UCL News


HM The Queen visits UCL laboratory aiming to cure type 1 diabetes

29 June 2023

Her Majesty The Queen today spoke with pioneering UCL scientists, who are at the forefront of research aimed at finding a cure for type 1 diabetes, as part of a visit organised by the charity JDRF.

HM The Queen speaking with scientists at UCL's Institute of Immunity & Transplantation

The Queen, who is President of JDRF – a global charity dedicated to eradicating type 1 diabetes – was given a guided tour of Professor Lucy Walker’s state-of-the-art laboratories at UCL’s Institute of Immunity and Transplantation, based at the new and RIBA award winning Pears Building.  

Professor Walker and her team are working on research that aims to stop the immune attack responsible for type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune conditions. This research is funded by the Connect Immune Research Partnership, which was established by JDRF and other autoimmune charities (Versus Arthritis, MS Society and the British Society of Immunology) in 2018.

On arriving at the Pears Building, based at the Royal Free Hospital campus, London, The Queen was welcomed by UCL President & Provost, Dr Michael Spence and UCL Vice Provost (Health), Professor David Lomas, before being greeted by JDRF’s Chief Executive Karen Addington and Professor Walker along with her collaborator Professor Vijay Chudasama (UCL Chemistry).

The Queen visited the flow cytometry facility where she was shown how the research team studies immune cells from the blood, before being taken to the advanced light microscopy facility. This facility allows scientists to study immune cell interactions using fluorescent markers in fine detail. Here, The Queen was able to view a pancreas section highlighting insulin-producing cells that are destroyed by the immune system in type 1 diabetes.

Professor Walker, Professor of Immune Regulation at UCL, said: “It’s a huge honour to welcome Her Majesty to the UCL Institute of Immunity & Transplantation and showcase the research we do here in pursuit of a cure for type 1 diabetes. This visit highlights the critical importance of research in making discoveries that can lead to new treatments.

“It’s an incredibly exciting time in immunology where we are seeing real progress towards our goal of turning off unwanted immune responses. The support of funders such as JDRF is essential for these discoveries to be translated to life-changing therapies and I’m delighted that The Queen has honoured us with this visit.”

JDRF are a leading global charity dedicated to eradicating type 1 diabetes, and are a long-standing and highly-valued funder of Professor Walker’s research at UCL.

UCL President & Provost, Dr Michael Spence, said: “We are delighted to welcome Her Majesty The Queen to UCL and provide an opportunity to hear from our world-leading scientists at UCL’s Institute of Immunity and Transplantation.

“Professor Lucy Walker and her team are dedicated to researching the causes of type 1 diabetes, and with every new insight and discovery, they are helping transform our understanding of this disease and other debilitating autoimmune conditions.”

JDRF CEO, Karen Addington, said: “We are thrilled to welcome The Queen to Professor Lucy Walker's lab and showcase the innovative work being carried out thanks to funding from the Connect Immune Research Partnership. We are incredibly grateful for The Queen’s support over her many years as our President, and for helping us raise awareness about the importance of research in advancing our understanding of type 1 diabetes, bringing us closer to a cure.”

Following the research tour, The Queen then joined a reception where she met JDRF supporters including Theresa May MP, Derrick Evans (Mr Motivator), Sheku Kanneh-Mason MBE, and Nina Wadia who spoke about their first-hand experience of living with type 1 diabetes and their hopes for the future of research.

The UCL Institute of Immunity & Transplantation is part of the UCL Division of Infection & Immunity. In 2021, the Institute moved to the Pears Building, a cutting-edge facility developed in collaboration with the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and Royal Free Charity. The world-class research centre brings together leading scientists, academic clinicians, and clinical trials specialists from all over the world to develop revolutionary treatments and therapies for patients.

In June 2023, the Pears Building was awarded the prestigious RIBA London award for outstanding architecture.


  • HM The Queen with UCL researchers. Credit: Andrew Parsons Photography/UCL