ION-DRI Programme



For more information about the IoN-DRI programme, read our frequently asked questions.

The programme

What is the IoN-DRI programme?

The IoN-DRI programme will deliver a new world-class research and treatment environment, with a purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility at 256 Grays Inn Road, alongside improving services across the whole of the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology to create a dual hub for UCL translational neuroscience.  There are three components to the programme: 

  • We’re designing and delivering a new state-of-the-art building on Grays Inn Road to enhance operational efficiency and maintain our position as a global leader in pioneering research into neurological diseases. This new centre of excellence will house over 500 neuroscientists from the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology (IoN) along with the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) national headquarters. It will also house outpatient consulting and an MRI suite for the UCLH National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN).
  • We’re retaining a portion of Queen Square House and modifying and refurbishing IoN’s laboratories and office space within the building. 
  • We’re developing new operational models across ION to improve the ways we support all our laboratories, with a focus on collaborative and multidisciplinary ways of working. 
Why was the IoN-DRI programme established? 

The programme was set up to enable a specially-designed and purpose-built facility on Grays Inn Road alongside new and more efficient ways of working to translate UCL’s exceptional research power into developing life-changing treatments for neurological diseases. The programme will deliver the infrastructure of the new building alongside a transformation to ensure that services and technologies align. 

What benefits will the new building offer to our neuroscientists?

By delivering a new state-of-the-art building and more efficient ways of working the programme will:

  • provide a technologically advanced research environment, improve core facilities and offer flexible labs with the potential to adapt from wet to dry as research needs change; 
  • strengthen the partnership between IoN, the UK DRI and NHNN and promote collaborations with patients, funders, philanthropists, industry and the local community;
  • increase opportunities for collaborative working between basic and clinical scientists of all disciplines and opportunities for NHS clinicians to interact and collaborate with IoN and UK DRI clinical and basic scientists;
  • create new opportunities for experimental medicine and therapy development;
  • expand the availability of patients and patient tissues for research; 
  • boost research embedded teaching;
  • future-proof the expansion of space for IoN, the UK DRI and patient care.
In addition, the co-location of clinical work and research within the new facility means that the neurological research carried out will be geared towards the needs of patients, and advances in clinical practice will happen with little delay. 
What is the UK DRI?

UCL is home to the operational headquarters of the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI), a government initiative that is part of the Challenge on Dementia 2020 and which is funded by the Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. The UK DRI's headquarters will be based in the new building on Grays Inn Road. The UK DRI's centres are based at the University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, the University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London King's College London and UCL.

Who is delivering the programme?

The IoN-DRI programme is sponsored by Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences, and organised into different workstreams, with senior leads from across UCL overseeing different elements of the programme.

How are decisions made?

Ultimate accountability for and financial control of the IoN-DRI programme sits with the UCL Council. A number of additional strategy groups provide senior academic/organisational leadership over different elements of the programme.

How will the programme ensure that people's needs are met?

The programme teams are have engaged with stakeholders and will continue to do so. All the work to date has been conducted and co-designed in close collaboration with lab managers, departmental administrators and department leads across IoN.

How long will the programme take?

We anticipate that the programme construction will complete in 2024 and the new building at 256 Grays Inn Road will be occupied from early in the 2024-25 academic year.


What is being built and where?

We are building a new facility for UCL neuroscience at 256 Grays Inn Road on the former site of the Eastman Dental Hospital, just a few minutes’ walk from IoN’s Queen Square headquarters.

Site layout

The site is made up of a network of buildings comprising the former Royal Free Hospital (Plot 1), the former Eastman Dental Clinic (Plot 2) and the Levy Wing (Plot 3). We will redevelop Plot 1 along with 25 per cent of Queen Square House to create a new home for UCL neuroscience, which will operate across these two hubs.

Our approach to the redevelopment of the site is to retain and reuse those parts of the building that are of most historic interest and to demolish and replace the rest in order to deliver a world-class research facility and new academic space for UCL. The redeveloped site will include new landscaped areas, a courtyard and publicly accessible green spaces.  

Who will move into the new building?

The new building will be the centre for preclinical neuroscience and will house all of IoN’s wet labs, along with the UK DRI national headquarters and outpatient consulting for the NHNN. Queen Square House will be the centre for research activities with a clinical focus. 

We are working with all IoN departments to assess space requirements and specific needs after which we will be in a position to determine which groups will move to the new building and how they will fit. 

The intention is for research groups to be based in locations that maximise operational effectiveness. The new environment will be flexible, with labs that can adapt to evolving priorities and research needs. 

What will Plots 2 and 3 be used for?

UCL is considering the best use of the remaining two plots of land. Plot 2 will initially be used to house the team working on construction of Plot 1. A final decision for the use of Plot 3 has still to be made by UCL Council. 

What will happen to Queen Square House?

As part of the agreement to purchase the Eastman Dental Hospital site, UCLH will acquire majority ownership of Queen Square House.

UCL will retain a portion of the existing building to take advantage of the co-location of world-class clinical and academic expertise at UCL and the NHNN at Queen Square.

What refurbishments are planned for Queen Square House?

A portion of Queen Square House will be retained by IoN for use following the move of the majority of wet labs over to Grays Inn Road in 2024. 

The work required to refurbish these spaces is still being confirmed but will be informed by the decisions around who will occupy the space.

How much space will the new developments provide?

The Grays Inn Road plot will provide a total of 17,450 m2 space. We will also populate circa three floors of Queen Square House which will provide 2,500 m2 space.

Why was Grays Inn Road selected as the new building’s location and who was consulted?

Consultation with IoN PIs took place in 2017 to explore the best option for delivering a transformational building that will address the global challenge of neurological diseases. A number of options were considered. Factors influencing the final decision included academic and clinical requirements alongside financial, planning, legal and HR considerations and UCL’s overall strategic objectives.

How much will the building cost and how is it being funded?

The new facility will cost £281.6 million. The building is funded by UCL, the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, the Medical Research Council, the UCL Dementia Research Retail Coalition, and our generous philanthropic partners. The founding funders of the UK Dementia Research Institute are the Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The development is part of Transforming UCL, a £1.25 billion 10-year programme of investment in UCL’s estate across London to support the university’s continuing growth.

What will be demolished?

The modern extensions of the former Eastman Dental Hospital and the former Royal Free Hospital will be removed. The historic Alexandra Wing of the former Eastman Dental Hospital will be restored and the Grade-II listed former Eastman Dental Clinic will be retained and refurbished, creating a handsome landmark on Grays Inn Road. The Levy Wing building to the rear of the former Eastman Dental Hospital will be replaced with purpose-built academic space.

Where has the Eastman Dental Hospital moved to?

In October 2019, the new Royal National ENT and Eastman Dental Hospitals opened. Part of UCLH, this new facility is one of the largest ENT and dental hospitals in Europe. The address for the hospitals is 47-49 Huntley Street, WC1E 6DG. 

How long will the building take to build and when will it be ready for occupation?

The programme has completed RIBA Stage 2 and the building will be operational in 2024. Our planned journey:

  • Sep 2019: New facility at 256 Grays Inn Road receives conditional planning permission
  • Feb 2020: 256 Grays Inn Road site vacated and enabling work begins. The Eastman Dental Hospital moves to Huntley Street
  • May 2020: Camden Council grants full planning permission following approval from Greater London Authority
  • Jul 2020: Contract awarded to ISG as the main contractor
  • Q4 2020: Demolition on site begins
  • Q3 2021: Piling and groundworks begin
  • Q4 2021: Substructure work begins
  • Q3 2022: Superstructure and external works begin
  • Q4 2022: Building fit-out begins
  • May 2024: Building operational and IoN, UK DRI and NHNN move in
How sustainable will the new building be?

Our commitment to sustainability has informed every stage of the design process. 

The new building has been awarded an interim BREEAM Outstanding certification, reflecting a high performance across a number of areas of sustainability – including energy; water; health and wellbeing; materials; waste; and ecology. Less than the top 1% of buildings achieve this certification.

Externally, the development will enhance the biodiversity of the site and improve the green infrastructure surrounding the building. Newly created public spaces – including a café and exhibition areas – will be complemented by a range of green landscaped areas providing thoroughfares for both walkers and cyclists. The aim is to create a welcoming environment for patients, visitors, workers and residents to enjoy.

Will the new building be open to the public?

Parts of the building will be open to the public, and the site will provide a café and exhibition areas, thoroughfares for both walkers and cyclists, and lots of green spaces to create a calming environment for patients, visitors, workers and residents to enjoy.

What benefits will the new building offer to the local community?

A world-class research and out-patient facility for neurological disease will not only be of global significance, but local value too. 
As part of our commitment to supporting the local community, we are developing plans for an extensive programme of public engagement, including:

  • A public art programme
  • Ongoing events, exhibitions and performances
  • Apprenticeships
  • Work experience placements and mentoring schemes for local schools and colleges
  • An outreach programme and educational online resources
  • Support for community use of facilities like the auditorium

Additional local benefits include:

  • Clinical care for local people with neurological diseases and jobs for the local community
  • A £10 million boost to the local economy
  • NHNN outpatient facility and an MRI scanning facility
  • Contributions to local transport, affordable housing and Community Partnership Plans with local charities and organisations
What have we done to minimise disruption to the neighbouring community?

Respect for the environment and local community are key principles underpinning the development and engagement with the local community has been an integral part of the design development. As well as two phases of public consultation, which were held in September 2018 and February 2019, we have also held many meetings with local stakeholders to discuss the scheme and seek feedback.

In particular, we have consulted extensively with the neighbouring Calthorpe Project, an inner-city community garden and community centre, to ensure the development supports the needs of the local community.

What have we done as a result of the consultation process?

The consultation process has resulted in a number of significant developments to the scheme to minimise disruption to the neighbouring community.

These have been based on feedback received throughout the pre-planning process from many stakeholders, including the London Borough of Camden, Historic England, Greater London Authority, various amenity societies, community groups and local residents.

In addition to these developments, UCL has committed significant support to enable the future growth of the neighbouring Calthorpe Project, an asset to the local community which provides a community garden, sports pitches and a community centre.


What is the transformation and what are its aims?

The transformation consists of the development of operational models that have the potential to significantly improve the ways we support all our laboratories in new and existing environments. As part of the transformation, we are developing over 50 new approaches and services designed to support a collaborative, efficient and sustainable way of working.

It is important to note that we do not intend to change the way that research or clinical activities are undertaken. Our focus is on ensuring all the building, equipment and operational services supporting research and clinical activities are aligned with new ways of working.

What is the target operating model?

The target operating model is comprised of services focused on five core areas:

  • Lab infrastructure – led by Lee Stanyer
  • Lab operations – led by Kully Sunner
  • Biological services – led by Mike Brown
  • ISD – led by Andrew Heap
  • Facilities management – led by Lesley May
What are the initiatives?

We have identified a number of services across laboratory operations and laboratory infrastructure that have the potential to enhance the operational capabilities of IoN. We have grouped these services, 55 in total, into 11 initiatives based on the extent to which they form logical process flows or share common resources.

  • Asset management and cross-charging: to improve how IoN manages and maintains equipment, ensuring costs are distributed in an equitable way. 
  • Waste management: to provide a sustainable and cost-effective solution for managing hazardous and non-hazardous laboratory waste.
  • Biorepository and sample-tracking: to improve how IoN manages biospecimen accessibility, collection, storage and redistribution.
  • Licensing and permissions: to ensure that IoN adheres to scientific licensing requirements and permissions.
  • Logistics management: to provide a comprehensive logistics service for the distribution of products to 256 Grays Inn Road.
  • Specialist chemical management: to provide an effective management solution for specialist chemicals, ensuring legal and regulatory compliance.
  • Laboratory gases: to improve how IoN manages laboratory gases, ensuring costs are distributed in an equitable way. 
  • Sample processing: to improve how IoN manages biospecimen processing.
  • Core infrastructure services: to provide centralised services that aid laboratory and core facilities. 
  • Cryostore and sample quality control: to improve how IoN manages cryospecimen deposition, storage, quality control testing and redistribution.
  • Space management: to provide a solution for managing space and technology support systems.