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New Facilities to Advance Genetics Research

The Nowgen Centre: The Public Face of the North West Genetics Knowledge Park Nowgen, the North West Genetic Knowledge Park, today announced that the construction phase of their landmark building - The Nowgen Centre jointly funded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) - is now complete and a building completion ceremony will be taking place on Tuesday 28th September.

The North West Genetics Knowledge Park (Nowgen) is a partnership project of Universities from the North West (the Universities of Manchester, Lancaster and Liverpool) as well as the Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Nowgen is one of six Genetic Knowledge Parks across England and Wales established by the Department of Health together with the Department of Trade & Industry as one of the major policies within the Government's NHS plan to ensure that the outcomes of genetics research are successfully applied.

A major achievement in the first year of Nowgen's operation was the success of the business case to gain funding from the NWDA and the ERDF for the construction of the £3.5m Nowgen Centre. Nowgen is the only Genetics Knowledge Park so far to secure funding for a dedicated facility for its activities.Linda Magee, NWDA Biotechnology Sector Director & Head of Bionow, said:

"I am delighted that the NWDA has been able to provide nearly £1.7 million to help build the Nowgen Centre, and was able to play a pivotal role in the successful bid to the Department of Health and DTI for a Genetics Knowledge Park in the Northwest. This project is truly regional, located in Manchester but with a virtual network run by MerseyBIO and linkages with Manchester, Liverpool and Lancaster Universities. Nowgen is an excellent example of what we can achieve in the Northwest with cooperative regional projects in the face of national competition. Funding for this type of project is vital to ensure the Northwest remains at the forefront of the biotechnology industry."

The Nowgen Centre has a superb location in one of Manchester's busiest scientific and healthcare hubs; the new Centre is a landmark building in the biosciences cluster at the interface between the NHS Trust and the University of Manchester. The Nowgen Centre will be ready for occupation in December 2004 and the official opening is planned for March 2005. The Centre will provide facilities and support for knowledge dissemination, including public reception, exhibition and interactive areas, a teaching laboratory and teaching/meeting rooms. Nowgen's management, research, regional co-ordination and business development activities will be driven from the Nowgen Centre.

Professor Dian Donnai, Executive Director of Nowgen sees the Nowgen Centre as, "A unique opportunity to enhance the public face of Nowgen and facilitate the public engagement and knowledge translation activities of the team. The Centre's facilities will bring a great contribution to our work with public engagement, research themes, our schools programme and interaction with support groups, business and academia."

Nowgen's academic programmes are centred on the ethical, legal and social dimensions of genetics (led by Professor Ruth Chadwick of Lancaster University) and finding what genetic services people want in the NHS, how they should be delivered and what the costs and outcomes are (led by Dr Linda Davies of the University of Manchester). Activities that form the basis of these research programmes will benefit from the facilities provided by the Nowgen Centre. Nowgen also has a programme of professional education, schools and outreach activities, which is led by Nowgen's Director, Dr Middleton-Price. Dialogue with members of the public and user groups is integral to Nowgen's work programmes and strategy development and the new centre will provide an ideal focal point for this interaction.

The Building Completion Ceremony celebrates the handing over of the building from the construction team to Nowgen and marks the beginning of the commissioning phase of the project, with building occupation due in December 2004. To mark the occasion, there will be speeches from Professor Dian Donnai, Executive Director of Nowgen, Dr Linda Mageeof the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and the formal tree planting ceremony will be conducted by Sir Howard Bernstein, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council.

The Nowgen Centre is located at the heart of Manchester's biosciences cluster. By capitalising on strengths in Clinical Genetics and basic research, further links to regional, national and international networks have developed and considerable progress made in delivering an innovative programme of research, education and public engagement. From its inception Nowgen has been one of the North West Science Council's flagship projects. The new centre will bring added benefits not only to Manchester, but through Nowgen's links with Liverpool and Lancaster, to the region as a whole.