Logo for the University of Nottingham's Biodiscovery Institute

February 14, 2020, by Rob Ounsworth

Nottingham’s Biodiscovery Institute makes my heart go boom

Guest blog by Professor Chris Denning of the University of Nottingham’s Biodiscovery Institute. 

 It’s Valentine’s Day, so forgive me for sharing a passion that make my heart beat faster 

As a stem cell researcher, I’m excited that here at Nottingham we are working towards the prospect of mending broken hearts: when someone suffers a heart attack they lose billions of heart cells, and the resulting scarring damages its function. 

We now have the capability to turn skin cells to stem cells, and then these into beating heart cells. Now imagine injecting these beating cells to reinvigorate a tired or damaged heart. Wow. 

There are challenges – 99% of transplanted cells do not currently survive – but this is just one example of thrilling biodiscoveries being delivered at Nottingham.  

Biotechnology and biodiscovery lies at the heart (still on my 14 February theme!) of a thrilling range of world-class research at our University. 

Professor Chris Denning

It takes in much more than my own field of regenerative medicine, encompassing how new bio materials and technologies will not only help people live longer and healthier lives but also provide the sustainable building blocks for low-carbon societies. 

 This brings me to the something that’s bringing around a thousand hearts (and minds) together. 

 We’re getting ready to welcome you to the University’s new Biodiscovery Institute. 

 The Institute is an expansion of the former Centre for Biomolecular Sciences (CBS). We’ve created a suite of buildings to house nearly 1,000 staff and PhD students dedicated to biodiscovery. But this is more than a £100 million investment in bricks and mortar.  

It’s a statement of our commitment to interdisciplinary discovery. The Biodiscovery Institute will bring colleagues together from an exciting range of disciplines with a shared purpose: to help people lead healthy lives by delivering new ways to diagnose, treat and cure disease , while also delivering the bio materials and technologies essential to safeguarding the health of our planet. 

This will be an Institute without walls and what really excites me is the opportunity to create research culture where ideas thrive and where exceptional people embrace new models of integration and exciting ways to collaborate. 

Exterior view of the Biodiscovery Institute at dusk

Incredible facilities: the £100 million Biodiscovery Institute

We already have incredible facilities, such as perhaps the largest cell culture capability in Europe, and these will be showcased on 12 May, when Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West will welcome 400 guests including funders, industry leaders and potential investors, as well as policymakers, thought leaders, the media and peers who share our pioneering spirit. 

At the heart of all this is our people. Around half of our guests on the day will be University colleagues, and in the run-up to the launch on 12 May , and beyond, we will be inviting you to join guided tours of the Institute, meet our researchersfind out about the diversity of our amazing work – and discover how more of us can work together! 

In the coming weeks, as curtain-raiser for our official opening, my colleagues at the Biodiscovery Institute will be sharing insights into their research, including: 

taming microbes– to meet global challenges such as antimicrobial resistance and food security 

defeating cancer – bringing together expertise from the lab to the bedside 

pioneering end-to-end therapeutics – from discovery to delivery of life-changing advances in the prevention and treatment of disease 

industrialising biotechnology – how ‘nasty’ bacteria linked to greenhouse gases can be engineered to create green energy, food and products 

demystifying biomolecular complexity – understanding how molecules behave informs everything from curing blood disorders to applying the amazing properties of spider silk to areas such as wound healing. 

I look forward to sharing these and other stories from the Biodiscovery Institute, and welcoming new friends and partners. 

Chris Denning is Professor of Stem Cell Biology and Director of the Biodiscovery Institute 

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