Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling is helping to fund the UK's first research centre for multiple sclerosis, which is pioneering new "bench to bedside" collaboration between basic scientists and clinical researchers.
Peter Brophy, director of Edinburgh University's Centre for Neuroscience Research, and Peter Sandercock, Edinburgh's professor of medical neurology, made a successful joint bid for £2 million from the MS Society Scotland, of which Ms Rowling is patron.
Ms Rowling's mother had MS, and the multimillionaire author has gifted "a substantial sum" to the project. The university itself is putting Pounds 500,000 into the centre, which is expected to open early in 2007 with about ten staff. Professor Brophy said that Scotland as a nation had the highest incidence of MS in the world.
"There is a crying need for progress in researching what is proving to be an intractable disease," he said.
There was a dearth of strong clinical research into MS worldwide, compared with work on other neurodegenerative diseases, Professor Brophy said.
He believed that Edinburgh's bid had been successful because it brought together scientists and clinicians. "There's an opportunity here to develop new thinking."
The centre will be housed in Edinburgh's new medical school, which has a strong focus on "translational" medicine - transferring fundamental discoveries into therapeutic treatment. Researchers will work alongside scientists investigating inflammatory, cardiovascular and reproductive disorders.
"This is a great kick-start from the MS Society Scotland," Professor Brophy said. "But we've made it clear that we're not going to be dependent on them. "We're in the process of appointing a lead clinical scientist at professorial level, who we expect will attract significant funding."