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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 15:06 GMT
Research boost for university
Conditions in the existing labs are becoming cramped
Conditions in the existing labs are becoming cramped
The University of Ulster has been given funding to build a state-of-the-art facility to house its biomedical sciences research.

The foundation stone of the 14.5m Centre for Molecular Biosciences will be laid on Friday by Lord Sainsbury, the UK science minister.

The university won 14m to build the centre at its Coleraine campus in County Londonderry from the Department for Employment and Learning's SPUR initiative because of its prestigious research record.

It was given two five-star grades, the so-called gold standard, in this year's UK Research Assessment Exercise.

The university was donated half of the funding
The university was donated half of the funding
The university revealed on Friday that it had been donated the other half of the cost of the new centre by the Atlantic Philanthropies organisation.

UU Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerry McKenna said the centre would be a flagship research project.

"Our work in cancer and ageing, nutrition, diabetes, vision science, biotechnology and radiation science places us at the centre of the diagnosis and treatment of diseases which are amongst the most serious threats to the health of our society," he said.

The university said the centre would be equipped to the highest specification.

"The centre brings together world class researchers and state-of-the-art facilities under one roof to investigate the causes of illness and disease," said Professor McKenna.

"This is a very significant initiative for the university and for Northern Ireland. I commend the Department for Employment and Learning for their foresight in funding this centre.

"This is the sort of insightful and forward-looking research funding that is needed if we are to allow our universities to perform to our full potential."

Studying factors

Lord Sainsbury said the centre would be a focus for world-class research by the UK's top scientists.

One part of the centre will research deteriorating vision
One part of the centre will research deteriorating vision
"The state-of-the-art facility, once developed, will enable dramatic expansion and diversification in the already high profile field of biomedical sciences," he said.

"It will enhance the University of Ulster's existing strengths in technology transfer between the increasing number of biomedical researchers and biotechnological companies in Northern Ireland."

Centre Co-Director Professor Stephen Downes said he and his colleagues would be studying factors predisposing people to the illnesses they develop when they get older.

These include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, deteriorating vision, failing and over-active immune systems.

"We will particularly be working on factors in the diet that can retard or promote these diseases," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC education correspondent Maggie Taggart:
"The new centre is being funded through a government award and a donation by the Atlantic Philanthropies organisation"
See also:

08 Feb 00 | Northern Ireland
70m university campus approved
03 Dec 99 | Northern Ireland
NI's universities attract poorer students
27 Sep 99 | Northern Ireland
Students hit by loan delay
12 Jan 00 | Northern Ireland
Students opting for NI universities
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