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University of Portsmouth

A statement on our funding of brain tumour research at the University of Portsmouth – 18 December 2019

Brain Tumour Research is proud to announce that, with the retirement of Professor Geoff Pilkington, research into brain tumours at the University of Portsmouth is entering an exciting new phase and taking the research conducted there on to a new, wider neuroscience direction. Following the establishment of The Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Portsmouth in 2010 and sustainable funding from Brain Tumour Research over the last decade, the University will continue to focus its research on brain disorders and, building on our investment over the last decade, growing their neuro-oncology research.

We will continue to develop the sustainable research at our other Centres – The University of Plymouth, Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College – and look forward to establishing new Centres of Excellence in the future.

Sue Farrington Smith MBE, Chief Executive of Brain Tumour Research, said: “Since 2010, when the Portsmouth Centre was established as a collaboration between Brain Tumour Research and inaugural Member Charities Ali’s Dream and Charlie’s Challenge, the national investment in research into brain tumours has grown from £3.9 million to £11.6 million. During this period, research teams under the visionary guidance of Professor Pilkington have contributed to the understanding of a wide range of both adult and paediatric tumours, targeting not just the differences between tumours but vitally, their shared characteristics. Investigations into the blood-brain-barrier, how brain tumours produce energy to grow and how they respond to a wide range of existing, reformulated and new drugs has paved the way for the next generation of brain tumour researchers to build on these results.

“When we launched the charity in 2009, alongside our Member Charities, we wanted to shine a spotlight on the UK’s historic underfunding of research into brain tumours in order to raise awareness and to increase the national investment in such research. We have played our part in this by fundraising to establish Brain Tumour Research Centres of Excellence, with Portsmouth being the first. We are delighted that the investment we’ve made will now flourish under the direction of Professor Pilkington’s successor, Dr Jerome Swinny.

“I have a huge amount of pride in the legacy of our Portsmouth Centre, not just for the peer-reviewed discovery science we have funded there over the past nine years, including vital blood-brain-barrier investigations and the research undertaken into the repurposing of drugs, but also in the Research Centre model which we pioneered there and which was recognised as ‘An effective way of growing research capacity and capability at all career stages, including senior research leadership’ in the Report of the Task and Finish Working Group on Brain Tumour Research, released in February 2018 and overseen by the Department of Health and Social Care.” 

As our charity continues to grow, we will be creating new dedicated and sustainable Brain Tumour Research Centres. During 2020, we plan to invite institutions where brain tumour research is being undertaken to submit applications for funding partnerships with us.In line with our policies, these applications will be robustly reviewed by an independent, international peer-review panel.

Our commitment to brain tumour patients is unwavering – we will continue to fund vital discovery science at our Centres that is monitored and reviewed. We will develop sustainable career paths for the talented researchers that will ultimately deliver the vision of our charity and the brain tumour community – to find a cure for brain tumours.

On the subject of Professor Pilkington’s retirement, Sue continued: “Geoff dedicated his career to researching brain tumours with a passion, inspiring families touched by this devastating disease to get involved, with many setting up their own charities. When my family needed help, advice and support, he was there, and he has been a key scientific statesman for the charity since it was established 10 years ago. He will also be remembered as a leader with many promising scientists passing through the doors of his Portsmouth lab on their career paths. We are proud that during the course of our collaboration, Brain Tumour Research has funded researchers at different stages of their career – they are the future of brain tumour research.

“Geoff engaged with the Portsmouth community and they in turn supported us and our work. I have the utmost gratitude to the generosity of spirit of those who walked with us over the past nine years including the Portsmouth News, Portsmouth FC, Gunwharf Quays and of course wonderful fundraisers, often motivated by their own brain tumour journeys and learning about the stark facts that we unearthed when we began. We have achieved what we were looking to achieve when we began our Portsmouth collaboration – a sustainable research platform that will now support the work of Dr Swinny and his team. The work you have funded, the progress we have made will be taken forward, in collaboration with our other Centres and internationally wherever brain tumour scientists meet. Together we will find a cure.” 

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