Pioneering research into neurodegenerative disease

Her Majesty The Queen visits SITraN

The first centre of its kind in the world, the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) brings together scientists and medical specialists who are dedicated to researching the causes of and cures for neurodegenerative disease – motor neurone disease (MND), Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and spinal muscular atrophy.

SITraN has the potential to have a major impact on the visibility of neurodegenerative diseases, bringing new treatments and new hope to patients and carers in the UK – together with the wider international community. The £18-million complex, which was made possible by the generous support of the Sheffield Institute Foundation for Motor Neurone Disease (SIFMND), was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen in November 2010.

Centres of excellence for neurodegeneration research across the globe have made considerable progress in this field, but none are effectively poised to develop these advances to the full. The establishment of SITraN offers the opportunity for a coordinated approach to the development and clinical trialling of new therapies based on rational targets of proven preclinical effectiveness.

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.

Irene Beard, a patron of SIFMND

Members of the research team, led by Professor Pamela Shaw, have multidisciplinary skills in neurology, pathology, gene therapy, molecular genetics, protein chemistry, cell biology, pharmacology, bioinformatics and computer science. They are exploiting the potential of modern neuroscience, the 'post-genome' era and exciting developments in biomedical therapeutics.

This work complements the University's existing partnerships with academic research groups, government and charitable research funding bodies, the pharmaceutical industry and the healthcare sector.

SITraN provides industry and the medical sector with knowledge that will help in targeting medicines more effectively, accelerating the rate at which new discoveries reach the health sector – and ultimately patients.

SITraN's reputation for excellence is recognised through its continued success in applying for research funding and it secured more than £7.3 million in grants in 2011-12, bolstered by generous donations from members of the public and the continuing work of SIFMND.

Irene Beard, a patron of SIFMND, 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." Neil Lawrence, Professor of Computational Biology, commented, "Our work will help us understand why some medicines work better on some patients than they do on others. And it will enable us to identify new – and potentially more effective – targets for drug treatments."