The Life Sciences Research Network Wales is part of the Welsh Government’s £50 million Sêr Cymru programme aimed at building research capacity within Wales.
As part of this initiative, the Welsh Government established three research Networks addressing the Grand Challenges of:
- Life sciences and health
- Advanced engineering and materials
- Low carbon, energy and environment
The Life Science Research Network Wales is based in Cardiff University and led by Dr Andrea Brancale. This initiative was supported by a grant of £7.3m from the Sêr Cymru programme and HEFCW and aims to discover and develop new drugs in areas of unmet medical and veterinary need.
The Network brings together leading academics from Aberystwyth, Bangor Cardiff, and Swansea Universities and has supported over 125 new research projects. The Network works closely with a number of industry partners, the NHS and other major funding bodies and has a strong focus on its links to other funders, such as the Life Sciences Bridging Fund who support a pathway to potential commercialisation of the outputs of academic research for ultimate patient benefit.
In its third year, the Network has supported a range of activities including PhD students, individual research projects and platform technologies at universities across Wales. This Scientific Drug Discovery Congress is an opportunity for students and leading academics from across Wales to highlight their research and discuss the challenges faced in developing the next generation of therapeutics. The event will be attended by a number of leading researchers whose work has successfully led to commercialisation, as well industry representatives with substantial experience in the journey through the drug development pathway.
Welsh Government Minister for Skills and Science, Julie James, will be attending the congress to give an address on the growth of the Life Sciences sector in Wales.
Speaking ahead of the event the Minister said:
“The Welsh Government recognises the importance bio-medical research can have for the Welsh economy, for Wales’ reputation as well as for the health of its people suffering from acute or chronic medical conditions. Over the last few years we have invested millions in supporting Life Sciences in Wales and as one of our key priority sectors, we are keen to see this important area grow even more.
“I am encouraged by the great work and results that the Life Sciences Research Network Wales is already producing and as a government we remain committed to working with industry and academia to further build on the existing excellence in our research base.”
Professor Julie Williams, Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales will also be attending to speak about the development of the Sêr Cymru programme and its vision going forward.
The Network is committed to developing the next generation of scientists and has supported 56 PhD students across Wales and 70 postdoctoral researchers. These researchers are developing the next generation of drugs to tackle major societal health issues such as:
- Antimicrobial Resistance
- Neurodegenerative diseases
The Network has already had success in commercialising the outcomes of the academic research and is supporting research with a biotechnology company to develop a technology originally patented by Cardiff University. The technology aims to inhibit the spread of breast cancer and is an excellent example of the World Class research developed within Wales potentially leading to new therapies. The company is already listed on the London Stock Exchange with a valuation of around £100m and hopes to be ready to go into human clinical trials in 2017.
Dr Brancale, the Scientific Director of the Network said: “the level of engagement with the Network, from academics has been immense so far. We have seen over 400 new drug discovery projects being submitted to us for review – and we have supported over 125 of them. The Network is making a real difference by focusing funding on potentially high impact research and supporting the discovery of novel potential therapeutics.
International Industry Collaboration
The Network has supported a PhD project which is also part funded by an international industry partner, Qbiotics Ltd. This project has been developing compounds for human wound healing and has filed several patents to protect the intellectual property being generated from this research. Due to the early positive outcomes, this project has secured follow on funding from the industrial partner. Due to their successful collaboration with academics based in Cardiff, Qbiotics hope that further developments from this project will lead to clinical trials in the near future.
Dr Ryan Moseley, Principal Investigator on the human wound healing project said: “Our collaborative research with Qbiotics is addressing the current lack of effective treatments for abnormal wound healing and excessive scarring in skin. Given our very promising results from laboratory studies, we are confident that such anti-scarring responses will be replicated during future human based studies, leading the successful development of these compounds as novel anti-scarring pharmaceuticals, thereby addressing the inadequacies of existing therapies for the benefit of patients and clinicians alike.”