RESEARCHERS around the world can look forward to accessing technology which will help them to understand how diseases progress in their early stages thanks to a deal between life sciences giant Merck and the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation arm, Edinburgh Research & Innovation.

The licence agreement is based on research hailed as a major breakthrough in peptide chemistry and biomedical sciences, paving the way for a better understanding of disease onset and behaviour.

The technology is based on using natural peptide mimics as “disease reporters” by applying a fluorescent compound or re-agent that makes them easier to identify.

Academics at Edinburgh’s School of Clinical Sciences, led by Dr Marc Vendrell, carried out the research alongside partners at The University of Barcelona and The University of Manchester.

Dr Vendrell said the fluorescent re-agent is so powerful it can allow scientists tell very small differences between healthy and diseased cells, which in turn can have a big impact on diagnosis and treating diseases.

Dr Vendrell said: “We have developed a technology that allows us to prepare fluorescent re-agents without affecting the normal behaviour of these re-agents. That opens a whole range of opportunities for people who are studying disease… to detect little differences that can help develop better diagnostics, or better therapies.”

The initial stage of the research was funded by the EU Commission in the form of a Marie Curie career integration grant.

Asked whether he was concerned medical research in Scottish universities is under threat because of the Brexit vote, Dr Vendrell said that “closing any doors not only to funding but to collaborations… within the EU is not a good thing.”

He noted: “It is not a good outcome for anybody who is interested in science and research in general.”