A Towering Beacon for Medical Research

Article excerpt

Some of the great medical advances have begun life in Birmingham, and with a thriving biomedical sector that continues to be the case.

Many of those discoveries happened at the University of Birmingham, from revealing the structure of DNA to developing new treatments for heart disease and cancer.

Sir Norman Howarth was Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University. He received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1937 for his investigations into carbohydrates and vitamin C. Another Nobel Prize winner was Sir Peter Medawar, Mason Professor of Zoology at the university, who received the Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering acquired immunological tolerance in 1960 - work that advanced transplant surgery. Maurice Wilkins received the same prize in 1962 for discovering the structure of DNA and its importance in transferring information in living material.

More recently Sir John Vane won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1982 for his work with aspirin and similar biochemical compounds which resulted in the development of new treatments for heart disease, inflammation and blood pressure. Sir Paul Nurse, who was head of Cancer Research UK, received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2001 for his work on cell structures which led to the discovery of the gene responsible for controlling cell division. His work led to new treatments and therapies for cancer.

The tradition continues, and a recent development is leading to the early diagnosis of one of the most distressing diseases in old people - Alzheimer's Disease. Cytox Ltd has developed a unique blood marker for the disease which allows pre-symptomatic diagnosis.

The blood-based test was developed by Cytox's science director, Dr Zsuzsanna Nagy of the neuro-degeneration and repair team based at the University of Birmingham. The predictor, named ADpredict, has been tested on 300 subjects in three clinical studies, and that combined with the results of a study sponsored by Roche, is expected to result the development of new therapies for the disease. …