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Biomedical Science Boost For North-West

30 April 2010

Development of the North West as a base for high-tech healthcare and clinical research took a step forward today as 150 international scientists and researchers attended a sell-out conference marking the inaugural year of C-TRIC, the award-winning Londonderry–based translational medicine project.

Experts from both sides of the Atlantic including academics, healthcare practitioners and pharmaceutical industry figures are in derry to deliver papers and presentations about the latest advances in the sector, which is a multi-million dollar industry in the United States.

C-TRIC  (Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre) has been developed as a joint partnership between the University of Ulster, the Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) and Derry City Council, with funding provided by ILEX urban regeneration company and Invest Northern Ireland. It is the only facility of its type in Britain or Ireland.

Its second annual conference has been organised by the University of Ulster in association with the Western Trust.

Opened just a year ago, C-TRIC has achieved a flourishing reputation for its approach to research and development of innovative medical and healthcare. Last month it won the “North / South Collaboration prize” in the “Irish Times All-Island Innovation Awards, in association with InterTradeIreland”.

The 9,000 sq ft complex, based in the grounds of the Western Trust’s Altnagelvin Hospital campus, is a one-stop-shop for technology entrepreneurs, academic medical and healthcare researchers, and commercially-funded clinical studies.

Two leading American innovators are addressing the conference. They are Dr Susan Whoriskey, who was recently appointed an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at the internationally-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology Entrepreneurship Center and Trung Do, who is Executive Director of Business Development at Partners HealthCare.

Dr Whoriskey said:"I am delighted to have been invited to contribute to this Translational Medicine Conference.  I was very impressed on my visit to C-TRIC and Northern Ireland is lucky to have such a Centre. I have never seen such an excellent convergence of facilities, expertise and partnership under one roof as is present in C-TRIC ."

Trung Do added: "As a member of C-TRIC's International Advisory Board I am delighted to see the progress that has been made in the past year.  The Centre provides an excellent opportunity for both local and international companies wishing to exploit the connection between Northern Ireland's world class Health, Business and Academic sectors, and is a wonderful asset for the Region.  The Translational Medicine Conference provides an excellent opportunity for us to get together and develop projects, many of which could benefit from the expertise and facilities on offer at C-TRIC."

Dr Maurice O'Kane, Chief Executive of C-TRIC and Head of Research and Development, Western Trust said: “There is something really interesting and exciting happening in clinical research in the North West at the moment. The degree to which different organisations have worked together on this important initiative is unique.

“This Translational Medicine Conference demonstrates how in partnership we can play a vital role in translating medical advances from the laboratory bench to the patient's bedside. This is an essential step that will ultimately lead to improving the care we offer patients and the public."

One of the chief speakers Professor Jim McLaughlin of the University of Ulster said: “From 2000 until 2050, the world's population aged 60 and over will more than triple from 600 million to 2 billion. This demographic change has several implications for public health. Good health is essential for older people to remain independent and to play a part in family and community life.”

Professor McLaughlin, Director of NIBEC (the Nanotechnology and Integrated BioEngineering Centre), a world-class research complex at University of Ulster, said: “At NIBEC we have been addressing this growing challenge for over 20 years. From the basic science of advanced materials, new medical devices have been delivered to the healthcare sector -- from sensor technology and tissue engineering to implantable electrodes and highly functional coatings. This has lead to a wide range of high quality published outputs and highly successful technology transfer.

“Companies such as Heartscape, Heartsine and Intelesens have grown out of these advanced laboratories and in more recent years NIBEC has attracted companies such as SiSAF.”

Translational is an international buzzword for a “bench-to-bedside” methods of working that speeds up the time for research to be converted into practice and cuts R&D costs involved in innovative health technologies, medical devices and therapeutics.

Also speaking at the conference is the Director of the Intelligent Systems Research Centre at the University of Ulster's Magee campus, Professor Martin McGinnity: “The ISRC is very pleased to be able to discuss with healthcare professionals, medical diagnostics providers, medical equipment companies and other research professionals from across the world, its leading edge research and commercialisation activities associated with medical care.

"We strongly welcome the opportunity which the Translational Medicine Conference offers to develop and extend our existing international collaborations with top research groups and companies worldwide.”