Business Secretary Greg Clark today announced funding for a series of ambitious technology projects that will transform the way medicines are discovered, enabling the pharmaceutical industry to develop groundbreaking drugs faster, cheaper and better than ever before. The projects are the first wave of major initiatives for the £103m Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI), that was launched today at the Harwell Campus, Oxfordshire.

The Facility will be developed by 2020 and will harness disruptive new technologies, such as AI and robotics, to speed up the production process of drug discovery 10-fold. Subsequently, this will enable the pharmaceutical industry to develop ground-breaking drugs faster, cheaper and better than ever before.

The RFI will be investing in a series of technology projects, including £6M to create:  

  • An advanced real-time video camera that uses light and sound
  • Fully automated hands-free molecular discovery to produce drugs 10x faster
  • A new UK facility that will speed up the generation of new drugs for clinical testing by revolutionising the way samples are produced and harnessing AI

As part of the UK’s AI and Data Grand Challenge, the RFI will facilitate bridging the gap between university research and pharmaceutical companies and small businesses. This will put the UK at the forefront of the industries for the future.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

“The new Rosalind Franklin Institute will lead a revolution in drug development and diagnosis to improve the lives of millions of patients.  And with over 10 million people in Britain alive today expected to live to 100, now more than ever it is vital that the Government invests in the development of new technologies and techniques which will support people to have healthier lives.”

Professor Ian Walmsey, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research & Innovation at the University of Oxford and Chair of the RFI’s Interim Board said:

“The RFI will pioneer disruptive technologies and new ways of working to revolutionise our understanding of biology, leading to new diagnostics, new drugs, and new treatments for millions of patients Worldwide. It will bring university researchers together with industry experts in one facility and embrace high-risk, adventurous research, that will transform the way we develop new medicines.”

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Executive Chair, said:

“As EPSRC is the main delivery partner for the Rosalind Franklin Institute, I am extremely pleased to see the Institute officially launched today. Research here at the Harwell hub, and at the universities that form the spokes of the Institute, will help the UK maintain a leading position in the application of engineering and physical sciences to problems in the life sciences.”

The namesake of the institute, the pioneering X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin, was one of the key figures in the discovery of the structure of DNA, and used a technique with roots in physics and technology to transform life science. The Institute will follow in this spirit, developing unique new techniques and tools and applying them for the first time to biological problems.

The Institute is an independent organisation funded by the UK government through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and operated by ten UK universities.

Professor Andrew Livingston, Imperial College London, Professor Jim Naismith, Oxford University, and Director of the Research Complex at Harwell have been appointed as academic leads to guide the formation of the Institute.

To read more about what is happening at the Institute click here