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Zayed Centre for Research welcomes VIP visitors

20 September 2021

The Zayed Centre for Research into Rare Disease in Children welcomed senior politicians and international dignitaries, who learned about the centre’s lifesaving research.

Zayed Centre for Research welcomes VIP visitors
Researchers and clinicians were joined by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the Secretary of State for Health, Sajid Javid MP, and the Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi MP, who is a former student at UCL.   A partnership between UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (GOS ICH), Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, the purpose-built Zayed Centre for Research (ZCR) brings together pioneering research and clinical care under one roof – a world first for paediatric medicine. The ZCR opened to patients and researchers in October 2019 thanks to a transformational £60m gift from Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, wife of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founder of the United Arab Emirates. Its researchers and clinical staff are helping drive forward new treatments and cures for seriously ill children from across the UK and internationally. Its state of-the-art facilities enable hundreds of researchers and clinicians to work side-by-side, so that patients benefit from the latest developments in the laboratory, accelerating the progress of new diagnoses, treatments, and cures for rare and complex diseases.Representatives from UCL GOS ICH, GOSH and GOSH Charity took the visiting group on a tour of the main laboratory in the Centre, which has 140 dedicated research benches and is home to its genomics team. During the pandemic, their work has supported GOSH’s response to Covid-19, including sequencing 15,500 samples from hospitals, the community and travellers returning to the UK to help scientists learn about the changing nature of the virus.

The delegation also saw the state-of-the-art specialist clean rooms - the largest single academic manufacturing unit for gene and cell therapies in the UK and one of the largest in the world – where products are manufactured for use in ground-breaking gene therapy trials. These facilities also enabled the manufacture the Covid-19 virus to supply to the world’s first human challenge trial earlier this year.

Research into rare diseases is a key priority for the hospital and charity, as many children rely on research to offer the hope of effective treatments or even a cure for their condition. UCL researchers based in the ZCR met the delegation to share more about their work, including Mahboubian Professor in Gene Therapy Professor Claire Booth (UCL GOS ICH) - whose work using gene therapy has helped develop a potential cure for a previously incurable condition called ADA SCID, where children are born without an immune system - as well as Mohamed Al Ameri, a ZCR Researcher and PhD candidate of Epigenetics of Pediatric Leukaemia Diagnostics, UCL, whose pioneering research explores how a person’s DNA is altered in cancer cells.

Professor Rosalind Smyth, Director of the UCL GOS ICH said: “It was a great honour to welcome His Highness and guests from the Abu Dhabi and UK governments to the Zayed Centre for Research into Rare Diseases in Children. The centre has enabled us to make a contribution of national and international importance to genomic sequencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our scientists, working within this fabulous facility are developing treatments for incurable, disabling and life-limiting conditions, of global importance.”

Louise Parkes, Chief Executive of GOSH Charity, reflected on the importance of the visit: “It was an honour to introduce our guests to the pioneering work taking place in the Zayed Centre for Research and to hear from our experts who are pushing the boundaries of medicine in so many exciting areas including gene therapy, genomics and virology.

“As a charity, we have long known the importance of funding and facilitating high quality research; for many children with rare diseases, research is their only hope of a treatment or a cure. We were delighted to show His Highness the impact of his family’s transformational donation that enabled the creation of the Zayed Centre for Research, and to highlight to members of the UK government the extraordinary skill and commitment of the staff working in the Centre in the face of a global pandemic as well as in the ongoing fight against paediatric rare diseases.”

The ZCR is also supported by Research England, The Wolfson Foundation, John Connolly & Odile Griffith and the Mead Family Foundation.

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  • Professors Claire Booth and David Goldblatt meeting His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, with the Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid MP. Image by UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs.