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Prime Minister Gordon Brown backs future world class medical research centre in St Pancras land sale

Publication date: Dec 5, 2007 12:27:39 PM

The Government has thrown its support behind a unique £500m medical research partnership that will bring together the country’s best scientists to bolster the battle against disease and improve health.

The creation of the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI) in the heart of London was announced by the Government-funded Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, The Wellcome Trust and UCL (University College London). This will be supported by the sale of Government land on the former British Library site to the project.

The Prime Minister said: “We strongly support plans to create Europe’s leading centre for medical research in the heart of London. It will maintain Britain’s position at the forefront of global medical research, strengthen the UK economy and, through its links with the NHS, has huge potential to change patients’ lives.

“By taking groundbreaking scientific discoveries right through to treatment, I expect that the 1,500 staff who will be part of this project will develop many of the cures, vaccines and drugs from which the NHS and its patients will benefit in years to come.”

The centre, expected to be ready by the end of 2013, will be located next to the British Library and the newly opened Eurostar terminal at St Pancras.  The centre will undertake cutting-edge research using the latest technology to advance our understanding of health and disease. It will have state-of-the-art scientific facilities and infrastructure and access to teaching and specialist hospitals. Its world-class research will lead to the new treatments, which the NHS will be able to trial and adopt.

The Nobel Laureate, Sir Paul Nurse, President of Rockefeller University, New York, will lead the scientific planning of the centre to determine the shape and direction of the future research work to be carried out and the facilities that will be needed to enable this. Through links with London hospitals, Sir Paul Nurse’s team will strengthen collaboration between the research community and the NHS.

Sir Paul said: “I’m delighted to be leading the committee to define the scientific vision for this new centre. This exciting collaboration is one of the best opportunities for British science. Britain already leads the world in many areas of medical research and this will further strengthen its international reputation.”

The development of UKCMRI will also compete and collaborate with other global hubs of scientific and medical excellence such as Biopolis in Singapore; The Allston Initiative at Harvard in the US; and the Shanghai Science-based Industrial Park in China.

UKCMRI will gather science teams from the MRC’s National Institute for Medical Research, the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute and UCL, working closely with researchers located in surrounding universities and research intensive hospitals. The Wellcome Trust will fund scientists working at the centre adding to the interdisciplinary mix.

By bringing the research capacity of the partner organisations together, the work at the UKCMRI will be able to advance scientific understanding and allow the development of treatments to tackle and overcome the biggest healthcare issues we face both in the UK and the developing world. These include threats posed by viruses such as ‘flu and HIV, bacterial diseases like meningitis and tuberculosis and all diseases arising from modern lifestyles including cancers, stroke, heart disease and diabetes.

An important part of the mission of the centre will be to train future generations of medical scientists equipped to translate the findings of research into health benefits to the population. It is anticipated that up to 1,500 researchers and support staff will work at the centre, which is expected to open in 2013.

The partners will work with the local community on the plans and shape of the UKCMRI. The centre will develop activities to communicate with members of the public and promote science education among local children, demonstrating the exciting prospects a career in research holds. The proximity to the British Library will help to engage people in the excitement and discussion around scientific research and its role in society.

The chief executive of the Medical Research Council Sir Leszek Borysiewicz said: “The UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation will form a hub for innovation and excellence at the heart of this great city. This centre will be of crucial importance to the UK’s plans to ensure that medical research findings are turned into benefits for patients and the economy as efficiently as possible. UKCMRI will not only bring together academics and clinicians but also offer opportunities for industry to work with and alongside our researchers. This will be enhanced by relocating the technology arms of Cancer Research UK and the MRC to this site.”

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Harpal Kumar said: “This world class scientific collaboration will accelerate our understanding of cancer. Cancer has a huge impact on all of us – it affects 1 in 3 of the UK population – so it is important that we aim the best scientific minds at this challenge. Bringing together our leading research organisations in this effort will allow scientists to collaborate widely as well as share cutting-edge resources and knowledge. All of this will help to fuel the ideas and inspiration that lead to scientific breakthroughs, helping us to understand cancer better and deliver better cancer treatments. This project will bring together some of the best scientific minds in the world from across many disciplines and engage people through their support.”

The director of the Wellcome Trust, Mark Walport added: “This site provides the UK with a unique opportunity to establish a new world-class centre for medical research. A key focus of the centre will be to ensure that new discoveries and technological innovations lead to health benefits. We are delighted that Sir Paul Nurse has agreed to lead the scientific planning of the centre. The location of the centre adjacent to the British Library and a national and international communication hub will be key to the success of the centre - medical science and science communication must be pursued in a global context. But we are also committed to engage with the local community during the planning of the centre - this centre will be an important part of the local community.”

The president and provost of UCL, Malcolm Grant said: “We are thrilled that our combined vision to create a world-leading centre for medical research can go forward. Our involvement builds on UCL’s role as one of Europe’s largest and most productive centres for biomedical science and we are confident it will further and enhance the innovative research that already goes on here and with our partner hospitals. Every organisation involved in this bid is a world leader in its field, driven by the aspiration to make advances in medical research that improve and save lives. Our individual contributions to medical advancement have been significant. Our combined contribution will be formidable."

A formal process is now underway to find architects, designers and engineers to design the proposed world-leading centre for medical research near St Pancras. 

Notes to editors:

Any media enquiries should be made to the MRC press office on 020 7637 6011.

The partners:

Cancer Research UK

• Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to beat cancer.

• Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.

• Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.

• Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.

• Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org.uk.

The Medical Research Council is dedicated to improving human health through excellent science. It invests on behalf of the UK taxpayer. Its work ranges from molecular level science to public health research, carried out in universities, hospitals and a network of its own units and institutes. The MRC liaises with the Health Departments, the National Health Service and industry to take account of the public’s needs. The results have led to some of the most significant discoveries in medical science and benefited the health and wealth of millions of people in the UK and around the world. www.mrc.ac.uk

The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending around £500 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. http://www.wellcome.ac.uk

UCL (University College London) Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. In the government's most recent Research Assessment Exercise, 59 UCL departments achieved top ratings of

5* and 5, indicating research quality of international excellence.

UCL is in the top ten world universities in the 2007 THES-QS World University Rankings, and the fourth-ranked UK university in the 2007 league table of the top 500 world universities produced by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. UCL alumni include Marie Stopes, Jonathan Dimbleby, Lord Woolf, Alexander Graham Bell, and members of the band Coldplay.