancreatitis, causing severe disease in one of every five patients. The condition is without accurate prognostic markers, limiting stratification in management, and importantly without specific drug treatment. Best supportive care results in prolonged hospital stays, major morbidity long after discharge and mortality of 25% in severe disease.

Chronic Pancreatitis: In excess of 25,000 patients have chronic pancreatitis (prevalence) in the UK, a relentless source of miserable pain and malnutrition, still most effectively treated by major resectional surgery. The condition is without accurate diagnostic or prognostic markers or specific drug treatment. Sporadic chronic pancreatitis has >10x increase and hereditary pancreatitis has >70x increase in risk of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic Neoplasia: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma remains among the most dreaded of the UK’s and world’s top ten cancers, with an overall mortality little different from its incidence (>6,000 cases of pancreatic cancer per year in England). Early diagnosis is a continuing challenge, stratification of management underdeveloped and major resectional surgery complemented by a limited range of licensed therapeutics.

A common feature of these diseases is the severity of their impact upon patients and associated high mortality rates. Despite recent advances in our understanding of disease mechanisms, all forms of pancreatic digestive disease lack accurate diagnostic and prognostic markers, significantly limiting stratification in patient management. There is an acute lack of drug treatments for pancreatitis and shortage of treatments for pancreatic cancer. The new BRU strategy is designed to meet these needs.

The PBRU has created a booklet describing its work.  Please click here to download a copy.