ION-DRI Programme


Breaking ground at 256 Grays Inn Road

In May 2021 UCL President & Provost Dr Michael Spence was joined by construction partner ISG and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to break ground at the new home of UCL Neuroscience on Grays Inn Road.

Watch the full ceremony

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The landmark facility at 256 Grays Inn Road, London, will bring together research scientists, clinicians and patients to create a world-class research and treatment environment to tackle neurological diseases like dementia, which now count as the world’s leading cause of disability.

The state-of-the-art facilities will be home to three bodies: the world-leading UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology; the headquarters of the UK Dementia Research Institute, which is the single biggest investment the UK has ever made in dementia; and the UCLH National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN), which is the UK's largest dedicated neurological and neurosurgical hospital.

The NHNN, with a world leading reputation in care and treatment for people with neurological conditions, will have an outpatient and imaging service. Co-locating treatment with research will support the development of cutting-edge treatment geared towards patients' needs, enabling advances in clinical practice to happen with little delay.

Clinical work and research will take place together within the new facility, enabling an active dialogue between people with neurological disorders, their doctors, and researchers.

UCL is a global leader in pioneering research into neurological diseases and is one of the world's largest, most productive and highest-impact neuroscience centres, with research including: developing blood tests that could pick up Alzheimer’s disease years before symptoms; leading global efforts to develop what could be the first disease-modifying treatment for Huntington’s disease; finding that head injuries may increase the risk of cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s-related pathology; and other world-leading research into conditions including multiple sclerosis, neuromuscular diseases, Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, stroke and epilepsy.*

Over the last year, UCL’s neuroscientists have also made valuable contributions to the fight against COVID-19, such as clarifying the range of potential neurological symptoms of the disease in children and adults.**

UCL signed a contract with ISG to deliver the 17,500m2 state-of-the-art new neuroscience facility, and demolition and construction are now underway with the building due to be completed in 2024.

The transformative scheme will provide:

  • clinical care for local people with neurological diseases and as well as apprenticeships, work experience, mentoring schemes, an outreach programme 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.

Dr Michael Spence, UCL President & Provost, said:

“This flagship facility is a powerful tool in our quest to develop treatments for devastating neurological diseases. By equipping the next generation of researchers to develop cures, we hope to make conditions like dementia a thing of the past.”

Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of Faculty of Brain Sciences and Garfield Weston Professor of Clinical Neurology and Neurorehabilitation at UCL, said:

“We’re delighted to have entered the construction stage of this transformational development for UCL Neuroscience. Through this facility, we aim to translate UCL’s research into new therapies to tackle neurological conditions such as dementia. The collaboration which the building will enable between research scientists, clinical partners and patients will be fundamental in developing effective treatments for patients with disabling neurological conditions.” 

Paul Cossell, CEO of ISG, said:

“Today’s milestone marks the culmination of an intensive two-year period of focused collaboration, with a highly motivated stakeholder team developing the design and painstakingly preparing this complex site for construction to commence. Creating spaces with the capacity to deliver transformational change for individuals, communities, wider society and the environment is a consistent driver for both our business and the talented team delivering this ground-breaking project. This is a symbolic moment of immense importance as we all have a personal stake in ensuring that the facilities we build here today provide the best possible environment for patient care and for pioneering research that will transform neurological outcomes for current and future generations.”

Kevin Argent, UCL Director of Estates Development, said: 

“The ground-breaking represents a significant milestone in the development of the new centre for UCL Neuroscience which will be the home for our world-leading UK Dementia Research Institute and UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology. Cutting-edge in design, highly technical with accessibility and low carbon strategies designed in, this landmark project is part of our Transforming UCL programme. The centre will offer our community an advanced research environment and ensure UCL remains a global leader in pioneering research into neurological diseases.”

Professor Michael Hanna, Director of the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, said:

“It is very exciting to enter the next stage of development of this transformational new building. The building will bring together a critical mass of world-leading expertise and offer unrivalled opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration between clinical and basic neuroscientists in order to understand disease mechanisms and translate this knowledge into treatments for patients with devastating neurological diseases.”

Dr Adrian Ivinson, UK DRI Director (Operations), said:

“We are very excited to see work begin on what promises to be a fantastic new hub for the UK Dementia Research Institute. State-of-the-art facilities and a superb research environment will support our scientists to focus on their ground-breaking work to deepen our knowledge of dementia and develop effective treatments. The building will provide an exciting opportunity for researchers, clinicians and people affected by dementia to meet under one roof, and will also house our national headquarters team, providing support to all seven UK DRI research centres.”

Dr Chris Turner, Divisional Clinical Director, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, said:

“It is fantastic news that construction has begun on this facility. We will be able to co-locate NHS services with research and academic facilities, enhancing collaboration and enabling us to learn rapidly to improve patient treatment and care.”

Adrian Punaks, Executive Director of Development, UCL Office of the Vice-President (Advancement), said:

"We would not be breaking ground today without the support of our donor community and friends, who share our vision of a world free from neurological diseases. Together, we have moved a step closer to our ambition of opening this cutting-edge facility which will bring together the brightest minds from across the globe to accelerate discovery and ease the burden on all those living with these cruel conditions. As we come into the next phase of this exciting project, I would like to thank all those who are making this facility on Grays Inn Road possible.”

Ewan Graham, Partner and Healthcare Sector Lead at architect Hawkins\Brown who oversaw the building design, said: 

“There has never been a more critical time to think about how we design for science, research and health. The building and its landscape have been curated to foster translational research and maximise scientific and clinical collaborations whilst being open and welcoming for patients and visitors too. This building will enable scientists and clinicians to make a meaningful impact in the journey towards finding cures for  complex neurological diseases. The building has adaptability built-in so that it cannot only keep up with changes in technology, science and clinical therapy as they evolve but so that it can stand the test of time and contribute to the local community too.”

* Blood tests could bring new hope to Alzheimer’s clinical trials, Silencing the Huntington's disease gene, Head injuries may worsen cognitive decline decades later
** COVID-19 linked to worse stroke outcomes, Half of children with inflammatory syndrome after COVID-19 have neurologic symptoms