WALES is to be propelled into the premier league of medical research after it was announced that £50 million is to be invested in the creation of a cutting-edge Institute of Life Science (ILS) at Swansea University.
Left to right: University VC Professor Richard Davies,
AM Andrew Davies and IBM’s Europe, Middle East
and Africa Business Leader Robert Tickell.
Andrew Davies, Welsh Assembly Minister for Economic Development and Transport, speaking at Swansea University’ new Medical School, predicted that the "world-class facility will be a major development in research power focused on mainstream diseases".
The ILS will be a collaboration between the University, the Welsh Assembly Government and computing giant IBM. The Welsh Assembly will provide £17.5 million in funding, while IBM will supply one of its supercomputers and extensive life science and IT support as part of a commercial agreement.
The ILS will also host a new European Deep Computing Visualisation Centre for Medical Applications and the computer, nicknamed "Blue C", will be one of the fastest in the world dedicated to life science research. Research at the ILS will be focused on therapeutic areas including diabetes, cancer and cardiac ailments.
Professor Davies said that that the ILS will "leverage huge benefits for Swansea and Wales in terms of advances in health and medical care and economic development".
The establishment of the institute is expected to create nearly 240 "high added value" jobs and increase spending on R&D and science training by £70 million in its first five years of operation. In addition, a business incubator will support the creation of as many as 30 spin out companies.
Swansea University and IBM told Laboratory News that the facility would be unique in the UK in its interdisciplinary approach and in having a dedicated supercomputer for life sciences.
"The facility will be home to internationally acclaimed scientists, working at the intersections of bio and nanotechnology, deep computing and informatics," Davies said. "This multidisciplinary approach will provide a tremendous stimulus for research into information-based medicine, equipping healthcare professionals with the information they need to provide more personalised and preventative forms of treatment."
Plans to formally expand the Institute’ capabilities into biotechnology and nanotechnology are under consideration, the University added.
Construction of the Institute’ building, adjoining Swansea’ Singleton Hospital, is expected to begin in the spring and take 18 months to complete at a cost of £12.5 million.