Why We're a Science Magnet; Last Month the Government Announced a Multi-Million Pound Funding Boost for Medical Research in the North East. Here Health Reporter HELEN RAE Takes a Look at How the North East Is Excelling in Its Scientific Studies

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Byline: HELEN RAE

THE North East has a reputation for leading the way in medical research, attracting scientists from all over the country to undertake pioneering studies here.

Newcastle University's Faculty of Medical Sciences, in particular, is home to globally-recognised research, focusing on some of the world's biggest health challenges, including ageing, chronic degenerative disease, neurological and brain diseases and cancer, as well as genetics and cell biology.

Only last month, the Government announced it had awarded pounds 21m to the region to help create new treatments and care for patients with age-related diseases through a joint partnership between Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University. A pioneering drug, hailed as the first to prolong the lives of patients with deadly skin cancer, is also a step closer to being made widely available thanks to the help of recent clinical trials held in the North East. Newcastle University has a unique integrated partnership with regional hospitals and is viewed as being one of the top medical schools in the country - with research that has direct benefits for the region. Prof Chris Day, pro vice-chancellor for the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University, said: "It is well known that leading the way in research and clinical trials means that patients here in the region benefit greatly as they are actively involved in the research and its positive results. "The quality of doctors is also enhanced as we are able to recruit top scientists and clinicians from the likes of Oxford, Cambridge, London and overseas who come to the region to do the research and work in our hospitals. "I feel that by the increase in funding we have recently been given for research in the area, we will see more stars from around the country being attracted to the North East, helping make us a powerhouse of medical research which in turn also helps boost the local economy. "As a medical school we are punching well above our weight and have a great reputation, which continues to go from strength to strength." For decades the region has been at the forefront of medical science and has made many pioneering breakthroughs. One of its success stories includes the restoring of a man's eyesight thanks to the use of stem cells. Russell Turnbull, of Consett, County Durham, was left blind in one eye following a vicious attack in which a man sprayed ammonia in his face. But after 12 years of constant pain and with poor vision, as well as undergoing various treatments with creams and washes, he became part of a trial of a new treatment for the condition, called Limbal Stem Cell Def iciency. …