Aberdeen scientists help lead multi-million life sciences collaboration

Aberdeen scientists help lead multi-million life sciences collaboration

Even more scientists of international repute are expected to head for the University of Aberdeen after the institution helped forge a multi-million pound partnership that will transform biology and life sciences research in Scotland.

New key posts are expected to be created at the University after it was announced that Aberdeen is pooling its research excellence with five other Scottish universities.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and six Scottish universities will together invest £77.4 million to unite leading biology and life sciences research in Scotland. 

The six universities are to pool their research excellence in the new Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance (SULSA).  Eighteen new research posts and 24 support posts will be created at the Universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, and Strathclyde.  An investment of £27 million from SFC and £57 million from the universities will, over five years, attract new academic staff to strengthen this critical research area key to the health and wealth of Scotland.

The move comes at a particularly dynamic time for the University of Aberdeen which is making unprecedented investment in its infrastructure and people. The partnership will also see Aberdeen bring a host of research strengths to the table which include imaging technology which is helping our understanding of cancer.

The initial areas SULSA will be strengthening through its collaboration will be:

·            cell biology – the study of the basic unit of life;

·            systems biology – using computers to model groups of molecules, groups of cells and even whole organisms; and

·            translational biology – the application of biological knowledge to develop medicines and other therapies for eventual clinical use.

Roger McClure, Chief Executive of SFC, said: "Life sciences is one of the jewels in Scotland's research crown.  By pooling their resources the partners in SULSA will be better equipped to face the challenges of global research competition.  They will also contribute to Scotland's health and economy through discoveries and through the critical mass of excellence they can offer to commercial companies in this dynamic sector of Scotland's economy.

"The outcomes of their work will be beneficial to many people in Scotland through the medical and economic benefits which will arise as a consequence of creating a large, integrated research community in life sciences".

Deputy First Minister and Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Nicol Stephen said: "Scotland is a "science nation" and we have a history of attracting some of the world's very best researchers to our shores. Our research community will benefit very significantly from this new, world leading project, with new equipment, facilities, staff and studentships available.

"I am pleased to see the strong level of support coming from our universities and the Scottish Funding Council.  Strong co-operation between our universities is vital to Scotland's international reputation for educational excellence."

Professor Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland and also Chair in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Aberdeen, said: "This exciting initiative will further strengthen Scotland's expertise in life sciences and will help us attract the very best researchers to work here. There are real economic and scientific benefits to research pooling and SULSA will reinforce Scotland's academic reputation internationally as well as supporting new research opportunities."

Life science researchers at the University of Aberdeen are trying to find better treatments and cures for a diverse range of major diseases which include Alzheimer's and dementia, cancer, bone disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's. They are also conducting groundbreaking investigations into wound healing.

Professor Ian Booth, who is heading up Aberdeen's involvement in the collaboration, is Director of the University's Institute of Medical Sciences, where many of those researchers are based. He said: "This is a tremendously exciting initiative which will bring major benefits for Scotland. The University of Aberdeen already boasts many internationally recognised scientists who are leaders in their fields.

"We expect even more "leading lights" will want to join us at Aberdeen where our particular strengths include our imaging facilities which are helping to further our understanding of cancer; the development of new drugs and diagnostic aids, and our research into the chemistry of deep-sea organisms which could lead to new therapeutics." 

Professor Colin McCaig, who is Head of the University's School of Medical Sciences, added: "This injection of cash into life sciences recognises the research excellence that exists in Scotland. The alliance will also help bring the "big players" from around the world over here.

"The University of Aberdeen could gain around ten new posts from post doctoral researchers right through to new professors which will help build on our research excellence into many important diseases."

The collaborative model of pooled research excellence offers a way to address the challenges of remaining internationally leading in an increasingly expensive field by attracting the best researchers to Scotland and by training the brightest students to follow them into the field.

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