Swansea University wins multi-million National Centre of Excellence

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Swansea University’s College of Medicine has been awarded three million pounds to continue its hosting of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) premier research facility in Mass Spectrometry. It was won against fierce competition from leading universities throughout the UK who each sought to host this prestigious centre.

Swansea University has been a centre of excellence for mass spectrometry for over three decades beginning with the Royal Society Research Unit founded by Professor John H Beynon FRS.  This latest award was the work of Professor Gareth Brenton and his colleagues in the Institute of Mass Spectrometry, part of the Institute of Life Science. This is one of the longest continuous funding programmes by the EPSRC in the UK and the Swansea centre is consistently rated as a top EPSRC facility emerging at the forefront of the EPSRC’s Chemistry National Centres in the UK.

The Centre, which is available to all UK university research groups, specialises in the most difficult chemical analysis and underpins leading research of UK scientists. It was recently in the news after its researchers discovered two steroid type molecules that could help treat Parkinson’s disease

Professor Gareth Brenton, head of the Institute of Mass Spectrometry said: “Mass Spectrometry at Swansea has consistently delivered high-quality research, training and teaching. It is an analytical technique that underpins many scientific areas and has major impact in the competitiveness of UK Science. We will continue developing this important scientific discipline and train future research leaders for academia and industry.”

Over the past three decades, the Swansea Centre has analysed over 250,000 unique compounds,  recorded over one million exclusive spectra that act as chemical fingerprints and trained over 250 PhDs, thereby contributing not just to the economy of the region but also to the many industries throughout the UK that rely on mass spectrometry.

Swansea mass spectrometry luminaries are world renowned; Professor Beynon invented a method to uniquely identify chemical compounds through accurate measurements of their mass. Along with chromatography, developed by Professor David Games, mass spectrometry has become a key method in chemical analysis.  These techniques support a worldwide market of approximately three billion dollars annually. 

The Institute also contributes to applied research in the UK and given rise to at least six designs of major new instruments in the UK and worldwide.  Professor Brenton won the top international award for development of instrumentation in mass spectrometry.  

Speaking of the award, the Head of the College of Medicine, Professor Keith Lloyd, said:“This is a huge endorsement of our medical school by the EPSRC. It is especially welcome coming only a few months after securing a Medical Research Council centre in eHealth records research. These achievements show  how we are maturing as a research led medical school."