The new Rosalind Franklin Institute at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire has officially launched, with the first round of medical research projects announced.
Backed by £103m of government funding, the RFI will employ new technologies in pursuit of breakthroughs in biotechnology, medical diagnostics and drug discovery. Initial projects – funded to the tune of £6m – include an advanced camera system that uses light and sound to tackle cancer, a pioneering approach to molecular discovery for drug development, and a brand new testing facility that will harness AI to explore new drugs for clinical trials.
“The RFI will pioneer disruptive technologies and new ways of working to revolutionise our understanding of biology, leading to new diagnostics, new drugs, and new treatments for millions of patients worldwide,” said Prof Ian Walmsey, pro-vice-chancellor of Research & Innovation at Oxford University and chair of the RFI’s Interim Board.
“It will bring university researchers together with industry experts in one facility and embrace high-risk, adventurous research, that will transform the way we develop new medicines.”
A new £40m facility at Harwell will act as the main RFI hub, housing cutting-edge capabilities in imaging and drug discovery. Due to open in 2020, the hub will be delivered by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), in partnership with EPSRC, which is the primary delivery partner for the project. Ten UK universities will form spokes from the Harwell hub, with equipment and researchers located across the country.
“As EPSRC is the main delivery partner for the Rosalind Franklin Institute, I am extremely pleased to see the Institute officially launched today,” said Prof Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s executive chair.
“Research here at the Harwell hub, and at the universities that form the spokes of the Institute, will help the UK maintain a leading position in the application of engineering and physical sciences to problems in the life sciences.”
The new four-storey facility at Harwell will be home to 150 researchers from industry and academia and will work closely with neighbouring facilities including the Diamond Light Source and STFC’s Central Laser Facility.