Staff Newspaper of Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine
IC Reporter
 Issue 107, 26 June 2001
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Minister praises research centre «
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Inaugural lecture «
 
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Minister praises research centre
by Tanya Reed

A NEW research centre dedicated to genetic therapies - manipulating genes to treat disease - was opened last week by the science minister, Lord Sainsbury.

The genetic therapies centre (GTC), a multidisciplinary research centre dedicated to post-genomic research and the science and technology of genetic therapies, is housed in the Flowers building, the new multidisciplinary research site at South Kensington.

Science Minister Lord Sainsbury cuts the tape
Science Minister Lord Sainsbury cuts the tape with, from left: Rector, Dr Andy Miller and Mr Masataka Asano, MD, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation
Representing the interface of the life sciences and medical care with chemistry across all of its traditional branches - inorganic, organic, physical - one of its first goals will be to include the development of a new safe way to deliver therapeutic genes to target lung disorders and cancers.

Underlining the government's commitment to basic research and innovation, Lord Sainsbury spoke about how greatly the government values such a contribution to supporting research in Britain.

"This centre is a very exciting and extremely important development, made possible by the generous contributions from the Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, the Wellcome Trust and the Wolfson Foundation," he said.

"I am particularly pleased that in 1998, the Mitsubushi Chemical Corporation formed a strategic alliance with Imperial College under which it would provide support for two centres at Imperial, the genetic therapies centre and the Interdisciplinary Research Centre for Process Systems Engineering.

"There is much to be gained by countries collaborating in this way, and I would like to congratulate the Mitsubushi Chemical Corporation for forming such a long-term and visionary relationship with Imperial."

In order to get chemists and biologists working together without walls, open-plan laboratories were designed by Dr Andy Miller, reader in organic chemistry and chemical biology, and Justin Noxon of Foster & Partners.

The training of scientists also promises to get a fresh approach. The centre's philosophy will be that of a 'research hotel', where students and post-docs from around the world will be welcomed.

"Rather than technocrats in a single discipline, we aim to give them the experience and courage to solve what they need to," explained Dr Miller.

GTC staff already play a key role in the College's MRes (Masters in Research) degree in Biomolecular Science, and the Centre is expected to be an EU Marie Curie Fellowship training site.

It aims to become vital to Euro-Japanese research collaboration, and has formed a strategic alliance relationship with the Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation and Mitsubishi - Tokyo Pharmaceuticals.

"We believe in technology spin-out - I don't simply want to make the garden of science more beautiful, I want my science to be used in the marketplace," Dr Miller added.

The non-executive director and co-founder of the first GTC spinout company, Proteom Ltd also believes in forming research partnerships with scientists in laboratories located in the restructuring and developing countries.

"However, I want to make sure that wherever we form such partnerships, the IPR stays with the scientists in that country for the development of the country concerned."

Partnerships are already underway or envisaged with scientists in Vietnam, in the EU preaccession states (Czech Republic), Ukraine and in the longer term Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.

Among the current research themes is the development of safe and efficient non-viral vectors ('nanoparticles') for direct use in gene therapy; a project looking at the Proteomic Code - a hinted at second genetic code which may relate the one dimensional world of genes to the 3D world of protein structure and function, and research into the chemistry of stress - studying molecular chaperone proteins, and neuroimmunology - understanding how the brain communicates stress.
The GTC site is at: www.biodigm.com/gtc/

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© Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, 2001
26 June 2001