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Ulster University’s Biomedical Sciences Research Institute has added a new state-of-the-art laboratory within its Mass Spectrometry Centre. The new lab is a further boost to the world class research already taking place at the Coleraine campus across disciplines including nutrition, diabetes, vision science, pharmaceutical science and genomics, and will ultimately lead to the discovery of new treatment pathways and better patient outcomes.

From the Coleraine Campus, the new laboratory will offer immediate opportunities for increased collaboration with industry and also support the proposed drug discovery, food and pharmaceutical innovation centre at the campus that would partner with clinical frontline, healthcare, veterinary and agri-food sectors.

A first for Ireland

This expansion has been made possible by over £700,000 in funding from the Department for Economy’s Higher Education Research Capital investment fund which has enhanced the facility’s research capacity and laboratory safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling important research to continue undisturbed at Coleraine, throughout the challenges of the past year.

The funding has also enabled the University to upgrade its bio-analytical facilities with three state-of-the-art mass spectrometry instruments. Coupled with the extensive bio-imaging capacity at Coleraine, it creates the first multimodal biomolecular* imaging platform on the island of Ireland.

Researchers can now examine highly detailed images of biological tissues and reconstruct 3D biochemical tissue maps to better inform treatment for patients.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons toured the newly-expanded and enhanced facility and saw first-hand the powerful tools within the new lab space.

State-of-the-art laboratory attracts world experts to Coleraine

These enhanced facilities, coupled with Ulster University’s strong research profile in nutrition, diabetes, vision, cancer therapeutics, pharmaceutical sciences and agri-food research are also attracting world-leading experts to join the research teams in Coleraine. Five part-time high profile international leaders recently strengthened research teams in diabetes therapeutics, metabolic and cardiovascular medicine.

At the Coleraine campus Professors Per Olof Berggren (Karolinska Institutet) and Patrik Rorsman (University of Oxford/Gothenburg) are establishing world pioneering research on transplantation of insulin-releasing cells into the eye, a technique that offers an effective and functional future potential treatment of patients with diabetes as well as the opportunity for imaging and monitoring insulin-producing cells which normally can't be seen inside the body.

Professor Carel Le Roux (University College Dublin) and Professor Sumantra Ray (Cambridge University Hospitals) are experts in obesity and cardiovascular health research, enhancing the internationally recognised nutrition team.

Professor Guoliang Xu (Shanghai Institutes of Biochemical Sciences) is a world-leading expert in genomics and in the area of how hidden marks on our DNA which record environmental and parental inputs, might affect how we respond to threat of disease.

Professor Victor Gault, Associate Dean for Research & Impact in Faulty of Life & Health Sciences said:

“We are proud of our research credentials and have already been judged as in the ‘premier league’ of Universities with 100% of research environment classed as world-leading/internationally excellent.

Biomedical Sciences at Ulster was ranked among the top five UK Universities for ‘research power’ in the latest UK research excellence framework (REF2014) and first in the UK in the Pharmacy and Pharmacology subject area (The Guardian League Table 2021).

“This latest additional laboratory space and advanced equipment together with enhanced imaging facilities will push us even further forward, and support drug discovery and food innovation development opportunities within areas such as nutrition, diabetes, cancer and vision. Ulster’s unique multimodal biomolecular* imaging capacity has multiple applications that will ultimately impact patient's lives and health: these are the real-world outcomes from our research excellence at Coleraine.”

Economy Minister, Gordon Lyons, said:

“My Department has set out the bold and ambitious 10X vision for the Northern Ireland economy which will drive the next decade of innovation. This level of ambition reflects the scale of the challenges ahead, and the opportunity we have to make a generational change.

To meet our ambition as a small advanced economy, we must focus on sectors and technologies in which NI already is, or can be, world class, whilst ensuring the benefits of economic growth are felt across society.

A partnership approach will be key to realising this ambition, collaborating with all our partners across academia, Government and business.

My Department is therefore delighted to support Ulster University in developing its world class research capability in the Biomedical Sciences Research Institute as a key delivery partner in helping us realise the ambitious targets set out in our Vision for a 10X Economy.”

The Biomedical Sciences Research Institute incorporates a 6,200m2, £14.5million Centre for Molecular Biosciences and is Ulster University’s largest research institute.

*Multimodal biomolecular imaging (MBI) is an innovative approach which allows visualisation of the spatial distribution of molecules e.g. pharmaceutical compounds, biomarkers and metabolites in biological tissue sections. MBI has a broad scope of applications and is being successfully applied in biology, pathology, medicine, and pharmacology amongst others.

MBI can help us to understand the link between the localisation of certain molecules and their function during pathogenesis, disease progression, or treatment. It can accelerate our efforts in providing more effective therapeutics for a broad range of diseases, such as cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, or age-related conditions.