Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health Professions

The new funding will ensure experts at the University of Exeter can support ideas at an early stage of development.

New funding to develop cutting edge medical research ideas

The University of Exeter has received a slice of £23.2 million in Government funding for cutting-edge medical research to ensure academics can work with industry and that their research transforms medical care.

Science Minister Jo Johnson has today announced further financial support from the Medical Research Council for innovative work, which will help thousands of patients.

Exeter is one of 26 universities around the UK to receive a share of the funding, and has been given £425,000 in total.

It will ensure experts at the University of Exeter Medical School and the new Living Systems Institute can support ideas at an early stage of development.

This Confidence in Concept (CiC) award provides flexible funding to accelerate the transition from discovery science to viability testing and to take promising basic research to the industry-academia interaction stage for the development of therapies, diagnostics and medical devices.

The University has also received renewed funding for Proximity to Discovery, which is an endorsement of its successful approach to engaging with life science companies.

The University has a long and successful record of pioneering medical research, starting with the creation of the Exeter Hip, a new type of hip replacement, in the early 1970’s. More recent examples include the University’s work in point of care diagnostics where the spin-out companies ISCA Diagnostics, Attomarker and Cotton Mouton Diagnostics Ltd have been established to commercialise technologies from research into conditions such as invasive aspergillosis, peanut and other allergies, malaria, sepsis and post-operative inflammation.

Work of academics at the University has also ensured the extension of the availability of drugs to combat Alzheimer’s disease, improved care and treatment for patients with diabetes and innovative treatments and prevention interventions for depression. Opening in September, the new Living Systems Institute aims to bring together academics from across a range of disciplines to work together to find new approaches to understanding disease, and aiding better diagnosis and treatment.

Medical Research Council funding is used to support research and embed an entrepreneurial culture among researchers. Exeter scientists are now working on a range of commercial opportunities including improving the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy and diabetes.

This new funding will support researchers to use the international leading facilities and expertise to develop collaborative projects with industry and expand their relationships with strategic partners.

Professor Mark Goodwin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Affairs), said: “By supporting early-stage projects this new funding will provide huge benefits to the South West region and help build the successful partnerships between the University of Exeter and others such as Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Quintiles and the South West Academic Health Science Network, as well with a range of smaller companies.”

During the past three years UK researchers whose preliminary work has been supported by the Confidence in Concept scheme awards have secured £110million of further support from charity, public sector and industry funders. The data generated has helped support the creation of 16 new spin-out companies and led to the award of at least 27 patents.

Jo Johnson said: ““Our global scientific impact far exceeds our size as a nation, and our world class researchers like those at Birmingham University help drive the engines of innovation keeping the UK at the forefront of new discovery. That is why we are protecting the science budget in real terms throughout this Parliament. This £23m fund provides invaluable support to help develop new ideas into the drugs and methods that will help save and improve lives.”

Professor Sir John Savill, chief executive of the MRC, said “The MRC funding awards announced today help to identify and encourage exciting science and bring different cultures together to form strong collaborations. The early outcomes show that through devolved decision-making, researchers all over the UK have exploited the flexibility and collaborative potential of these innovative schemes for health benefits.

“Confidence in Concept and the Discovery Awards allow research institutions to rapidly test out exciting new ideas in translational and basic research. Experts at the institutions themselves decide which research projects to pursue, which creates the agility to support truly cutting-edge ideas and help them to attract further funding. Proximity to Discovery is a smaller-scale scheme that helps academics form important connections with industry, enabling them to exchange skills and develop productive partnerships.”

Date: 15 February 2016

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