Cancer Research UK is to cultivate the top anti-cancer drug designers of tomorrow with a major new funding stream that will establish innovative medicinal chemistry training programmes across key UK universities and cancer research institutes.
The move comes as some universities across the country close or downsize their chemistry departments. Cancer Research UK announces today its £10m Medicinal Chemistry Training Programme funding to the first five successful UK universities. The awards have been won by: University of Cambridge; the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, University of Newcastle upon Tyne; University of Edinburgh and University of St Andrews; Imperial College London; and University of Oxford.
Professor Alex Markham, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, says: “There were 19 excellent applications for this funding – which suggests this is an area of high ambition and quality, but clearly a lack of funding. We hope this new scheme will help redress the balance.”
Each university and research institute will receive a grant that will allow them to fund, in total, 60 PhD studentships in medicinal chemistry over the next five years.
Prof Markham adds: “We expect these five new Medicinal Chemistry Training Programmes to re-energise the subject of chemistry and highlight how important the medicinal chemists of tomorrow will be in the fight against cancer. The skills that will be developed through these programmes will not only result in an expert group of anti-cancer drug designers – these new programmes will also encourage collaboration with biologists, pharmacologists and clinicians.”
The five successful programmes have been selected for their ability to integrate their medicinal chemistry activities into their broader local scientific and medical environment, with a focus on cancer.
For example the University of Cambridge Medicinal Chemistry programme will link the world-renowned Cambridge University Department of Chemistry with the new Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, Addenbrookes Hospital and an array of other research departments and institutes that operate across the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.
Dr Shankar Balasubramanian, who will lead the project at the University of Cambridge, says: “These scientists will be working at the hub of a dynamic research enterprise. They will have the opportunity of learning from researchers at the top of fields as diverse as molecular biology through to pharmacology and medical imaging.”
Dr Simon Campbell, president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, says: “Our understanding of cancer has advanced enormously over the past decade but we must ensure we have the chemistry skills to transform new biological discoveries into innovative therapies. This programme recognises that chemists are at the heart of multidisciplinary drug discovery teams and that significant investment is required to train the next generation of world class drug designers.”
Science and Innovation Minister, Lord Sainsbury, says: “The UK has a strong history of innovation in pharmaceuticals. I am delighted that Cancer Research UK is funding this new programme which will help ensure that we continue to be at the cutting edge of drug development and remain a world leader in global science and innovation.”
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