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CRUK’s largest ever investment in Scotland bolsters institute science

by Phil Prime | Analysis

20 September 2023

1 comment 1 comment

Cancer Research UK’s largest ever investment in Scotland is set to give cancer researchers the best environment possible to do world-class science.

CRUK will award up to £123 million over a seven-year funding commitment to the Beatson Institute.

The investment will bolster Scotland as a major global hub for cancer research and help the recruitment of international talent.

In recognition of the success of the Institute as a national centre of excellence, the charity will also change the name of the institute to the Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute.

Professor Owen Sansom, Director of the newly re-named Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute, said: “This recognition of the hard work and determination of our researchers to find new ways to tackle cancer, represents an unprecedented vote of confidence in Scotland’s scientific prowess.”

Long-term commitment to discovery science

The funding for the Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute will support around 300 researchers and 100 support staff across 30 research groups.

“Our world-class teams are focusing on a wide range of research,” said Professor Sansom. “From investigating the very roots of why cancer begins, to finding new less-invasive ways of screening and testing for the disease, as well as innovative ways to use imaging technology to monitor the progress of cancers and the effectiveness of treatment to ensure better outcomes for everyone.”

There are several key themes to the research undertaken at the CRUK Scotland Institute, including cellular metabolism in cancer and ways to target this for cancer therapy, the tumour microenvironment in metastasis and cancer reoccurrence and the biology of early disease to develop ‘precision prevention’ approaches.

Institutes like this one in Scotland alongside others in London, Cambridge and Manchester are CRUK’s major investment in discovery science, providing long-term support for innovative research into fundamental cancer biology.

Executive director of research & innovation at Cancer Research UK, Dr Iain Foulkes, said: “The long-term nature of these investments – which support world-class facilities, technological platforms and research programmes – gives researchers the freedom and resources to pursue novel ideas. Combined with the networking opportunities helping to foster collaborations, our institutes are leading the way towards future patient benefit and putting discovery at the heart of this endeavour.”


Targeting RNA capping

Professor Victoria Cowling is a senior group leader at the CRUK Scotland Institute.

She recently moved her research groups to the Institute to give her team the best environment to examine the therapeutic value of RNA capping enzymes in cancer. Her team is investigating RNA cap regulation in embryonic stem cell differentiation, during T cell activation and following oncogene dysregulation in cancer models.

She and her team are making fundamental discoveries in RNA cap associated gene regulation that could have a direct impact on drug discovery and clinical practice.

Find out more about her work

A further boost for research in Scotland

Cancer Research UK invests around £33m in Scotland each year, including the CRUK Scotland Institute, the CRUK Scotland Centre and grants awarded to research groups at universities across Scotland.

The charity also funds Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMCs) in Glasgow and Edinburgh, which are part of a network of 17 ECMCs across the UK delivering clinical trials of new experimental treatments in patients in conjunction with local NHS facilities. Since 2007, when the network was first established, around 30,000 patients have taken part in 2,100 clinical trials.

Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “With a long heritage of success in finding new ways to tackle cancer in Scotland the Institute is very much a national centre of excellence and will be key to us achieving our ultimate goal of beating cancer sooner.

“Its researchers represent some of the best scientists from around the world who have come together to work towards better outcomes for patients today and in the future. This investment reflects our confidence that Scotland can go even further in becoming a major competitor on an increasingly competitive worldwide cancer research stage as we aim for a ‘golden era’ of life sciences.”

Major studies into specific types of cancer which have a big impact on Scotland’s population including liver, pancreatic, bowel and lung, will also be supported through the CRUK Scotland Institute funding.


Liver cancer – from the lab to the clinic

Professor Tom Bird’s group studies abnormal liver regeneration, particularly in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). He is also a clinician based in Edinburgh, running an NHS clinic focused on liver disease, cancer risk and HCC therapy allied to the Scottish Liver Transplant Unit.

His research group has developed a suite of genetically engineered models of HCC which mimic key features of the human condition.

By comparing between the models and patients across both tumours and tumour derived organoids the team identify novel pathways for therapy and investigate why some drug combinations are highly effective in specific forms of HCC. This precision medicine approach is needed as HCC is a highly varied tumour, both genetically and in response to standard treatments.

His group is also interested in detecting HCC earlier and exploring ways to use routine surveillance in at risk patients more effectively – collating clinical samples to investigate biomarkers for early detection and delineating treatment relevant subtypes of the disease.

Find out more about Tom’s work


More information on the CRUK Scotland Institute

Join the world-class team at the Scotland Institute


  • Omid Nejati
    20 September 2023

    Thank you


  • Omid Nejati
    20 September 2023

    Thank you