7-Sep-2011

Almac in £4.4m academic-business collaboration

Enterprise Minister for Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster with members of the Almac research team

An investment of £4.4m in a unique academic-business collaboration between pharmaceutical development company Almac and Queen’s University, Belfast (QUB) will help develop better tests for diagnosing and treating prostate, ovarian and breast cancer.

The research initiative, based at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s, will be led by Professor Richard Kennedy, one of Almac’s experts in personalised medicine, which tailors specific treatment to each cancer patient.

Invest Northern Ireland and The McClay Foundation, the charitable trust established by the late Sir Allen McClay, are partnering to fund the lab facilities and staff costs. Invest NI has offered the Almac Group and QUB £1.5 million of support towards the collaboration, which includes part funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Professor Kennedy, the newly appointed McClay Chair of Experimental Cancer Medicine at Queen’s University – a joint appointment with Almac – said the project was an excellent example of how business and academia could work together in the fight against cancer.

‘The research will involve using cutting-edge technology developed by Almac that will allow us to analyse large numbers of patient tumours collected by Queen’s,’ he explained. ‘We will develop these tests to help clinicians to better understand prostate, ovarian and breast cancer and prescribe the appropriate treatments tailored to the specific patient.

‘We hope this will then improve the chances of cure using chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Queen's and Almac will also use this information to design new therapies that could improve the chances of response and cure for these cancers in the future.’

Enterprise Minister for Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, said: ‘Almac remains at the cutting edge of drug development and delivery for specific types of cancer and, with Invest NI support, has invested heavily in research projects that have delivered significant economic benefits and advancements in cancer treatment worldwide.

‘This collaboration project will build upon a successful and longstanding research relationship between Almac and Queen’s University, Belfast. Such academic and industrial linkages are vital to the growth of our economy as they strengthen our knowledge base and enhance Northern Ireland’s reputation as an international research and development hub.’

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