by Lisa Jones, Western Mail, Jul 13 2011
MORE than £7m is to be injected into developing new treatments for cancer and mental illness over the next three years, it was announced yesterday.
First Minister Carwyn Jones says the funding – from the Welsh Government’s National Institute for Social Care and Health Research – will also help fund research to better understand major diseases.
Mr Jones, who made the announcement as the Medical Research Council held its council meeting in Cardiff, said the cash would reinforce Wales’ reputation for “cutting edge” research and development.
All the projects are based on partnerships between the NHS and university research groups.
He said: “This investment will help to cement Wales on the world stage as a place for cutting-edge research and development. It is vital that Wales attracts the highest quality research academics, health professionals, students and businesses and retains that expertise. The knowledge gained through a collaborative approach between the NHS and universities will benchmark Wales with the best globally for health and life-sciences research.”
The funding includes £3m for the National Centre for Mental Health, led by Professors Mike Owen and Nick Craddock from Cardiff University, in partnership with all the health boards and several charities.
The Biomedical Research Centre, based in Cardiff, will be a focal point for finding better ways of treating people for a range of conditions including ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Prof Craddock said: “These investments will make a major contribution to our understanding of a range of common diseases.”
An all-Wales medical image analysis and visualisation unit based in Bangor will use the latest techniques to diagnose and treat heart disease, prostate cancer and studies of the brain.
The unit, which costs £1.28m, will be led by Professor Nigel W John from Bangor University’s Research Institute of Visual Computing in partnership with the NHS in Wales and Aberystwyth, Cardiff and Swansea universities. Research into diagnosis of thromboembolic disease, the third most common acute cardiovascular disease, is to be awarded £1.465m.
This will be undertaken at Swansea University’s Institute of Life Sciences, led by Professor Adrian Evans from Swansea University in collaboration with ABMU Health Board, University of Wales Institute, Cardiff and the medical devices company, Haemair.
The remainder of the money – £1.489m – is to go to research into cancer genetics, at the new Cancer Genetics building at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine. The research, led by Professor Julian Sampson of Cardiff University, is in partnership with the NHS to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Dr Tony Jewell, chief medical officer for Wales, said the health issues that will be studied as part of the funding are some of the biggest health challenges that face Wales in the future.
He said: “These investments will make a major contribution to our understanding of a range of common diseases. This in turn will translate into developments in diagnostics and treatments…
“The National Centre for Mental Health will also take a fresh approach to studying and treating mental health conditions, working closely with patients to look at what the underlying causes and triggers are for mental illness and new ways to treat conditions. We are trying to market Wales as a nation to compete with the UK and globally. Wales has to excel to compete with places such and Oxford and Cambridge.
“The research they are doing into conditions like dementia, depression and schizophrenia are common mental health problems. Once we start to understand the genetics behind them we can open up possibilities for prevention and treatment. An ageing population means the number of people with Alzheimer’s will increase over time. It is a real public health problem for us.”