HRH Duke of York opens institute

10 June 2013

His Royal Highness The Duke of York, KG, Patron of the Royal Free Hospital and Royal Free Charity, today opens the UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead.

The institute is the first of its type in the UK, one of only five in the world and the first outside the US. It will bring groundbreaking research direct from the lab to the bedsides of Londoners being treated for immune-associated conditions at the Royal Free.

Experts at the institute hope to cure chronic conditions such as diabetes with a one-off treatment rather than through years of therapy, bring life-saving transplants to patients in a matter of months rather than years and via gene therapy ensure that transplant patients no longer need to take a cocktail of anti-rejection drugs.

Local patients with cancer, leukaemia and chronic infections including HIV and tuberculosis, auto-immune diseases such as diabetes and other rare conditions such as haemophilia will benefit from their close proximity to the top-of-the-range treatment facilities at the institute. Patients will also have opportunities to participate in the centre’s clinical trials and therefore access the very latest treatments.

Professor Hans Stauss, director of the institute and a world-renowned expert on tumour immunology said: “The opening of the institute is the first step in a journey which I hope will end in us being able to repair and replace many damaged organs and cure lifelong conditions including blindness and spinal cord injuries.

“In five to ten years I see this institute being a global hub for immune-affected patients, who will travel here to be part of UCL medical research and for the clinically excellent, world class care we offer at the Royal Free. However first and foremost I see it as a real boon for the local community to have NHS services available to them on their doorstep, in a facility of this calibre.”

Today’s official opening represents Phase I of a longer term project. Phase II is due to be completed in summer 2017 and would see the development of a standalone building adjacent to the Royal Free which will house further treatment facilities, laboratories and the 200 leading researchers who will work at the institute. The Royal Free Charity has launched an appeal to raise £47 million to complete the second phase of the project. 

Chris Burghes, chief executive of the Royal Free Charity said: “I think that of the many high profile research projects we fund, the Institute of Immunity and Transplantation has the potential to bring the most dramatic benefits for a large number of patients. 

“This appeal is one that our trustees are absolutely passionate about. The Royal Free and the charity have already contributed £7 million which has allowed us to open Phase I of the Institute today, and I hope our appeal to support Phase II is something Londoners will get behind.” 

ENDS

Notes to editor

  • Contact rf.communications@nhs.net for more information or to arrange interviews.
  • Interviews with Professor Hans Stauss, patient representative Jose Drabwell, and Professor Margaret Johnson, clinical director HIV/AIDS are available on request.
  • The Royal Free has an international reputation in the fields of immunology and immune-deficiency, rheumatology and auto-immune disease, chronic infections such as hepatitis and HIV, bone marrow and organ transplants, and rare diseases such as haemophilia.
  • UCL and the Royal Free are part of UCLPartners – a multidisciplinary team of biomedical researchers and clinical staff from more than 20 hospitals, reaching over six million patients in London.
  • UCL and the Royal Free are at the forefront of pioneering research that looks at how the body’s own immune system can kill off cancer cells. The decade-long research has now progressed to clinical trials in leukaemia patients, with the aim of finding new ways to treat the disease and potentially other forms of cancer. The therapy being tested allows the patient’s own immune system to recognise and selectively attack cancer cells in their body. The advantage of this is that after the one-off infusion, the modified cells can replicate themselves and multiply to fight off the cancer, with none of the side effects associated with current cancer treatment. 
  • Researchers working at the Institute will also look for new ways to build artificial organs from biosynthetic materials and stem cells, and create liver cells and insulin-producing cells. By doing so, patients will no longer need to take immune-suppressing drugs which can cause side effects.