University receives government funding for life sciences

Oxford University’s medical sciences division has received a massive boost after being presented with a £750,000 government grant.

On 2nd August, David Willetts, minister for Universities and Science, announced at the British business embassy that Oxford University would be receiving the joint largest grant alongside the University of Dundee.

Along with a number of other grants ranging from £360,000-£750,000 for a selection of universities nationwide, Willetts believes that these grants will “drive growth and benefit patients. 

Announced by the Prime Minister David Cameron in December 2011 this ‘Confidence in Concept’ award forms part of the £180m programme for the government’s Life Sciences Strategy, known as the ‘Biomedical Catalyst’.

Managed by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the award is funding around 150 projects across 14 UK universities. With the aim of aiding new discoveries in laboratories transform into clinical development and testing, the grant has been welcomed by the University.

Professor Rodney Phillips, associate head of the medical sciences division at the University stated, “We are delighted to receive this large grant from the MRC. Oxford has one of the largest clinical trial portfolios in the UK…But it is not always easy for researchers to get the funding they need to see if their novel research could have promise as a new treatment for patients.”

Dr Wendy Ewart, deputy chief executive of the MRC, claims that, “The MRC’s Confidence in Concept awards will empower leading UK universities to respond quickly to emerging translational opportunities as they arise… helping to bridge the gap between discovery and development.”

The grant is only a small part of the government’s ‘Biomedical Catalyst’ funding which also includes awards by the Technology Strategy Board for eighteen small and medium sized businesses to explore the commercial opportunity that this new research could create.

David Willets argues that, “The Biomedical Catalyst will help bridge the so-called ‘valley of death’ that exists between when a bright new idea is developed in the laboratory and the point when a new drug or technology can be invested in by the market.”

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The funding is under the control of the University and could be put towards a large number of projects including tests to aid the design of flu vaccines and the study of compounds to block enzymes related to the development of tumours.