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6 November, 2017 - 12:54 By Tony Quested

Cambridge-Malaysia research alliance scales war on killer diseases

Capella Building Cambridge Bionedical Campus

Medical researchers in Cambridge UK and Malaysia have joined forces to investigate potential new cures for some of the deadliest and most debilitating diseases on the planet.

The Capella Building at the burgeoning Cambridge Biomedical Campus will be the UK focal point for the initiative. A kindred facility in Malaysia will be dedicated to the cross-border effort.

Partners in the venture are the University of Cambridge, Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Sunway Medical Centre in Malaysia.

The collaboration sees researchers and clinicians from the two countries working together across borders and disciplinary divides to tackle some of the world’s major health challenges.

The programme will enable the sharing of academic excellence through regular academic visits and exchanges, and offer scientific and clinical training opportunities at Cambridge for outstanding postgraduates from Sunway.

As part of the programme, Sunway Medical Centre will establish a clinical research centre that will become a regional site partner for the University of Cambridge, working with Cambridge on clinical research.

The clinical research centre at Bandar Sunway in Malaysia will enable the recruitment of patients to international trials led from Cambridge, and help develop an integrated approach to healthcare and clinical research in Malaysia.

At the heart of the collaboration will be the new Capella Building located on the rapidly expanding Cambridge Biomedical Campus, the centrepiece of the largest biotech cluster outside the United States.

Researchers in the building will work on some of the world’s most pressing health challenges including TB and HIV, rheumatoid arthritis and type-1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. This state of the art research space will drive biomedical research across stem cells, infectious disease and immunology that will help shape the future of medicine. 

The Capella Building will house three major research institutes: The Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases, the Wellcome Trust-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute and the Milner Therapeutics Institute.

The flagship new building, itself a collaboration between the Schools of Clinical Medicine and the Biological Sciences, will co-locate ground-breaking research already taking place in Cambridge across therapeutics, diagnostic and regenerative medicine, and enable interdisciplinary collaboration that will lead to breakthroughs in how diseases are diagnosed and treated.

This will include transforming our understanding of how infectious diseases including TB, HIV/Aids, human cytomegalovirus, and Zika interact with humans – and therefore how they can be better treated.

Alongside this, scientists in Capella will drive the development of new treatments in immune-related diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and type-1 diabetes.

Stem cell scientists will deliver new therapeutic approaches for leukaemia, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and degenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

The partnership will also provide excellent opportunities for training, education and research in the field of cardiothoracic medicine and surgery, with leading clinicians from Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire set to collaborate with nurses and consultants based at the Sunway Medical Centre in Malaysia.

Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah was in Cambridge to mark the signing of the agreement between the University and the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation
A long-standing supporter of Collegiate Cambridge, member of the University’s Guild of Benefactors, and Fellow Benefactor of Gonville & Caius College, Dr Cheah said: “This marks a very special moment in time for all of us at Sunway as we begin collaborations with the University of Cambridge and Papworth Hospital.

“It is a further testament to the increasingly close bonds between Sunway and Cambridge. Sunway and the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation are committed to promoting excellence in sectors such as education and healthcare.

“We are determined to raise standards and provide the best possible to not just Malaysians, but the 625-million strong population of the ASEAN region.”

Professor Patrick Maxwell, Regius Professor of Physic and Head of the School of Clinical Medicine, added: “As the world of medicine changes more rapidly than perhaps ever before, it is clear that collaboration will be the key to success.

“For this reason, I am delighted that we are entering into a new collaboration with Sunway, an institution which shares our unswerving commitment to excellence in medicine and medical education.

“The new Capella will be at the centre point of this collaboration. The research in this exceptional new building – through the Stem Cell Institute, the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and the Milner Therapeutics Institute – will have a real and profound effect on the health and lives of millions of people in the UK, Malaysia and around the world.”

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Stephen Toope said: “The agreements we have signed with the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation and Sunway Medical Centre mark the beginning of a new stage in an exceptional partnership.

“Our collaboration reflects the fact that addressing the most pressing issues facing humanity today requires working across both borders and disciplinary boundaries.

“No single country, discipline, or institution can have exclusive purchase on how we attack today’s fundamental problems.

“Working together, Cambridge University, the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation and Sunway Medical Centre are poised to make a signal contribution to some of the world’s major medical challenge.”

• Pictured above: A cgi of the Capella Building, courtesy Cambridge Biomedical Campus

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