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BBSRC contributes towards £50M boost for health and business

Visit  University of Leeds website

16 June 2010

Advances in medical engineering that could help improve the quality of life of an ageing population are being showcased today at the University of Leeds.

Work at the WELMEC Centre of Excellence in Medical Engineering is centred on technologies that will provide '50 active years after 50'. Funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the £20M WELMEC Centre is bringing together over 200 engineering, physical science, life science and medical researchers from the University of Leeds and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust with clinicians and industrialists. It is based in the University's world-leading Institute of Medical and Biomedical Engineering (iMBE).

Its partner programme, the Innovation and Knowledge Centre in Regenerative Therapies and Medical Devices (IKC), aims to translate innovations in healthcare from the lab to the bedside. Examples will be presented today at a special invitation-only event celebrating the launch of both initiatives.

The IKC is funded jointly by the EPSRC, Technology Strategy Board and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (£10M), industry (£6M) and the University of Leeds (£2M). Additional new collaborative research funding of over £50M has already been confirmed to match the IKC award, and the centre has plans which have identified research and innovation funding in this area of over £110M during the initial five year period of its activities.

The Innovation Knowledge Centre (IKC) will work alongside WELMEC to mix business knowledge with the most up-to-date research to harness the commercial potential of emerging technologies. New treatments or devices could include longer lasting joint replacements, tools for 'virtual' pathology, regenerative heart valves and blood vessels, and advanced tissue engineering for bones and teeth using nano-biomaterials.

"We now have the technology available to do astonishing things, such as repairing the body by growing healthy new tissue through biological scaffolds and stem cell therapy. And a new generation of prosthetic hip and knee joints that last longer will avoid the need for further replacements, reducing the cost on the public purse in the long term," said Professor John Fisher, Director of the WELMEC Centre.

"Whilst some of these technologies are quite expensive to deliver upfront, if you can eliminate the need for patients to have ongoing treatment and drugs, then it makes sense from a health economics perspective as well."

EPSRC's Chief Executive, Professor David Delpy said: "Taking exciting research from the university laboratory to the commercial sector through close collaboration with users and other stakeholders is vital to ensuring the UK's economy continues to be innovative and globally competitive. EPSRC is strongly committed to supporting universities in commercialising their outstanding research and I commend the approach taken by Professor Fisher and those at iMBE who in working in this way are guaranteeing a higher standard of health for all."


Notes to editors

The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise showed the University of Leeds to be the UK's eighth biggest research powerhouse. The University is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. The University's vision is to secure a place among the world's top 50 by 2015.

About the Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (iMBE)

The Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (iMBE) brings together colleagues from the faculties of medicine and health, biological sciences and engineering, Their purpose is to deliver pioneering multidisciplinary research and education in the fields of medical devices and regenerative medicine, underpinned by innovation and translation of novel therapies, focusing on the treatment of orthopaedic and cardiovascular diseases and disabilities, to advance patient healthcare and quality of life. Funded by a range of public and private grants, iMBE is developing replacement tissue products and the next generation of joint replacements which will offer "fifty more years after fifty" - and enable each of us to enjoy our longer lives in the best possible health.

About the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending around £600M each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.


The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests more than £850M a year in research and postgraduate training to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.

About the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is one on the largest trusts in the UK, with a budget of around £820M. It employs around 14,000 staff on six sites, including two of the country's largest teaching hospitals - Leeds General Infirmary and St James's University Hospital.


BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £470M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:

  • The Babraham Institute
  • Institute for Animal Health
  • Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Aberystwyth University)
  • Institute of Food Research
  • John Innes Centre
  • The Genome Analysis Centre
  • The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)
  • Rothamsted Research

The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

External contact

Paul Barrett, University of Leeds, Enterprise and Innovation Office

tel: 0113 343 0917

Paula Gould, University of Leeds, Media Relations

tel: 0113 343 8059