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Vision for £500m biomedical research hub in UK unveiled

Published on 14/12/09 at 09:40pm

Construction of a new biomedical research institute designed to bring the UK to the forefront of fundamental research in a broad range of diseases will get underway early in 2011, according to the team behind the project.

The UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI) brings together four of the UK's leading biomedical research organisations and will be "the most exciting project for UK biomedical research in the next 50 years", according to Professor Sir Paul Nurse of Rockefeller University in New York, one of the architects of the project.

Sir Paul will serve as chairman of scientific planning at the UKCMRI, which will bring scientists from the Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council and University College London under one roof.

The aim is to unite researchers from a broad array of disciplines to increase the understanding of the biological processes underlying cancer, diseases of the cardiovascular, central nervous and immunological systems, and infectious diseases such as flu and malaria.

In addition to that research function, the UKCMRI also intends to serve as a training ground for future scientific leaders and a focal point to promote networking among the UK's biomedical R&D fraternity. It will also benefit from close proximity to a number of top teaching hospitals "where many major breakthroughs in medicine have been made throughout history", according to a UKCMRI press statement.

John Cooper, interim chef executive of the UKCMRI, said: "UKCMRI will pursue vital, ground-breaking research and work with the best scientists to make important discoveries about human disease and health."

A 3.6-acre plot of land in north London has been set aside for the Centre, and planning application to start building the unit will be filed in Spring 2010. If all goes to plan it could be up and running around the end of 2014, with the complete cost of the unit expected to be around £500 million, according to a UKCMRI spokesperson.

The UK government has supported the project via the sale of land formerly owned by the British Library to house the facility. The consortium paid £85 million for the plot, she said, adding that when fully operational there will be around 1,500 staff employed at the site.

UKCMRI will help the UK compete and collaborate with other scientific and medical research hubs, including Biopolis in Singapore, The Allston Initiative at Harvard in the US, and the Shanghai Science-based Industrial Park in China.

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