Centre for Robotic Surgery created at Imperial College London

London 05 March 2008The recent impact of medical robotics in health care delivery has been substantial. Clinicians and scientists at Imperial College London have led these developments from their inception and will have the opportunity to further research and innovate in this area, thanks to a new research centre. The Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery - supported by the Helen Hamlyn Trust - established at Imperial College London, will push forward the integration of robotics into medicine and patient care, with the aim of developing advanced robotic technologies that will transform conventional key-hole surgery, develop new ways of empowering robots with human intelligence, and create revolutionary miniature "microbots" that have integrated sensing and imaging for cancer surgery and treatment.

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Establishing this new centre has been made possible through philanthropic support totalling GBP 10 million from both the Helen Hamlyn Trust and Lady Hamlyn personally. The Centre is to be co-directed by two United Kingdom pioneers in medical robotics, Professor Lord Ara Darzi who holds the Paul Hamlyn Chair of Surgery at Imperial College London and is an honorary consultant at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and the Royal Marsden NHS Trust, and Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, Director of Medical Imaging at Imperial, supported by an interdisciplinary team of engineering and clinical scientists. The funding initiates a major campaign to establish an international centre of excellence for medical robotics in the United Kingdom.

In appreciation of the grant from the Helen Hamlyn Trust and the generous donation by Lady Hamlyn, Lord Darzi stated: "Medical robotics and computer assisted surgery are used in a growing number of operating rooms around the world. This funding will allow the team to leverage our existing research programmes in pursuing adventurous, fundamentally new technologies that will allow more wide-spread use of robotics in medicine and patient care. This is a substantial amount of funding which will allow us to build on the current resources and infrastructure provided by Imperial College, the NHS and other funding agencies."

The Centre, which will be based at Imperial College London and in its Academic Health Science Centre - Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, St. Mary's Campus, will draw together under one roof world-leading experts in a range of disciplines, with the aim of creating a national resource in medical robotics that will benefit other United Kingdom research groups and industry.

Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, who will be directing the basic sciences and engineering research of the new Centre, commented: "The need to perform delicate surgical procedures safely in tight spaces where the surgeon cannot see directly has created a growing demand for devices that act as extensions of the surgeon's eyes and hands. This creates a unique opportunity of developing new robotic devices that build on the latest developments in imaging, sensing, mechatronics, and machine vision."

He added: "The potential benefit of medical robotics to patients is exciting and one of the major focuses of the centre is to develop new technologies such as the 'perceptual docking' concept for seamless integration of machine precision with human intelligence to allow safe, ubiquitous applications of robotics in health care."

Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College London, stated: "Imperial College has a strong track record in pioneering surgical robotics both technically and clinically. We are very grateful for Lady Hamlyn's generosity in initiating this major funding campaign that will establish a dedicated centre and United Kingdom focus for medical robotics. This will allow us to attract international talents and develop United Kingdom technologies that will transform the future development of medical devices."

Lady Hamlyn, Chair of Trustees of the Helen Hamlyn Trust, stated: "I am delighted that the funding from my Trust, together with my personal donation, will be contributing to the future development of robotic surgery and other innovations in this very important new field, which will greatly improve patient care in many areas, particularly in cancer care. My Trust has been closely involved with the development of robotics for some years, and this National Centre will enable Imperial to extend their pioneering work in this unique field."

Imperial College London - rated the world's fifth best university in the 2007 Times Higher Education Supplement University Rankings - is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 12.000 students and 6000 staff of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

The Helen Hamlyn Trust, which was established in 2001 as a successor to the Helen Hamlyn Foundation, is an independent grant-making Trust. Its principal focus is on the initiation of medium and long-term projects linked to the shared interests of Lady Hamlyn and her late husband, Lord Hamlyn. The Trust's core ethos is to support the development of innovative projects, which aim to effect lasting change and improve quality of life.

The Trust works in the fields of medicine; the arts and culture; education and welfare; healthy ageing; international humanitarian affairs; and heritage and conservation in India. Additionally, the Trust continues to support the work of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for inclusive design at the Royal College of Art. The Centre, formerly known as the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre, was founded in 1999 with the aid of an endowment from the Helen Hamlyn Foundation.


Leslie Versweyveld

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