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Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council


the combined value of our investments


non-university project partners on EPSRCsupported grants


the total value of investments we have co-funded in Centres of Excellence for Cancer Imaging and Medical Engineering


the number of people employed in the UK life sciences sector

£150-170bn the estimated value of the global healthcare technology market


of the world’s 100 topselling medicines were developed by the UK medicines and healthcare industry

“Most graduate and postgraduate roles in my industry are in R&D; effective links with academia at all levels will be essential if the UK pharmaceutical industry wishes to maintain its status as a leading innovator competing with China and India.” — Malcolm Skingle, Director of Academic Liaison, GlaxoSmithKline

As the UK’s largest sponsor of research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, EPSRC is committed to advancing technologies, techniques and methodologies for the healthcare and life sciences sector. Through multidisciplinary partnerships with industry, academia, the charitable sector and other research users, we are investing over £500 million in a host of pioneering healthcare technologies for the life sciences sector – from drugs and imaging technology to medical devices, cell-based therapies and cloudbased information networks. For example, physicists and engineers have developed imaging technology for use in diagnostics such as MRI scanning; chemists are supporting the pharmaceutical sector through the creation of smarter drug delivery systems; and mathematicians and computer scientists have pioneered computer modelling technologies to further understand the human genome, enabling rapid acceleration in stem cell research and development. The research we support provides a hi-tech platform upon which companies and other research users can develop new products and practices – creating new jobs, building new commercial opportunities and stimulating international investment.

Challenges The UK population is increasingly ageing, and long-term healthcare costs are escalating – for healthcare providers, patients and society alike. There is an urgent need for more sustainable and affordable healthcare provision – for example, by enabling more people to manage their own health and wellbeing, improving prediction of health conditions and developing more effective therapies.

Opportunities for growth There are very strong global opportunities for UK companies within the life sciences sector (medical technology, pharmaceutical,

medical biotechnology and industrial biotechnology) and we have an outstanding track record in areas such as medical imaging, regenerative therapies, novel drug design and delivery, medical instrumentation and implants. Collectively the medical technology and medical biotechnology sectors employ 87,000 people working in nearly 4,000 companies with a combined turnover of £18.4 billion. In 2009 the UK pharmaceutical industry alone invested £4.4 billion, employed over 72,000 people, and generated a trade surplus of nearly £7 billion.

Manufacturing the future To help ensure the life sciences sector has the tools and techniques it needs, EPSRC has invested in healthcarefocused Innovative Manufacturing Centres in areas such as low-cost pharmaceutical products and regenerative medicines. Working alongside industrial partners, the centres accelerate application and commercialisation of the technologies they develop.

SME success Over 40 per cent of all UK medical technology companies were formed in the past decade, including many university spin-outs where the original research was funded by EPSRC. Success stories of companies set up to commercialise EPSRC-funded research include PowderJect Pharmaceuticals, from the University of Oxford, which was sold for $800 million in 2004; Apatech, from Queen Mary, University of London, a world leader in synthetic bone material, which was sold for $330 million in 2010; and cell-based therapy specialist Tissue Regenix, from the University of Leeds, whose market capitalisation now stands at £90 million.

Partnerships for growth EPSRC has supported collaborations between universities and over 650 nonuniversity partners. Major strategic collaborations have been forged with the medical profession, the NHS, other Research Councils, the medical technology and pharmaceutical sectors, charities, and co-funders such as the Technology Strategy Board (TSB).

Major strategic collaborations include: • £  41 million with The Wellcome Trust in four EPSRC Medical Engineering Centres of Excellence. The centres focus on finding new solutions for arthritis; medical imaging (see box); personalised healthcare; and new medical devices and regenerative therapies. • £  45 million joint funding, with Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health, for cancer imaging centres and research programmes. Understanding disease biology in different tumour types will lead to faster more effective treatment and accelerate development of personalised medicine for individual patients. • £25 million with the Medical Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Technology Strategy Board in a national Regenerative Medicine Platform centred on translating research into practical applications as well as commercial products. • £24 million in biopharmaceuticals design and manufacturing research, jointly with BBSRC and 20 partner companies.  trategic Partnerships with • S AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Novartis. These have already led to over £14 million of joint investments in drug discovery-related collaborative research and PhD training.  16.2 million through the RCUK/TSB • £ Nanoscience programme on nanoenabled transformative diagnostics and therapies.

Investing in skills EPSRC is the largest UK funder of postgraduate training in engineering and the physical sciences. Training initiatives for the life sciences sector include bespoke Centres for Doctoral Training providing industry-relevant PhD training in areas such as medical devices, imaging, biopharmaceuticals and regenerative medicine. Among many success stories, the Leedsbased EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Regenerative Medicine Manufacturing Technologies has achieved world-firsts in manufacturing science; defined standards and influenced government policy.

“Major advances in medical diagnosis and treatment, such as CT scanning, magnetic resonance scanning and fibre-optic surgical techniques, have come from interdisciplinary collaborations between engineering, physical and medical sciences.” — Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust

EPSRC Healthcare Technologies portfolio: TECHNOLOGIES FOR A HEALTHY LIFE COURSE: For example, to help the elderly retain their mobility and independence; and to enable people to self-manage their health, reducing the need for healthcare professionals to be involved.

NOVEL THERAPEUTIC AND TREATMENT TECHNOLOGIES: Advancing research in areas such as regenerative medicine, drug delivery, artificial implants, and mathematical modelling.


Four main themes

For example, sensor technologies to detect and measure a patient’s physical condition,both in the hospital and at home.


TECHNOLOGIES: From lab research to commercial reality.

MEDICAL IMAGING Medical imaging, image processing technologies and neural modelling play a pivotal role in healthcare provision, and EPSRC supports world-leading research in these areas, which include MRI, ultrasound and X-ray. EPSRC, Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health have co-invested £41 million in four centres of excellence and five programmes in cancer imaging and diagnosis. The centres bring together engineers, physicists, chemists, computer scientists and clinicians to develop new imaging technologies for clinical application. Among the centres’ breakthrough technologies are advances in imaging techniques for tracing and activating biomarkers to enable non-invasive assessment of disease progression. A team led by Professor Reza Razavi at the King’s College London Medical Engineering Centre have created improved imaging tools for detecting heart disease; they have also developed robotic guides to aid keyhole surgery procedures. Professor Razavi says: “Medical imaging provides access to new tools for earlier and more precise diagnoses of cancer and heart disease, better targeted therapies, less invasive surgery, and improved techniques for rebuilding tissue after surgery. The advances being made will enable healthcare professionals to tailor treatments much more closely to the needs of individuals.”

“Recent advances in technology are enabling smarter, connected personal healthcare ‘systems’ that can significantly improve diagnosis, treatment and condition management. New developments are helping to reduce long-term healthcare costs.” — Dave Watson, Director of Emerging Technology, IBM


SMART LIMBS In the UK, approximately one in every thousand of the population is an amputee. Globally this number is substantially higher. EPSRC-supported researchers at the University of Bournemouth are using Artificial Intelligence (AI), which has its roots in mathematics and computer science, to create new ways to help wearers of prosthetics regain mobility. The team are working with the UK’s leading prosthetics and orthiotics device manufacturer, Chas. A Blatchford & Sons Ltd, to develop a ‘smart’ socket for amputees that uses AI to enable better walking, sitting and manoeuvring. The socket compensates for changes due to ambulation, and in limb volume due to fluid build-up and muscle wastage; and provides a high level of fit. Blatchford works with the Ministry of Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court, Surrey, where many soldiers return to following injury in Afghanistan. The new socket could help 75 per cent of amputee soldiers make a successful return to active duty.


WORLD FIRST FOR SYNTHETIC ORGAN SCIENTISTS Surgeons in Sweden have carried out the world’s first synthetic organ transplant using a windpipe ‘grown’ from the patient’s stem cells. The replica organ was designed and developed by EPSRCsponsored scientists. The surgeons successfully implanted a synthetic windpipe ‘scaffold’ into the throat of a cancer patient. Without the new windpipe, the patient, whose own windpipe had been blocked by an inoperable tumour the size of a golf ball, would have died. The artificial organ was designed and developed by a multi-disciplinary team led by Professor Alex Seifalian at University College London. EPSRC sponsorship of the project began in 2006. The team used 3D computerised tomography scans of the patient to craft a perfect copy of his trachea using a glass mould, from which they developed a replica ‘scaffold’ using a biocompatible polymer.


CHIP AND PITCH In 2003, EPSRC-funded research led by Professor David Barrow, of Cardiff University’s School of Engineering, inspired him to co-found a pioneering biopharmaceutical company, Q Chip Ltd, to commercialise the technology he invented. Q Chip’s microsphere technology not only makes it possible to control a drug’s rate of release throughout the patient’s body, it ensures it is only active in the target area – for example, in cancerous tissues. The start-up project received backing from one of the UK’s most high profile venture-capitalists, Jon Moulton. Moulton continues to invest in Q Chip, which has grown into an international business focusing on microcapsulebased applications in drug delivery, diagnostics and cell therapy. The Cardiff-based company now has its first overseas base, in the Netherlands, and maintains strong links with Cardiff University, including partnerships with neuroscientists, bioscientists, pharmacists and chemists.


PERSONAL HEALTHCARE SOLUTIONS Professor Lionel Tarassenko, a pioneer in medical monitoring technology, was instrumental in founding the Oxford Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME), a centre focusing on medical technologies such as biomedical image analysis; e-health; bio-signal processing; therapeutic ultrasound and tissue engineering. The technology developed by Professor Tarassenko and his team, who have received long-term support from EPSRC, is empowering patients to manage their conditions themselves, for example at home, and for helping people to manage their own general health and wellbeing. Among their research projects, the team are developing mobile phone software to teach patients how to manage conditions such as diabetes and asthma. They are also using ultrasound to both diagnose and monitor disease and to control release of drugs at the right place and time. Professor Tarassenko has founded three companies, including Oxford BioSignals, which pioneered an award-winning electronic monitoring system used to manage critically ill patients. The system is based on research originally funded by EPSRC and has been installed in over a dozen hospitals in the US and the UK. Professor Tarassenko received the CBE in 2011.

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EPSRC is the main UK government agency for funding high-quality basic, strategic and applied research and related postgraduate training in engineering and the physical sciences, to help the nation exploit the next generation of technological change. It invests more than £800 million a year in a broad range of subjects – from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering.







Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

engineering and Physical Sciences research council

Pioneering Healthcare Technologies for the UK life sciences sector  

As the UK’s largest sponsor of research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, EPSRC is committed to advancing technologies,...

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