University of Dundee

Dundee shares in £23.2m Medical Research Council boost

15 Feb 2016

The University of Dundee has been awarded almost £1million of £23m in new grants announced today by the Medical Research Council (MRC).
The MRC is accelerating innovative medical research with £23.3 million in new funding to take ground-breaking ideas from UK universities into industry and out to patients. The announcement was made today by Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson.
Mike Ferguson, Regius Professor of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee, said, “The MRC funding in this area of life sciences is crucial in ensuring that opportunities for new therapies, diagnostics and medical devices reach patients.
“We are proud to be recipients of MRC translational funding and, through the activities of our scientists and our Drug Discovery Unit, to be key components of the UK innovation ecosystem. With respect to this latest government announcement, we have just received a £700,000 ‘Confidence in Concept Award’, thanks to Paul Wyatt and Andrew Woodland, and a £250,000  ‘Proximity to Discovery’ award thanks to Paul Wyatt and Julie Brady.”
The funding will allow researchers to translate biological discoveries from Dundee and partner universities towards new therapeutics via the Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) at the University, the only fully operational, fully integrated drug discovery group working across multiple diseases based within a UK university. It will also enable the DDU to build partnerships with industry.
The awards are part of three different funding initiatives, set up by the MRC to specifically target different innovation needs. One of these is a new funding initiative which will enable universities to seize on ‘out of the box’ and interdisciplinary ideas at the earliest stage by supporting their investment in concepts that can be high-risk as well as high-potential. This Discovery awards mechanism will accelerate ‘blue skies’ medical research by providing support much faster than usual funding routes and will focus on building capacity and capability in areas of high national priority.  The Discovery awards announced today will total £8.4m across 12 institutions.
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said, “Our global scientific impact far exceeds our size as a nation, and our world class researchers help drive the engines of innovation keeping the UK at the forefront of new discovery. This £23m fund provides invaluable support to help develop new ideas into the drugs and methods that will help save and improve lives.”
Another £11.6m of funding was announced for Confidence in Concept (CiC) awards in 21 universities.  These awards provide flexible funding to universities to accelerate the transition from discovery science to viability testing and take promising basic research to the industry-academia interaction stage for the development of therapies, diagnostics and medical devices.
In just three years since its launch, researchers whose preliminary work has been supported by the CiC scheme awards have secured £110m 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.
The third awards mechanism is the Proximity to Discovery scheme which helps universities to build partnerships with industry by developing new collaborations and ways of exchanging knowledge and skills. Today’s announcement totals £3.3m investment in 17 universities.
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.”