Architect's impression of the new Mood Disorders Centre building.

Planning approval for new £3.6 million research facility for Exeter

Planning permission has been granted for a new research facility which aims to improve psychological interventions for mood and personality disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder.

The centre should allow up to 400 people a year in the South West the chance to take part in treatment via clinical research.

The new internationally-competitive research facility will be a part of the University of Exeter’s Mood Disorders Centre. Funding for the £3.6m facility is from the Wellcome Trust, Capital Awards in Biomedical Sciences initiative. Exeter is one of nine UK universities to receive awards totalling almost £30 million under the scheme. Now that planning permission has been granted, the project will go back to the Wellcome Trust for final approval.  

Professor Ed Watkins of the Mood Disorders Centre, part of the University’s School of Psychology, said: "This is great news and takes us a step closer to providing a world-class facility which won’t just help the many individuals who come through the doors each year, but also people with depression throughout the UK and internationally, who we believe will benefit from the results of our research.”

“It will allow us to improve psychological treatments for mood disorders, which cause people considerable distress. Mood disorders also place a huge economic burden on society, with the World Health Organisation predicting that depression will become the single biggest cause for burden out of all health conditions.
“The state-of-the art laboratory facilities will help us study the underlying psychological mechanisms and inform the development of more targeted and effective therapies. The purpose-built treatment centre will allow us to conduct valuable clinical trials to determine which of these new treatments works best, as well as to improve existing treatments."

The University hopes construction work on the facility will start in March and it will open in spring 2011.

Launched in 2007, the Wellcome Trust’s Capital Awards provide funding of over £1 million to successful applicants for large scale projects in partnership with the host institution. These can be either new builds or refurbishment projects. The Awards are intended to facilitate leading-edge biomedical research that would not otherwise have been possible.

Dr John Williams, Head of Clinical Activities at the Wellcome Trust, said: "Most people will have experience of mood and personality disorders, either directly or through friends and family, yet relatively few treatment options exist. The new Mood Disorders Centre will fill an important gap in mental health research, and brings together a group of talented researchers led by Professor Watkins to develop and test psychological – as opposed to pharmaceutical – interventions to tackle these often distressing conditions."

Universities from across the UK – from Exeter to St Andrews, London to Liverpool – have received awards of between £1.1 million and £6 million under the scheme.

The Mood Disorders Centre is a partnership between the NHS and University of Exeter. It undertakes research, offers clinical services, and provides training with the aim of helping people who suffer from depression.

The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending over £600 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.

Date: 20 October 2009

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