The £10 million philanthropic gift is the largest single donation ever given to the University of Exeter
Work is now under way to construct a cutting-edge new imaging centre expected to rapidly accelerate dementia research and improve healthcare.
The new Mireille Gillings Neuroimaging Centre will form part of the University of Exeter Medical School clinical research infrastructure. It will transform research and diagnosis of dementia and other neurological diseases, funded by part of a £10 million donation from the Dennis and Mireille Gillings Foundation.
The new building, located at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E) site, will help accelerate clinical trials for potential dementia treatments over the next five years. The centre is the latest example of the close partnership working between the University of Exeter and the RD&E.
Dr Mireille Gillings is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of HUYA Bioscience International, a global leader in accelerating development of biopharma innovation from China. She has a balance of exceptional scientific and operational experience in neurological and neurodegenerative disease research, drug development, academic partnering programmes and extensive business leadership skills.
Dr Gillings said: “I’m really excited to see work starting on this new state-of-the-art centre, which has the potential to transform neurological research. The results of the research in this building will provide a pivotal role in the molecular understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurological disease. I can’t wait to see it finished!”
Fifty million people around the world suffer from dementia. Currently there are less than 30 phase 2 or phase 3 trials for disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s worldwide.
The new Mireille Gillings Neuroimaging Centre is expected to double the number of dementia drugs in development, through innovative use of new brain-scanning technology and techniques. The centre has the potential to benefit patients globally.
The new purpose-built Centre will house a Biograph Vision 600 PET-CT scanner and Magnetom Prisma 3T MRI scanner in a contract between the University of Exeter and Siemens Healthineers. The PET-CT part of the Centre will provide space for scanner and support facilities. The scanners have the ability to generate images of the body’s internal organs in far greater detail then Exeter’s current imaging facilities, unlocking potential for a surge in research in areas including dementia, diabetes and cancer. The MRI scanner will also provide additional capacity for NHS patients to be clinically scanned. The main contractor is now on site, and the works are expected to complete in late 2019. The Centre, designed Stride Treglown Architecture, will be officially opened in Spring 2020.
Professor Clive Ballard, Dean of the University of Exeter Medical School and an internationally-recognised authority on dementia research, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Mireille and Dennis for this generous gift, which is enabling us to build a centre that will put Exeter at the forefront of dementia research worldwide. Construction work beginning is a real milestone on this exciting journey.”
The £10 million philanthropic gift is the largest single donation ever given to the University of Exeter. In addition to providing funding for the Imaging centre, the Dennis and Mireille Gillings Foundation gift will help improve cancer diagnosis by GPs and support the next generation of outstanding medical leaders. The research has the potential to save thousands of lives and improve treatments for people in the South West of England, and across the world.
Suzanne Tracey, Chief Executive at the RD&E, said: “We are pleased to be working with the University of Exeter and with the generous support of the Dennis and Mireille Gillings Foundation to build a new Neuroimaging Centre that is set to play an important role in helping to better understand and tackle one of the most difficult health issues we face as a society: the growth in the numbers of people affected by dementia. The 3T MRI unit will provide state of the art facilities so our patients will get the very best The new facility will also underline that Exeter is becoming one of the leading centres for dementia research in the UK.”