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Virtual laboratory to give £40m boost to brain imaging research

Research into conditions like strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and cancer will be significantly advanced by a unique collaboration between six Scottish universities, launched today.

SINAPSE (The Scottish Imaging Network: A Platform for Scientific Excellence) will bring together experts from the universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and St Andrews to form the world’s first virtual clinical imaging laboratory.

The £40m initiative will focus primarily on imaging of the brain, using state-of-the-art technology that includes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET).

Pooling these resources across Scotland, the partnership will combine the collection of different types of brain information such as structure, function and brain waves, and develop new radioactive tracers for different diseases. These data will further research into strokes, dementia, diabetes, cancer, and mental health.

The SINAPSE collaboration will:

·        Facilitate the recruitment of international leading researchers to Scotland, and retain the best young graduates from Scottish universities

·        Enhance research by enabling wider patient participation in clinical trials, and strategic leadership in the dissemination of best research practice

·        Fund five new chairs, 17 mid-level posts, 24 PhDs, and assorted equipment to enhance research and graduate training

SINAPSE has secured £6.3m from the Scottish Funding Council (including £700k support from the Chief Scientist Office), and £35m investment from the partner universities. It will initially run for the next five years.

Dr Arlene Astell, of the Dementia Research Group at the University of St Andrews’ School of Psychology said, “This is an exciting development bringing together expertise in studying the relationships between brain and behaviour with the latest imaging technology
and techniques.”

Joanna Wardlaw, Professor of Applied Neuroimaging and Honorary Consultant Neuroradiologist at the University of Edinburgh said: “SINAPSE is the first such alliance in Scottish medicine, and we are proud that universities across Scotland have come together to further our understanding of conditions like stroke and dementia. Several key advances in medical imaging originated in Scotland, so we are continuing what is a strong research tradition.”

“This new collaboration will be internationally unique and will ensure an enhanced and competitive presence for Scotland in international research. Working together, we can make new discoveries for the benefit of all patients, which would be hard to make by working alone.”

Scottish Funding Council Chief Executive, Roger McClure said: “The Council is delighted to be able to support this latest example of Scotland’s universities becoming world leaders in research by working together.  The potential benefits to individuals and their families of understanding better these distressing conditions are enormous.”

ENDS

For more information contact:
Anna Smyth, Press and PR Officer, University of Edinburgh
T: 0131 651 4400
M: 07791 355 886
E: anna.smyth@ed.ac.uk

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