New multi-million pound research hub

5 November 2012

Work is underway to create the first phase of a multi-million pound research centre which aims to give patients quicker access to the latest innovative therapies for a range of diseases.

The Institute of Immunity, Infection and Transplantation, a partnership development between the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and University College London (UCL), will see world-leading research and clinical trials being brought together in a purpose-designed centre at the Royal Free Hospital.

The research taking place concentrates on developing vaccinations, gene therapy and cell therapy to target cancer, chronic infections (such as HIV, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis), auto-immune diseases (including diabetes, scleroderma and inflammatory bowel disease) and rare diseases such as immunodeficiency, haemophilia and amyloidosis, as well as new types of transplantation. 

Professor Margaret Johnson, clinical director for HIV/AIDS services at the Royal Free and professor of HIV medicine at UCL, said: “The vision for the institute is to facilitate and advance ‘bench to bedside’ translational research – essentially translating research into practice. This means that through clinical trials, patients will have access to the latest innovative treatments developed by our on-site researchers which are not yet available anywhere else, instead of having to wait until they become mainstream treatments.

“The first phase of the institute will enable us to co-locate the groups that are currently conducting research in the areas of immunity, infection and transplantation at the Royal Free campus of UCL alongside clinical services. Working alongside each other will stimulate joint working between researchers and clinicians, helping to create a rich and conducive environment in which to conduct research. It will also enable synergies between research projects.”

Professor Hans Stauss, head of clinical immunology at the Royal Free and head of the UCL research department of immunology, said: “The institute will be a hub for experimental medicine, transforming novel research concepts into new diagnostic tools and therapies for patients.

“The first phase will enable us to bring together our clinical and research expertise in state-of-the-art facilities, enhancing the quality of our research. As we move forward with phase two, we hope to attract even more world-renowned experts to our institution and broaden and advance the range of research that is currently taking place.”

The first phase involves the refurbishment of an area on the second floor of the hospital to create state-of-the-art laboratories, clinical space and a clinical trials unit. New academic appointments have also been made to strengthen research on the Royal Free campus, including three new professors, a reader and a group leader.

Work on the first phase is due to be completed by April next year and the institute should be operational by June. The second phase of the project would see the scale of the facility increased with the construction of a brand new building. A £22million fund-raising campaign for this has been launched by the Royal Free Charity.

Chris Burghes, chief executive of the charity, said: “Phase two of the institute would enable us to increase the scale and the ambition of the facility, with more than 3,500 square metres of research space. Additional facilities would allow us to further increase our research in these areas so even more patients could benefit in the long term.”

If you would like to donate to the appeal, please contact the charity on 020 7472 6677 or email rf.fundraising@nhs.net.

ENDS

Notes to editors

For more information contact rf.communications@nhs.net.

The Royal Free is a major teaching hospital and a campus of UCL. The institute is a joint development and a key initiative for UCLPartners. The new academic appointments that have been made as part of the first phase of the institute are: Professor David Sansom, Professor Lucy Walker and Professor Amit Nathwani. Siobhan Burns has been appointed as reader in immunodeficiency and Jo Grove as research fellow in viral immunology. 

About the Royal Free

The Royal Free attracts patients from across the country and beyond to its specialist services in liver, kidney and bone marrow transplantation, haemophilia, surgery for hepatopancreatobiliary (HPB) conditions, clinical neurosciences, renal, HIV, infectious diseases, plastic surgery, immunology, vascular surgery, cardiology, amyloidosis and scleroderma and is a member of the academic health science partnership UCLPartners.

About UCL

Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. It is among the world's top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has 24,000 students from almost 140 countries, and more than 9,500 employees. Its annual income is over £800million. More information is available at www.ucl.ac.uk

About the Royal Free Charity

The Royal Free Charity spends over £4million annually on improving the patient experience and funding pioneering medical research.