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University of Manchester launches unique £38m research institute

One of the most significant new research facilities for British science will be officially opened at The University of Manchester today.

The Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre (MIB) will bring together experts from a wide range of disciplines in order to tackle major challenges in quantitative, interdisciplinary bioscience.

Physicists, chemists, mathematicians, engineers and computer scientists will work alongside biologists in the new £38 million facility – the only purpose-built institute of its kind in the UK.

More than 600 scientists and support staff, working in up to 80 different research groups, will pioneer novel, cross-disciplinary approaches to tackling questions in biology that require the attention of multi-skilled teams of researchers.

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“The idea behind the institute is to create a new type of research environment where people from different disciplines learn to speak each other’s language,” said MIB Director, Professor John McCarthy.

“Most biology is still predominantly a qualitative, descriptive science; our aim is to apply analytical tools and theoretical rigour from the physical sciences, maths and engineering to bioscience research.”

Research groups within the state-of-the-art biocentre will apply interdisciplinary approaches to finding new therapies for a number of diseases, including cancer, malaria, meningitis, Alzheimer’s and cystic fibrosis.

The MIB will also be home to a number of research centres, including the £6 million Manchester Centre for Integrative Systems Biology (MCISB), which will revolutionise the way future medicines are produced.

MCISB Director, Professor Douglas Kell, said: “The last 50 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 that will allow us to understand how every gene in an organism works and reacts so as to provide us with the tools we need to develop safer and more effective medicines.”

A second research centre – the £1 million UK Centre of Excellence in Biocatalysis, Biotransformations and Biocatalytic Manufacture (CoEBio3) – will use nature’s building blocks to create ‘organic’ drugs and chemicals that are safer, environmentally friendly and more in tune with the body’s natural biology than those currently available.

The MIB also houses the National Centre for Text-Mining (NaCTeM), the first publicly-funded text-mining centre in the world. NaCTeM has a particular focus on information sourcing for bioscience and medicine.

“The MIB is intended to function as a hub of innovation to catalyse the development of new lines of interdisciplinary bioscience across the campus,” said Professor McCarthy, “and we expect it to make a significant contribution to the overall interdisciplinary research effort in the UK.”

The MIB will officially be launched on Wednesday, October 25. Sir Keith O’Nions, Director General of the Research Councils UK and Director General of Science & Innovation, will be the guest speaker at the event.

Aeron Haworth | alfa
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