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Director announced for £3.9m translational research partnership

Professor Lars Sundstrom

Professor Lars Sundstrom

24 March 2009

The Severnside Alliance for Translational Research (SARTRE), a unique partnership between the University of Bristol and Cardiff University, has appointed Lars Sundstrom as its director with the title Professor of the Practice of Translational Medicine.

SARTRE aims to accelerate the translation of medical research into new treatments and therapies to benefit patients. It was established with strategic funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) with additional support from Bristol and Cardiff universities and the Wales Office of Research and Development (WORD), Welsh Assembly Government.

The Professor of Practice is a new type of appointment in the UK and brings leadership and expertise in translational research from an industrial perspective into an academic environment. An important part of the role is to sensitise both academics and industrial partners to differences in operation, culture and values, and to align these wherever possible. Such a post brings practical experience and a realistic sense of entrepreneurial culture into the university environment. The appointment is joint between the two universities.

Professor Tim Peters, Research Director for the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and Bristol lead, said: “We are delighted to welcome Professor Sundstrom into this key role. As director, he will build on and implement the SARTRE translational research strategy across the Alliance. He brings many years of experience in the biotechnology sector as well as in academia, and by prioritising opportunities and working with scientists, clinicians and stakeholders we are confident he will catalyse rapid development of ideas into novel products.”

Professor Sundstrom commented: “I am delighted to be joining SARTRE and to be leading this initiative to continue to promote Cardiff and Bristol as one of the world’s leading regions for translational research. Both universities already have a very strong reputation in basic and clinical research and are ideally positioned to take advantage of new initiatives from the public sector, as well as the increased interest in partnering from the private sector. This bold initiative comes at a time of change where the gearing between public and private resources will become increasingly important and SARTRE intends to become a role model in developing this new era of cooperation for the benefit of universities, industry and the public.”

SARTRE is also one of the five organisations selected by the MRC for a pilot scheme to support translational research projects.

The pilot devolved portfolio approach, part of the implementation of the MRC’s Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme, will provide block awards for universities to allow them to allocate money to projects more strategically, based on their progress towards milestone-driven goals. Such an approach should enhance the effectiveness of local decision-making in the fast-paced world of translational research, converting discoveries into medical tools and treatments.

Dr Chris Watkins, the Medical Research Council’s Translation Theme Leader, said: “Our aim is to be as agile and responsive as possible in allocating funding for translational research.  Our goal is to help universities translate their researchers’ discoveries into benefits for patients by ensuring the development of ideas from fundamental research towards proof of concept.”

SARTRE will receive up to £2 million over the next two years to fund key aspects of translational research across the Alliance. This funding is on top of the £1.9 million awarded in 2008 to help establish SARTRE.

Professor Paul Morgan, Dean of Research in the School of Medicine and Cardiff lead for SARTRE, said: “This is a recognition of our innovative approach to translational research.  Across the two universities we have created a flexible and efficient structure for prioritising and managing research projects and the staff employed on these projects.  We look forward to working with the MRC and our partners in Bristol to evolve better ways of translating excellent science into new diagnostics and therapies.”

Along with Bristol and Cardiff, King’s College London and the universities of Dundee, Edinburgh and Nottingham, have also been selected for the scheme. If the Devolved Portfolio pilots are successful, they will be rolled out more widely in 2010.

For further information, please contact Sadia Rooney, tel (0117) 928 8676 or email

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