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?

The project’s governance reflects the collaborative nature of the building and the fact that it is a three-way partnership. Since the project was conceived over ten years ago, there has been extensive consultation and working groups across the ION-DRI community, including with senior management, PIs, research staff, PhD students and professional service staff on a range of different topics, from new ways of working to laboratory design.

Most decisions are informed by the strategic delivery group (SDG), set up in 2017 and made up of representatives from Queen Square Institute of Neurology, UK Dementia Research Institute and the National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery, including heads of departments and senior leaders. This group meet monthly to discuss the detail of how the new building is being designed to ensure it meets their needs and how it will need to operate once opened.

The strategic delivery group will make recommendations to the steering group, chaired by the project sponsor Professor Alan Thompson and made up of senior leaders from across the three partners, who report to the executive group, which oversee delivery of the programme, and includes senior academics and senior management for Operations, Finance and Estates. UCL Council have ultimate accountability for the programme, including financial control.

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?

The building at 256 Grays Inn Road will be completed in March 2025 and staff will begin to move in over the summer term in 2025.

When will staff move in to the new building?

The building will be completed and handed over to UCL in March 2025. Over the next eight weeks, the building will be fitted-out with furniture, IT equipment and scientific services, including tissue culture and other shared facilities, as well as core tech platforms. There will then be a four-week period of testing. Staff will then move in throughout the summer term 2025.


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 2025.

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.

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 building will be operational in 2025 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
  • March 2025: Building practical completion 
  • Summer term: 2025  Building operational and ION, UK DRI and NHNN begin to 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.


How inclusive is the new building?

We're commited to making 256 Grays Inn Road a welcoming place for everyone and our environment needs to support this. Our building has been designed in an inclusive, accessible and sustainable way, meeting, and often exceeding, UCL and govement accessibility regulations.

The site is designed with accessibility in mind including building entrance circulation, outpatient areas and accessible toilets with a changing place facility on the ground floor

Wha have looked at lighting, acoustics, decor,  flooring, layout, wayfinding, thermal comforty and odour to ensure that everyone can enjoy working in the building 

A flexible design ensures that individual needs can be accommodated and a range of spaces are available to support people with different needs iincluding a maternity, quiet room and faith space. Hearing induction loops are available in all meeting rooms and reception areas.

Will the new building be open to the public?

We have a number of areas open to the public, including a café, open to all staff, patients and visitors, seating approximately 60 people, providing take-away and eat-in food and drink options. We also have a range of green spaces and landscaped areas open to the public, including a sensory garden area, which sits between the Alexandra Wing and the main centre providing a calm space for staff, patients and visitors away from Grays Inn Road. The site will be manned by UCL security 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  During daylight hours, the public can access the site through Langton Close and St Andrew’s Garden. Only UCL staff can access lab floors 1-4 and basement level core facilities, with a staff ID card.

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.


Will staff have an opportunity to see the buidling and lab floors before they move in?

Yes, we aim to provide at least three opportunities for staff to see the building and lab spaces, during the construction period.

How long will the actual move take?

Each research group’s move will differ, depending on the size of the lab and their individual needs. While some groups may be able to complete their move over a weekend to minimise down-time, others may decide to stretch their move over a couple of weeks. The programme team will work with all PIs and individual labs on a bespoke move plan.

We expect the entire move to take around three months, with individual lab moves ranging from 1-2 days to 3-4 weeks, depending on what has been agreed with the programme

When will exact move dates be confirmed?

Staff will begin to move into the new building around 8-12 weeks after the building's completion. The programme team will work with all PIs and individual labs to determine a move date and schedule that works for each group’s research needs. We hope to have confirmed exact dates by mid 2024 – at least nine months before moving in.

How many people will be relocating and from where?

We will be moving 400+ staff from Queen Square House (wet labs), Wakefield Street, Royal Free Hospital (wet labs), the Cruciform Building, the Francis Crick Institute and Maple House. Queen Square House will contain the Queen Square Brain Bank and Rita Lila Weston Institute, UK DRI Biomarker facility​


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 core facilities are available in the building?

We have a number of core facilities and scientific services available with high-performance laboratory equipment and dedicated specialists on hand to help with your research needs including:

  • Single Cell Analysis & Transcriptomics
  • HiPSC
  • Cell Imaging and microscopy
  • Tissue processing and analysis
  • Genetic Therapy Platform
  • MRI Suite
  • Scientific IT Platform
  • Bioinformatics
  • Genomics and High throughput sequencing
  • Biological Services Uniit

Scientific Services include a sample reception, biorepositry, quarantine and quality control, equipment management, autoclaves and glasswash, aboratory and equipment sterilization and sample processing.

We’ll also have a number of shared lab facilities available including tissue culture suites, microbiology, cold storage, vending machines, molecular biology, as well as shared equipment and shared lab lobbies.

These core facilities and services are based on a programme of different 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.

What facilities are available in the new building?

Each laboratory floor has primary lab, and write-up spaces, dedicated to individual research groups, alongside shared cellular lab spaces, a lab lobby, offices and a communal area

The communal areas include: 

  • a professional services team space, where research staff can go to ask questions and get help
  • shared kitchen areas, including a microwave, fridge, dishwasher, hot and cold filtered water, crockery, cutlery and glassware
  • printers and photocopying facilities
  • a range of informal drop-in spaces and seating areas, including quiet areas to hold small meetings and conference calls
  • shared office supplies and stationery point, stocked with commonly-used items for use by staff from teams based in the building
How will shared spaces work in the new building?

Collaboration is at the heart of the new facility, with all lab floors designated as shared spaces. Together we’ll be pioneering a new way of working together, hoping to create the most comprehensive, coordinated neuroscience research hub in the world.

On each shared laboratory floor, there will be dedicated primary lab space and write-up space, allocated, according to individual research groups and departments’ needs. All the building’s primary lab spaces and write-up areas are designed as flexible and reconfigurable, in order to adapt to evolving research techniques and the needs of different areas of research. This highly-collaborative approach to space, central equipment and services are fundamental in this vision, making major advances possible for the whole scientific community.

Are there meeting room facilities?

We have a range of bookable meeting rooms in the building, across all floors, equipped with conference-call facilities, wireless screen sharing, wall-mounted display screens, integrated camera microphone sound bar or array microphone, camera and ceiling speakers for induction loop.