Three new cancer treatment centres are to be built in the UK over the next two years transforming the nation's ability to treat some rare forms of the disease.
The first proton beam therapy centre will by open in Cardiff in 2016, followed by one in London and one in Northumberland, with all three due to be completed by Proton Partners International by the end of 2017.
Proton beam therapy is a targeted form of radiotherapy for rare, hard-to-treat cancers such as spinal tumours,
There are currently no treatment centres in the UK and most patients have to travel abroad to places such as the US or Czech Republic for treatment. By cutting these travel costs, it is thought that the new centres will save the NHS considerable sums of money.
The Welsh government has committed £50m of public money to a biotech investment fund for the project, while a further £50m will be raised from private investors, bringing total funding to £100m.
Welsh biotechnology entrepreneur Chris Evans is the man behind the project – he set up the fund and is now responsible for getting investors on board. He believes the plans will play up Wales's strengths in neuroscience and research.
“There are more than 150,000 people treated for cancer each year in the UK and the demand for treatment is growing,” he said. “It is anticipated that NHS demand for Proton Beam Therapy abroad will reach 1,500 patients by 2017. Proton Partners will be able to play a leading part in helping meet demand in the UK as of next year.”
The move will also be seen as a positive step by those hoping to expand UK research beyond the “golden triangle” of Oxford, Cambridge and London.
Evans could face a new hurdle for his plans if Labour is elected at the General Election – it would require some involvement of private companies, and Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to limit the profits private companies can make from the public health service.