It is always pleasing to see our investments in the research base bearing fruit whether it be in excellent publications or social and economic impact. So the announcement by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute of the creation of a new Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation (CTTV) at Hinxton was very welcome. The new CTTV will aim to address a wide range of human diseases and will share its data openly in the interests of accelerating drug discovery. This new centre will employ up to 50 people from the partner organisations but longer term will involve other organisations and companies who are interested in this area. It was particularly good to receive confirmation from Patrick Vallance, President of R&D at GSK, that their decision to base the CTTV in the UK was influenced by their recognition of the UK’s world class capabilities and skills in the areas of genomic, data mining and translational research. Much of this capability has been built using BBSRC funding for basic research in bioinformatics and genomics, along with other funders such as the Wellcome Trust and MRC. The CTTV will itself be based in the EBI South Building, home of the ELIXIR Hub and built with Research Council funding led by BBSRC.

Another excellent example of such basic research funding was published in two papers in Nature, together with 16 other journals, last week. The FANTOM 5 project was led by RIKEN in Japan but involved researchers from The Roslin Institute, one of the institutes that receives strategic BBSRC funding, and is the first comprehensive atlas of human gene expression.

The first funding awards from the Agri-Tech catalyst were announced last week. £4M awarded was made up of £2.8M from government and £1.2M from industry. The awards spanned crops, livestock and aquaculture and a range of different organisations including institutes, universities and companies, large and small. We are investing a total of £30M in the Catalyst.  There are two more calls planned for 2014 for the Catalyst and there will also be a call for an Agri-Tech centre in Agri-informatics and modelling very shortly. The Technology Strategy Board is planning to hold a workshop around the call for the centre to enable potential consortia members to engage with each other and to explain a little more about the call.

I spent an enjoyable time with senior leaders from The Pirbright Institute at their off-site strategy meeting at the end of last week. I heard about the strategic plans for the institute and the timetable for the commissioning and occupation of the new DP1 building. The building itself is really state of the art for a high containment facility and has already won two awards. I was certainly made to ‘sing for my supper’ with a talk and panel discussion in the afternoon and an after dinner speech on leadership! It was good to meet more people from Pirbirght and get to know more about their scientific plans and to encourage them in their vision for the future.

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