New clinical research and imaging centre for Bristol

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The University and United Bristol Healthcare Trust (UBHT) are joining forces to establish a new state-of-the-art Clinical Research and Imaging Centre (CRIC) at St Michael's Hospital on St Michael's Hill.

The Centre, which will cost £6.6m to build, is being jointly funded by the University, UBHT and a £1.5m award from the Wolfson Foundation. It is due to open in 2009.This unique collaboration between the University and the NHS will allow people in Bristol and the South West to benefit from the latest, high-quality, cutting-edge research being conducted locally.

The Centre will cover an area of approximately 1,100 square metres and will comprise:A high-spec magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner

  • A two-room sleep laboratory for adults and children
  • A clinical-investigation suite (CSI) for adults and children
  • Accommodation, access to high-performance computational facilities, labs and offices

The MRI scanner, which is wholly funded by the Wolfson Foundation, can be used in a wide range of biomedical research. For example, it will be used to monitor blood flow in the brain and identify changes in brain activity in people with mood disorders (anxiety and depression), addiction (alcohol and drugs), stroke and dementia. It will also be used for cardiovascular investigations, notably the use of stem cells in heart repair and new cardiac surgery procedures, and to monitor shrinkage of the pancreas in type-1 diabetes.

The sleep laboratories will house studies into the links between sleep disorders and obesity in children, hypoventilation (the condition associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or cot death), and the links between sleep disturbances and mood disorders and addiction in adults. The work on children will be led by Professor Peter Fleming, whose work on cot deaths is estimated to have prevented 100,000 infant deaths worldwide.

The clinical-investigation suite will be used to measure hormone levels in blood and tissue, which has major implications for the diagnosis of endocrine disorders, for example those affecting the thyroid, adrenal and other endocrinal glands. Other work will include early-phase clinical trials and the first studies on humans, e.g. of new vaccines designed to halt the progression of new-onset type-1 diabetes.

Subject to planning permission, building work is due to start this year, with the Centre due to open in 2009. The plans for the Centre have been drawn up by Design Buro architects. The creation of the Centre is expected to generate at least 16 new jobs locally.

Professor Gareth Williams, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, said:

'The absence of a major facility for conducting state-of-the-art clinical research has held Bristol back for many years. When the CRIC comes on line, it will open up whole new dimensions of research opportunities, as well as enabling us to be even more productive and successful in the research that we undertake already. The CRIC represents the way forward - an effective and exciting collaboration between University and NHS - and will enable us to compete at last with some of the best biomedical research bases in the UK and beyond.'

UBHT Chief Executive Graham Rich added:

'We are really excited by this joint project, which shows our commitment to world-class brain and heart research. This facility will mean that we can stay at the cutting-edge of research in these areas. It is a delight to work with such talented researchers to develop this joint facility. This is a product of working closely with the university and shows our commitment to clinical research of international quality. We intend this project to be the start of many more joint ventures to keep our research at the forefront of technological advances.'

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