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King's partner in new £100 million Rosalind Franklin Institute

Posted on 06/03/2017

King’s College London is involved in the Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI) – a major new £100 million investment by the government into the development of an innovative multi-disciplinary science and technology research centre.

  • The new Rosalind Franklin Institute will have a hub based at the Harwell campus
  • It will bring together UK expertise to develop new technologies that will transform our understanding of disease and speed up the development of new treatments
  • Part of the government’s Industrial Strategy to maintain the UK’s global leadership in science, innovation and research

The new institute named in honour of the pioneering British scientist whose research at King’s College London using X-rays to study biological structures played a crucial role in the discovery of DNA’s ‘double helix’ structure by Francis Crick and James Watson – will bring together UK strengths in the physical sciences, engineering and life sciences to create a national centre of excellence in technology development and innovation.

The £100 million investment into the development of an innovative multi-disciplinary science and technology research centre was announced on Thursday 23rd February by Business Secretary Greg Clark:

“The UK has an extensive history of pioneering discoveries and developing new technologies and medical treatments. It’s why we made science and research a central part of our Industrial Strategy to strengthen links between research and industry, ensuring more home-grown innovation continues to benefit millions around the world.

Rosalind Franklin and 'Photo 51'

Rosalind Franklin came to King's in early 1951; where that summer she took the famous 'Photo 51' and made important studies of the DNA molecule.

Rosalind-FranklinFrancis Crick and James Watson of Cambridge University obtained ’Photo 51’, and some of Franklin's data in the report of an MRC visit to King's and with their own deductions built the first correct model of the DNA molecule. Their famous paper in Nature (April 1953) was accompanied by a paper by Wilkins, Stokes and Wilson and another by Franklin and Gosling.

This was the beginning of a further seven years of work for Maurice Wilkins and his colleagues to check and verify Crick and Watson's hypothetical model. It was for this and his original X-ray diffraction studies that Wilkins was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Crick and Watson in 1962.Photo 51

Rosalind Franklin died of cancer at the age of 37 in 1958.

Read more about Rosalind Franklin and the discovery of the structure of DNA at King’s.

 

'Photo 51', taken by Rosalind Franklin at King’s College London in 1952, critical to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA:

 

Delivered and managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the RFI will bring together academic and industry researchers from across the UK to develop disruptive new technologies designed to tackle major challenges in health and life sciences, accelerate the discovery of new treatments for chronic diseases affecting millions of people around the world (such as dementia), and deliver new jobs and long-term growth to the local and UK economies.

Chair of the Research Councils and EPSRC Chief Executive, Professor Philip Nelson said: “The UK is currently in a world leading position when it comes to developing new medical treatments and technologies in the life sciences. The Rosalind Franklin Institute will help secure the country as one of the best places in the world to research, discover, and innovate.”

As well as King’s College London, the central hub at Harwell, will link to partner sites at the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford, Imperial College, and University College London. Industry partners will be on board from the outset, and the Institute will grow over time, as more universities and researchers participate.

Work at the new Institute will contribute directly to the delivery of EPSRC’s ‘Healthy Nation’ prosperity outcome, its Healthcare Technologies programme, and to the Technology Touching Life initiative that spans three research councils (the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and EPSRC) and seeks to foster interdisciplinary technology development research across the engineering, physical and life sciences.

Chris Mottershead, Senior Vice President (Quality, Strategy & Innovation) at King’s College London and member of the RFI steering committee:

“The Rosalind Franklin Institute will be at the forefront of the development of the next generation of technologies to improve the health of people in the UK and around the world.  It’s fantastic that King’s, where Rosalind Franklin carried out her pioneering research, is a founding partner of the RFI and we look forward to our staff playing key role in its future.”

King’s involvement with the RFI will initially be focussed on electron microscopy. Dr Roland Fleck, Director of the Centre for Ultrastructural Imaging and lead for the partnership at King’s:

“As the RFI progresses, King’s will act as a spoke supporting correlative imaging with a medical research agenda. Over the coming months the RFI collaboration will expand and is likely to incorporate groups from Physics, Chemistry as well as the life and medical sciences.

RFI staff will initially be hosted at King’s with King’s staff ultimately being seconded to or working collaboratively with RFI staff. The intention is to develop a dynamic research environment where physicists and biologists combine to develop new and novel technologies able to support biomedical research.”

Further information

More information about the Institute can be found on EPSRC’s website:  (https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/newsevents/news/rosalindrranklininstitute/)

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