The Nowgen Centre, the new multi-million pound, Manchester-based centre for genetics in healthcare and home of the North West Genetics Knowledge Park, was officially opened on 25 April by Dr John Stageman, Vice President for Global Sciences and Information at AstraZeneca.
The Centre, which cost £4 million, has been jointly funded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The Nowgen project is a collaboration between the Central Manchester & Manchester Children's University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Lancaster.
Genetics knowledge has already benefited many thousands of families with inherited conditions and is set to change the way healthcare is delivered in the future; influencing, for example, how cancer and heart disease are treated.
Since its creation in 2003, Nowgen has attracted over £7 million additional world-class research investment to the North West, and partnerships have been established with other internationally renowned research centres in Europe and North America. Now that it is housed in first class facilities, it is set to deliver the objectives of the Government's 2003 Genetics White Paper 'Our Inheritance, Our Future'.
The White Paper aims to set out a vision of how patients could benefit in future from advances in genetics, and raise awareness of the potential of genetics in healthcare. As patient input is integral to Nowgen's work, the Centre has launched an innovative programme of activities to engage the public through debates, arts and drama (450 school students and their teachers have already taken part in workshops at the Centre).
Key Nowgen projects include research to understand the public's hopes and concerns about genetic tests and technologies, the education of healthcare professionals and the first NHS trial of a genetic test to predict responses to medicines.
The launch will allow guests from the healthcare, business and academic sectors to meet researchers and patient groups involved in the projects, and drama students from Prestwich Community High School will perform a short play they have written themselves about a genetic issue.
Professor Dian Donnai CBE, Nowgen's Executive Director and Professor of Medical Genetics at The University of Manchester said '' I would like to pay tribute to the Northwest Regional Development Agency and the European Regional Development Fund for their vision in enabling the region to play a leading role in the UK's Genetics Agenda.''
Dr John Stageman, who is also a member of the North West Science Council, said: "I very much support this initiative which provides a unique link between business, universities and the health services and also ensures the public voice on genetic opportunities can be heard."
Dr Linda Magee, NWDA Biotechnology Sector Director and Head of Bionow, said: "The NWDA is delighted to support this innovative centre, which will significantly boost the North West's strength in genetics education and research, ultimately improving human health and wellbeing. It is a major asset to the region and the North West's biomedical sector which is already worth £3.4 billion to the regional economy."