World-leading motor neurone disease centre officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen

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 today (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.
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."

Professor Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: "It has been a great honour to welcome Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh to the University of Sheffield to view our ground-breaking new centre. I am extremely proud that the University has opened the first dedicated MND research facility in Europe, which will put both our institution and the city at the forefront of research into neurodegenerative diseases. The team has already made significant progress in understanding the causes of these diseases and I am eagerly anticipating the future breakthroughs that are set to materialise from their research."

Irene Beard, a patron of the Sheffield Institute Foundation for Motor Neurone Disease, said: "The new institute embodies the hopes of all MND sufferers. They now have a world class scientific Institute devoted to finding the cause of this terrible disease, a treatment and hopefully a cure. The Patrons of the Sheffield Institute Foundation are very proud to have participated in raising funds which have allowed this to happen."

The site for the Institute is situated in Sheffield on Dorset Street off Glossop Road, near the Royal Hallamshire Hospital. The research facility, designed by architects Bond Bryan and constructed by ISG, covers 2,800 m² over two floors and includes research labs, offices and a library. Construction began on the new centre on 21 July 2009 and was completed in October 2010 ready for staff to move in ahead of the launch.

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 SheffieldVolunteering 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.

Notes for Editors: For more information on SITraN, please visit: www.sheffield.ac.uk/sitran

The Department of Neuroscience comprises multidisciplinary groups from the units of Neurology, Neuropathology and Psychiatry working in both basic and clinical neuroscience. Clinical and non-clinical researchers combine to investigate the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disease and major psychoses, with the goal of translating novel insights into new therapeutic approaches.

The Sheffield Institute Foundation for Motor Neurone Disease was formed by a concerned group of Patrons who want to support the development of the Institute.

For more information on the Sheffield Institute Foundation, including how to make a donation, please visit the below link.

With nearly 24,000 students from 131 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK's leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

The University has won four Queen's Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007). These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom's intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world.

The University's research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.

For further information please contact: Lauren Anderson, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 2221046 or email l.h.anderson@sheffield.ac.uk