Wales to host Europe's first Centre for NanoHealth

9 February 2009

Swansea University in Wales will host Europe's first centre devoted to nanomedicine, after securing more than £10 million from the Convergence European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Assembly Government.

The £21.6 million Centre for NanoHealth, believed to be the first of its kind in Europe, brings together the expertise of clinicians, life scientists, engineers and industry to develop cutting-edge medical technologies and devices.

The Centre for NanoHealth is a joint project between Swansea University’s School of Engineering, School of Medicine, School of Physical Sciences and ABM University NHS trust and has emerged from imaginative collaborative research between the Multidisciplinary Nanotechnology Centre (MNC) in the School of Engineering and the Institute of Life Science (ILS) in the School of Medicine.

These technologies, for example, will enable researchers and scientists to detect biomarkers such as proteins in real time, thereby acting as an early-warning system of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Professor Steve Wilks, Co-Director of the Centre for NanoHealth and Deputy Head of the School of Engineering explains: “In-vivo sensing is one of the holy-grail technologies for the medical profession. By harnessing nanotechnology, scientists and researchers can develop sensors that operate at a level of sensitivity in the parts per billion range. It is anticipated that these sensors will allow the detection of certain disease biomarkers within the body at a very early stage and transmit this data to a GP or clinician making early intervention possible.”

Announcing the funding in Swansea, Deputy First Minister for Wales, Ieuan Wyn Jones, who is also the Minister for the Economy and Transport, said: “Support for innovation and the growth of our knowledge-based economy are essential if we are to help companies deal with the current downturn and ensure Wales is in a strong position to take advantage of the economic upturn.

"This investment is a major boost to our research and development capabilities, and will undoubtedly help Welsh businesses become more competitive, productive and efficient through the development of a new generation of products and processes."

Swansea University Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard B Davies said the announcement of the funding for the Centre for NanoHealth is a cornerstone of the University’s strategy for continued growth.
He said: “Campus universities provide an ideal environment for multi-disciplinary work to flourish. This is important because the big challenges of today do not respect the artificial boundaries between traditional disciplines. The new Centre for NanoHealth goes one stage further: disciplinary boundaries disappear and the Centre creates an innovative academic alignment with the size and quality of facilities to make a major impact. World class research will deliver high-technology solutions to major healthcare challenges in an explicitly multi-disciplinary environment and culture.

“The Centre also builds successfully upon Swansea University’s strong track record of working closely with private industry. It benefits from the effective working relationships established between the new School of Medicine and the NHS.”

The Centre for NanoHealth, which will be located on the University’s Singleton campus, will include business incubation space, and open-access nanotechnology and biomedical research and development facilities. This will enable businesses to fully realise the potential of nanotechnology innovation in healthcare from conception to commercialisation.

Dr Steve Conlan, Co-Director for the Centre for NanoHealth and a Principal Investigator in the Reproductive Biology Group of the School of Medicine said: “Nanotechnology is widely considered to be the next big thing; with markets associated with nanotechnologies projected to exceed $2.5 trillion within 15 years. We are at the leading edge of Research and Development in this field.

“The Centre for NanoHealth will provide Swansea, Wales and the rest of the UK with the required infrastructure to facilitate a level of investment from the private sector to develop new technologies in the area of NanoHealth. This will ultimately return wider economic, health and environmental benefits to both the region and the wider economy.”

The Centre for NanoHealth is forecast to assist around 400 companies, of which more than 300 will be small and medium businesses in Wales. The Centre is also expected to create up to 450 new jobs over five years. These will include 12 new jobs, of which eight will be academic appointments, at Swansea University.

The total investment/funding secured to date by CNH is £21.6 million: This includes £10 million funding from WEFO, £7.6 million from Swansea University and £2.5 million from Industry.

More information

Centre for NanoHealth, Swansea University 

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