18 November 2010

Her Majesty The Queen visits University to open world-leading motor neurone disease centre

Her Majesty the Queen arrives at Firth Court

Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, officially unveiled a new state-of-the-art £12 million research institute at the University of Sheffield on Thursday 18 November 2010, which is set to make Sheffield a world leader for research into motor neurone disease (MND).

The Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), which is run by staff at the University, brings together scientists and medical specialists from around the globe who will be dedicated to finding the causes and cure for MND, as well as other neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer´s and Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a childhood form of motor neurone disease.

Over 6,000 people in the UK suffer from MND. It is an incurable disease which destroys the cells that control movement causing progressive disability. Sufferers may lose their ability to walk, talk, eat and breathe. At present, treatment options for the protection of motor neurones have only a modest effect and more effective therapies are urgently needed.

The key aim of the centre will be to identify what leads to the degeneration of neurones at the root of MND. The research team will focus on experimental work in the laboratory, which will then be translated into effective therapies for patients in the clinic. Their work will draw on the extensive resources available in the new centre, including a clinical database of over 900 patients and the largest resource of human brain-bank material in the world.

Her Majesty the Queen

The Institute has been generously funded by the University and the Sheffield Institute Foundation for Motor Neurone Disease, which was formed by a concerned group of Patrons who wanted to support its development. This includes the Duke of Devonshire CBE, who is the Honorary Patron of the Foundation. The donation from the patrons is the largest philanthropic gift to the University from private benefaction since the Edwardian period.

Her Majesty´s last visit to the campus was to personally inaugurate the University´s Jubilee celebrations back in 1954. 49 years prior to this, Her Majesty´s Grandfather King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, officially opened the University of Sheffield in July 1905. The great event was of huge significance to the people of the city, who turned out in their thousands to view the King and Queen personally open their new university. The event was marked with street decorations, triumphal arches and a procession of open carriages.

During this visit to the Centre, Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh toured the new facility including the laboratories, offices and library and unveiled a plaque commemorating the opening. Her Majesty also met with researchers from the team including Professor Pamela Shaw, an international expert in MND and Head of Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield, who will head up the new Institute.

Professor Shaw said: "We are truly privileged that Her Majesty The Queen officially opened SITraN today. The ground-breaking institute will enable us to create a centre of excellence, dedicated to generating much more effective therapies for patients with MND. The support and enthusiasm of the Duke of Devonshire and the Patrons of the Sheffield Institute Foundation have been inspirational, and without them the Centre may not have been possible.

"It has been my goal to increase our understanding of the causes of MND and this new centre will enable us to translate discoveries in our labs into practical clinical therapies. People suffering from the disease will receive treatment as part of clinical trials but the vision of the Institute is first and foremost to create the opportunity for focused study of MND by a world-class team with the skills needed to solve a complex human disease."

During their visit to Sheffield, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh also visited a showcase of projects led by the University of Sheffield´s Sheffield Volunteering at Sheffield Cathedral and led the groundbreaking ceremony at the University´s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) with Rolls-Royce at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham.