£14M to support 'drug hunters' in Wales
23 September 2013
New drugs to fight a range of diseases could be discovered and developed in Cardiff with the backing of a £14M cash injection designed to support the world's best 'drug hunters'.
The new National Research Network (NRN) in Life Sciences and Health, led by Cardiff University Professors Chris McGuigan and Malcolm Mason, is part of wider Welsh Government plans to concentrate, connect and boost the Life Sciences sector in Wales.
"The establishment of this major pan-Wales initiative, with significant funding from Welsh Government represents a serious commitment by the business Minister to health and life sciences," according to the Chair and Scientific Director of the NRN, Professor Chris McGuigan, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
"This commitment comes on top of the recent establishment by Welsh Government of the Welsh Life Sciences Fund, chaired by Sir Chris Evans, to support new and growing life science businesses in Wales, and also plans to open a Life Science HUB at Cardiff Bay by March 2014, which I am currently leading on," he added.
The NRN is backed by £7.3m from the Welsh Government'sSêr Cymru programme , which will be matched by industry, academia and charities to create a fund worth £14m.
This will allow four Welsh universities support over 100 PhD students and researchers over the next 5 years and attract and retain the world's leading experts to oversee their pioneering work.
Minister for Economy and Science, Edwina Hart, said: "I am delighted to see the launch of this new life sciences research network. We have identified life sciences as one of our key sectors for economic growth and I look forward to seeing the results of the Network's activities in bringing to pre-clinical stage and clinical trial new and exciting drug compounds.
"The Network will also engage with industry to bring economic benefits and put Wales on the map internationally for drug discovery.
"I am sure the Network will also take advantage of the appointment of Professor Yves Barde as the Cardiff University Sêr Cymru Research Chair in Neurobiology, a research field in which our new Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Julie Williams also has a great interest.
"I look forward to seeing the University and Professors McGuigan and Mason deliver their vision for the Network."
The NRN follows hot-on-the-heels of the first appointment under the Welsh Government's £50M Sêr Cymru programme designed to attract the world's best scientists to Wales.
Professor Yves Barde is world renowned for his research into the way proteins in the brain work and their role in illnesses such as depression and will seek to further his research into the use of embryonic stem cells at Cardiff University.
"The scientific challenge of developing new drugs to help treat conditions like cancer has never been greater. Discovering new drugs will help address some of society's major current needs – especially with an ageing population," according to Professor McGuigan, who also chairs the Welsh Government's Task and Finish group for the Life Sciences Hub.
"The potential for this work is huge. It will help increase world-leading activity in this priority area in Wales, lead to an increase in competitive research funding and help foster industrial engagement and knowledge transfer.
"The NRN is now up and running and we've already started looking to recruit our first in-take of up to 30 PhD students to start work in January 2014.
"The focus could be on any therapeutic area– in areas like cancer, infectious diseases and Alzheimer's disease. The best research proposals will be considered by some of the world's experts in their field. We hope this unique funding opportunity will attract some of the world's leading 'drug-hunters' and help put Wales firmly on the map for drug discovery," he adds.
The first round of funding from the National Research Network in Life Sciences and Health is now open and will close on the 4th October.
All applications will be judged by a panel of leading experts including Professor Yves Barde, Professor Sir Chris Evans, experts from all four Welsh universities as well as industry partners.
The successful applications are expected to be announced by the end of October.