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NCRI Informatics initiative wins times higher awards

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by Cancer Research UK | News

29 November 2005

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The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Informatics Initiative has triumphed as the Times Higher Research Project of the Year 2005.

The distinguished panel of judges were unanimous in their support of the project that they felt “embodied the future of science.”

The goal of the Initiative is to bring together data gained in every area of cancer science and medicine – from the molecule through to the largest population studies – into one fully integrated and accessible knowledge base. By pulling all of these diverse sources of data together, patients will benefit from research more quickly, and cancer researchers will be able to open up new avenues for study.

The initiative focuses on effective management of research data in the UK and also works closely with the US National Cancer Institute Center for Bioinformatics and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute, in order to share and make best use of research information on an international basis.

The initiative has been running for two and a half years and will need to continue for a decade to reach its full potential. Although it starts with cancer, the NCRI shares with others the vision that its work will quickly be extended to other areas of science. One of the judges, Nancy Rothwell, vice-president (research) at Manchester University, said: “This project has the potential to have a profound impact on research.”

The judges also highlighted the project’s usefulness to society, improving knowledge of the causes, treatment and prevention of cancer.

Professor Richard Begent, chairman of the NCRI Informatics Task Force and professor of oncology at UCL, said: “It’s a great honour to have recognition at this early stage in the project. We think we can give a real boost to cancer research in the years to come. It’s an ambitious project that has the potential to have a very real impact on peoples’ lives. We want to improve the treatment that we can offer to cancer patients, and also contribute to research that will prevent cancer in future.”

The award was presented to Prof Begent by Professor Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council (MRC), one of the co-funders of the initiative. Prof Blakemore said: “I am delighted that the MRC is supporting this innovative and collaborative project. Multidisciplinary initiatives are part of the future of medical research and this is an excellent example of clinicians and researchers sharing knowledge and expertise to benefit people’s health.”

Professor Anthony Finkelstein, head of the UCL department of computer science, who nominated the project for the award, said: “The NCRI Informatics Initiative exemplifies higher education in the UK. The project is strategic, imaginative, of high scientific value and will capture the imagination of scientific and public communities alike.”

Jane Cope, administrative director of the NCRI, added: “This is the first time that anything like this has been done in the UK. At the same time, research is an international effort and we need to share information across all boundaries. To this end, we are working with partners at the US National Cancer Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute.”

Professor Alex Markham, chairman of the NCRI, said: “The NCRI was created to develop projects such as this. It’s rare in the field of cancer research that a project can be truly described as groundbreaking – but this is one of those occasions. It is wonderful that the importance of this vision has been publicly recognised by the Times Higher Awards.”


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