New £6m biocentre to revolutionise the production of safer medicines

March 14, 2005

The University of Manchester has been awarded £6m to open a new biocentre which will revolutionise the way future medicines are produced - making them safer and more effective.

The Manchester Centre for Integrative Systems Biology (MCISB) will pioneer an entirely new approach to biology which will not only help pharmaceutical companies to develop better drugs, but potentially reduce the time it takes to develop them.

The centre will pioneer the development of new technologies in Systems Biology - a new approach to genomics which uses complex computational and mathematical analysis to advance on traditional methods.

Professor Douglas Kell, Director of the MCISB, said: "The last fifty years of molecular biology have failed to discover the existence of a substantial number of genes in some very well studied organisms, which has hindered the development of the most effective medicines."

"Our aim is to develop the systems which will allow University scientists and pharmaceutical companies to understand how every gene in an organism works and reacts. This will provide them with the tools they need to develop safer and more effective medicines and will put Manchester on the map as one of the world centres for systems biology research."

The £6m grant has been awarded by The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and will be used to develop new methods of computational and mathematical analysis, validating these methods by testing them in yeast. These methods will then be used to create generic computational models with the potential to allow pharmaceutical companies to perform virtual trials of any medicine on any living organism.

"48% of genes in yeast are very similar to genes in humans. If we can understand how drugs react with yeast we can predict their reactions in humans too. This will allow pharmaceutical companies to develop medicines more efficiently because they will know in advance how people are going respond to them," says Professor Kell.

Professor Stephen Oliver, a senior member of the MCISB research team and a leading expert in the field of genomics and yeast research, said: "Systems biology will be a major trend in life sciences for at least the next decade and the award at this centre by the BBSRC puts Manchester in the vanguard of this movement."
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Notes to Editors:

  • The Manchester Centre for Integrative Systems Biology is one of three new Centres funded by the BBSRC. The others are based at Imperial College London and the University of Newcastle.

  • Systems Biology is a new approach to studying animals, plants and microbes that combines theory, computer modelling and experiments. It is revolutionising how bioscientists think and work; and will make the outputs of biological research more useful, and easier to use in industry and policymaking. Traditionally, biologists have used observation and experiment to describe how specific processes work on a case by case basis, and used their understanding to design more experiments to test each new case. The key to systems biology is that researchers combine experimentation with computer simulations in order to process experimental results, design new experiments and to generate generic and predictive solutions that are widely applicable.

  • The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

  • The Centre will be based in the University of Manchester's state of the art MIB Building and is planned to open in summer 2005.

    University of Manchester

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