The Life Sciences Research Network Wales is part of the Welsh Government’s £50 million Ser 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 Professors Chris McGuigan and Malcolm Mason. This £15M initiative was supported by a grant of £7.3M from the Ser Cymru programme and HEFCW and aims to discover and develop new drugs in areas of unmet medical need.
The Network brings together leading academics from Aberystwyth, Bangor Cardiff, and Swansea Universities and aims to support over 100 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 commercialising the outputs of academic research for ultimate patient benefit.
In its first year, the Network has supported a range of activities including PhD students, individual research projects and platform technologies at universities across Wales. This Scientific 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 also be attended by a number of leading international researchers as well representatives of the private sector such as multi-billion pound Bio-Technology entrepreneur and Chair of the Welsh Life Sciences Fund, Professor Sir Chris Evans.
Mrs Edwina Hart OBE (Minister for Economy, Science and Transport) and Professor Mark Drakeford (Minister for Health and Social Services) are also attending and will be awarding prizes for best presentations and posters to PhD students and young researchers. The event will also include a presentation by Professor Julie Williams, the Welsh Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, on the Ser Cymru vision.
Although early days, the Network has already had considerable success of commercialising the outcomes of the academic research and is supporting a PhD student to work with a new biotechnology company to develop a technology originally patented by Cardiff University. The technology aims to inhibit the spread of breast cancer and is an early example of the World Class research developed within Wales potentially leading to new therapies. The company is already listed this year on the London Stock Exchange and hopes to be ready to go into human clinical trials within 12-18 months. Other projects have been started in infectious diseases and dementure. Prof McGuigan, the Network director said: “the interest shown in the Network across Wales has been remarkable, with over 220 new drug discovery projects being submitted to us for review in our first year – and we have supported over 50 of them. This Network is set to make a real difference to the health and wealth of Wales.”