Welsh plan for a gene park

January 25, 2002

A proposal from Cardiff University and the University of Wales College of Medicine for a multi-million pound "virtual genetics" knowledge park for Wales was unveiled this week.

The Wales Gene Park project, which will encompass research activities via high-speed internet links at the universities of Swansea, Bangor and Aberystwyth, has won approval from the National Health Service, the Welsh Development Agency and the biotech industry.

The proposal was drawn up in collaboration with biotech firm Techniquest in response to an invitation to tender against competition from other centres for a joint initiative supported by the government departments of health and of trade and industry.

The park will build on existing partnerships between internationally recognised biosciences researchers, social scientists and clinicians. Scientists at the Institute of Medical Genetics at UWCM and Cardiff University's School of Biosciences are renowned for research into genetics disorders such as Huntington's disease and inherited predisposition to cancer.

Julian Simpson, professor of medical genetics at UWCM, said the park would be dedicated to health-related research into genetics and to improving public understanding of the area.

"A priority is to help new and established companies to exploit new technology to develop better diagnostic tests and new treatments, opening fresh opportunities for commercial spin-off and high-tech job creation within the region," he said.

Martin Evans, director of the school of biosciences at Cardiff University, said: "The significance for Wales goes way beyond the scientific impact of the gene park - there is also an enormous educational and economic benefit.

"Our role is to communicate the present and deliver the future."

While bioscience researchers will work on basic medical genetic research and on exploiting new genetic technologies, social scientists will address social and ethical concerns relating to medical genetics.

• The School of Health Science at the University of Wales, Swansea, has established the first Clinical and Technical Skills Resource Centre for Wales. The centre will be designed to replicate practice settings, such as work in a hospital, community or domestic environment. The aim is to prepare student nurses for the technical challenges they will face in the workplace.

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