University of Dundee

Life Sciences in Dundee awarded £8 million government investment for research into drug treatment

02 May 2014

The College of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee has secured £8 million in funding to create a state-of-the-art robotic laboratory to help develop new drugs.

The funding from the Scottish Government through the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) will go towards the formation of a robotic drug-screening laboratory at the University of Dundee that will enable new drug therapies to be developed more effectively.

The money has been awarded to the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance (SULSA) to create a UK National Phenotypic Screening Centre in Dundee. Phenotypic screening is a form of biological research which studies how drugs affect organisms at a cellular level. Research at the College of Life Sciences will build on recent advances in genetic engineering, stem cell technology and cell and organ culture systems.

Education Minister Michael Russell said:

“Scotland’s universities consistently deliver world beating results. Whether that is our five universities in the world’s top 200, unmatched by any other country per head of population, our strong record on citations or the proportion of research assessed as world-leading – it is an impressive track record.

“Today’s announcement of £8 million for new equipment, in combination with the European Lead Factory at Biocity in Newhouse, will put Scottish universities at the forefront of drug discovery worldwide.

“The University of Dundee will host the centre and work with some of Europe’s top pharmaceutical companies to form a large public-private partnership in the field of novel therapy research and development, adding further strength to Scotland’s position in the field.”

Dean of Research at the College of Life Sciences Professor Mike Ferguson said, “Professor Andrew Hopkins, Director of SULSA and a member of the College’s Division of Biological Chemistry and Drug Discovery, deserves enormous credit for securing this funding that will transform the landscape of drug discovery capabilities in the UK.”

The National Phenotypic Screening Centre (UK-NPSC) in Dundee will focus on directly screening chemical agents against human cells and tissues to identify compounds that combat a disease. Phenotypic screening is thought to be a powerful method for drug discovery because it offers the opportunity to go beyond the focus on single drug targets, traditionally the most widely adopted approach for drug discovery.

However, current systems have been plagued by low success rates in early development, as well as expensive late-stage failure of many new drugs in second or third phase trials. The key aim of UK-NPSC will be to capitalise on recent advances in cell and organ culture systems, genetic engineering, stem cell technology and automated, high-content screening to provide a relevant, disease and patient-centred approach.