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New deal between top UK and US research laboratories

Posted on 17 March 2003

A major new US/UK research collaboration focusing on identifying new health products from plants has been launched. The CNAP research group at the University of York is to work with the Oklahoma-based Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.

The joint research programme will be carried out in the Noble Laboratory, newly established in the new £25 million Biosciences building at the University of York.

"I am delighted by this new agreement between our two institutes", said Professor Dianna Bowles, Director of CNAP. "We both have world-class expertise in the bioscience which underpins novel health product discovery. By combining our strengths and working together on new projects, we can move forward much more rapidly, both in research and in development of products to markets here and in the United States."

Professor Richard Dixon, Noble Foundation Plant Biology Division Director and head of the new Noble Laboratory in CNAP, agreed. "The creation of this new laboratory represents a wonderful opportunity to develop new technologies based on the incredible diversity of biologically active chemicals found in plants for the prevention and treatment of human diseases. We intend to work together to enhance in-house programmes at both institutes through new collaborations and new opportunities for commercialisation."

Plant extracts have been used in health treatments for thousands of years. The Noble team at York will use modern molecular techniques to increase yields in a range of products in order to make such health products more readily available. The work has a particular resonance for health problems in developing countries, where diseases such as malaria might be a target for the Noble/CNAP team's work.

In the initial phase of the alliance, the collaboration will provide funding for two post-doctoral researchers, a technician and equipment and consumables for a period of five years.

"We are excited both about the scientific outreach this collaboration represents, and the potential our institutions have to develop plant-based products to benefit human health," said Michael Cawley, Noble Foundation president.

"This represents an excellent research alliance that should open up commercial opportunities for the University in key target markets", said CNAP Commercial Director, Dr Graham Howe.

CNAP, a research centre in the Department of Biology at York, has core funding from the Garfield Weston Foundation and the UK Government. CNAP integrates expertise in biochemistry, genetics, plant biology and microbiology. Its work has important and wide-ranging applications in agriculture, manufacturing industry, and health.

Research projects at CNAP complement work in the Noble Foundation laboratories in Ardmore, Oklahoma, which is focused on enhancing the management of agricultural resources and plant productivity through research, consultation and demonstration.

Recruitment for the Noble Laboratory at York is underway, and it is anticipated that the research team will begin work this summer.

Notes to editors:

  • The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, a non-profit organisation headquartered in Ardmore, Oklahoma, operates to enhance agricultural resources management and plant productivity through consultation, demonstration, applied biotechnology and basic research and serves communities through charitable grants.
  • The Noble Laboratory will be co-directed by Dr Richard Dixon, Noble Foundation Plant Biology Division Director, and Dr Pierre Broun, Professor of Metabolic Engineering at CNAP.
  • The Department of Biology at York is one of the leading centres for biological teaching and research in the UK. Staff teach degree courses and undertake research across the whole spectrum of modern Biology, from molecular genetics and biochemistry to ecology. The Department has over 400 scientific and support staff and teaches over 400 undergraduates. The Department has one of the highest research ratings and currently has research contracts worth over £20 million.
  • The £25 million redevelopment provides new and refurbished buildings for the Biology Department's research. The buildings have been designed around a state-of-the-art technology hub with specialist equipment worth £5 million.

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David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153