Oxford big data centre to get £30 million

A “big data” health research centre at the University of Oxford has been announced as the latest to benefit from the government’s UK Research Partnership Investment Fund.

May 3, 2013

The Big Data Institute at the Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery, launched by Prime Minister David Cameron on 3 May, will be built using £10 million from the scheme, which is managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Government funding will be matched by a £20 million donation from Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist Li Ka-shing.

The already complete first phase of the centre - the £35 million Target Discovery Institute - won another £10 million from the £300 million government scheme last year. It will house research generating data about disease using genomic and chemical screens, important for the early stages of drug discovery.

Meanwhile the Big Data Institute will focus on the analysis of large anonymised medical data sets - such as is collected through NHS electronic patient records, DNA sequencing, clinical trials and national registries - in an effort to improve detection, treatment and prevention of a range of conditions.

Both institutes that make up the centre will be based on the university’s Old Road Campus and together will house up to 600 scientists.

Big data is one of the “eight great technologies” outlined by universities and science minister David Willetts as government priorities in January.

Mr Cameron said: “The Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery will pioneer new advances in the analysis of medical data which can help scientists to better understand human disease and its treatment.

“This will help to further develop a strong and competitive science and research base in this country which is vital for the UK to compete and thrive in the global race.”

Oxford vice-chancellor Andrew Hamilton added that big data would “transform the way we treat patients and understand disease in the coming decades”.

“We are collecting much of this data already. We owe it to ourselves to make full use of it and deliver more effective treatments for all of us as patients. The Li Ka Shing Centre, and this enormously generous gift which underpins it, along with continued public investment, will be instrumental in driving this research forward,” he added.

Mr Willetts said the centre “yet again shows that charities and businesses want to collaborate with our excellent universities to tackle global challenges like public health”.

This is the fifteenth project funded under the UK RPIF scheme, for which universities must secure private funding worth a minimum of double the public contribution.

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com

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