A new biomedical research unit was officially opened today at the Babraham Institute by Lord Drayson, Minister for Science and Innovation.The £22M Biological Support Unit (BSU) will provide additional state-of-the-art facilities for Babraham’s internationally-leading research, which underpins government’s national responsibilities for health and well-being research and training, and cements the UK’s position as global leader in bioscience research.
A trailblazer for the industry with its innovative design, the facility will further the UK’s capacity in basic biomedical research to investigate the mechanisms behind normal cellular functions and to understand how, over lifetime, their failure may cause disease. This includes studying responses to infections and processes governing healthy ageing. Discoveries at Babraham have given insight into the basis of conditions like hypertension, heart failure, cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. It is the translation of this knowledge that will lead to innovative approaches for therapeutic strategies to tackle health and well-being challenges.
Speaking about the opening, Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson said, “Britain is a world leader in Life Sciences and the Government is proud of the pioneering work of our scientists and researchers. This state-of-the-art facility will be vital, increasing the likelihood of scientific breakthroughs whilst ensuring the highest standards of animal welfare.”
Babraham’s Director, Professor Michael Wakelam explained, ’Using mouse models of human disease is revealing insights into how the immune, nervous and cardiovascular systems develop and the importance of certain genes in human development, disease and ageing. Babraham’s ground-breaking work on cell signalling – understanding how cells communicate with each other and cellular responses to hormones – has paved the way for novel therapeutic targets and treatment pathways for immunity, inflammation, cancer and heart disease. The new facility will enable our scientists to remain at the forefront of globally-competitive biomedical research and enhance bioscience in our region.”
Recent research published this month has provided new understanding about how the heart malfunctions during disease, in particular the increased arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) associated with cardiac hypertrophy – aberrant growth of the heart precipitated by factors like high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. Key to this is calcium signalling and an increase in the abundance of a particular calcium channel was shown in rodent models of cardiovascular disease. Further, collaboration with clinicians at Addenbrooke´s Hospital revealed that the channel was also increased in cardiac tissue from human patients. These findings demonstrate the relevance and validity of discoveries made about calcium handling in rodent models of cardiovascular disease to heart disease in humans. It also suggests a new target for future therapies against a disease that causes around one third of all deaths in the Western world.
Despite obvious differences between mice and humans, there are remarkable similarities in their physiology. Studying the immune system of mice gives valuable insights into our ability to combat infections and susceptibility to allergies or autoimmune disease. The new BSU provides exceptional facilities for research that will: improve understanding of human development and conditions such as obesity and disease; investigate responses to infections and study the processes governing healthy ageing. The high health status and experimental facilities in the BSU are ideally suited to aid research into healthy ageing using mouse models - it is vital that animals are completely disease free for up to two years for this purpose and the BSU sets a new gold standard for the biomedical research community.
The BSU cost £17M to build with a further £5M to equip the facility and was constructed with support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). It incorporates innovative design and construction features, with an emphasis on high-tech automation and robotics incorporated into the building as key new design features. The automated aspects of the new facility reduce the time that our skilled and dedicated husbandry staff spends performing repetitive tasks.
A key factor in the design of such an expensive facility is to make it as ‘future proof’ as possible, to ensure that it is easy to both modify and maintain and remains internationally-competitive throughout its life. The modular design and state-of-the-art building materials make it a very flexible as well as efficient design, both in terms of carrying out research and maintaining the building.
The facility has been designed to provide a consistent and quantifiable environment, with the highest consideration for animal welfare, which will provide reliable data with reduced variability or experimental artefacts, both within experimental groups and over time. This ultimately means that fewer animals will be needed in research to show a statistical effect.
Dr Claire Cockcroft
Head, External Relations
Tel: +44 (0)1223 496260
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Dr Geoff Butcher, Group Leader and Institute Certificate Holder
Tel: +44 (0)1223 496542
The Babraham Institute
Babraham Research Campus
Cambridge CB22 3AT
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Notes to Editors:
The Babraham Institute is a charitable organisation devoted to biomedical research and is an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The Institute’s research is focused on understanding the biological events that underlie the normal functions of cells and on how their failure or abnormality may lead to disease. As such, Institute scientists are striving to find cures for conditions where there is currently no treatment or where the existing treatment is not fully effective or causes serious side effects. The latest technologies are being used to study the basis of conditions such as neurodegenerative disorders, birth defects, cancer and diseases of the immune and cardiovascular systems. With a strategic focus on ‘healthy ageing’, novel approaches for tackling chronic diseases and public health concerns like obesity are being discovered. The Institute’s innovative research is commercialised through Babraham Bioscience Technologies (BBT) Ltd, which also manages Babraham’s vibrant Bioincubator on the Babraham Research Campus, six miles south-east of Cambridge. Website: www.babraham.co.uk
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, health and well-being and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.
The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. 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.
Babraham Institute - Babraham Research Campus - Cambridge - United Kingdom