Rosalind Franklin Institute will transform drug discovery with disruptive technologies

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, that was launched today at Harwell Campus and sits at the heart of the Harwell HealthTec Cluster.

New drug discovery can take up to ten years and is a painstaking process of trial and error, costing billions of pounds to develop. The Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI) is investing £6M to create:

  • The World’s most advanced real-time video camera, the key to a new technique that uses light and sound to eradicate some of the most lethal forms of cancer.
  • A new project pioneering fully-automated hands-free molecular discovery to produce new drugs up to ten times faster and transform the UK’s pharmaceutical industry.
  • A ground-breaking new UK facility that will revolutionise the way samples are produced and harness Artificial Intelligence (AI) to generate new drugs for clinical testing within a few weeks.

The RFI will harness disruptive new technologies such as AI and robotics to dramatically improve our understanding of biology, leading to new diagnostics, new drugs, and new treatments for millions of people worldwide. It will pioneer new ways of working with the Life Sciences industry, as part of the UK’s AI and Data Grand Challenge, bridging the gap between university research and pharmaceutical companies or small businesses. This will build on the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy and put the UK at the forefront of the industries of 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.”

“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.”

The RFI operates on a ‘hub and spokes’ model, with a central hub at the Harwell Campus as part of the Harwell HealthTec Cluster, over 40 private, public and academic organisations working to solve the greatest Life Sciences challenges of our time. The hub, opening in 2020, will house a unique portfolio of scientific tools and researchers from both industry and academia. Equipment and researchers will also be located in spokes distributed throughout the partner network of universities.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Executive Chair, said: “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 hub at Harwell will be a four storey, £40m build, with the façade of the building reflecting the iconic work of Rosalind Franklin, the hub will house the majority of the technologies produced for the Institute, and will have world leading capabilities in imaging and drug discovery, creating a globally unique centre of excellence in Life Sciences. It will be home to 150 researchers from industry and academia, working closely with neighbouring facilities at Harwell including the Diamond Light Source and STFC’s Central Laser Facility.