60 seconds with Professor Hans Stauss

1 June 2017

Professor Hans Stauss, director of the UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation (IIT).

The construction of the Pears Building, which will be home to the IIT, is expected to start this summer. Why are you excited about this project?

I am thrilled about the new opportunities the Pears Building will bring our research teams. UCL is a world leader in research and the Royal Free Hospital is a clinical centre of excellence. The Pears Building will provide more space for the IIT and enable us to further expand our world class research teams, which are using cutting edge technology to better understand what causes disease and how to treat it more effectively.

How will the new building benefit patients?

The IIT brings scientists, doctors and patients together in one place – it is the only medical research centre outside the US to do this. This close proximity to the hospital enables researchers to understand more about disease and the treatments that might bring most benefit to patients. It also means that our scientists have greater access to patient samples. These samples are vital – a fundamental part of our research programme is aimed at modifying the genetic make-up of immune cells to enable our own bodies to fight diseases.

How will the new facilities benefit your researchers and help make new treatments available to patients sooner?

At present, it takes more than 15 years for research discoveries to lead to new treatments for patients. The fact that we will have researchers, doctors, nurses and patients all in the same place and focussed on testing new medicines in clinical trials, will mean that the time frame for bringing new treatments to patients will be substantially shorter.

What benefits will the new building bring the local community?

It will give patients access to new medicines and treatments that are not yet available elsewhere. It means that the Royal Free can attract the best students, junior doctors and nurses, who want to be trained at an international centre of excellence. The carefully designed building and the landscape gardening – which will be open for the public to enjoy – will massively improve the local environment.

Why is it so important that the Pears Building is situated next to the RFH?

Carrying out research that is focused on understanding diseases and developing new treatments requires constant interaction between scientists, doctors, nurses and patients. Sharing expertise, facilities, information and know-how is essential to shorten the time to develop new medicines. It cannot be achieved by building a research institute at a distance from our patients and clinicians.

Tell me a bit about your background and your main areas of research.

After finishing medical school I trained for seven years as an immunologist in the US before I came to the UK. I have always been fascinated by the ability of the immune system to keep us healthy, and wanted to understand what goes wrong when a disease, such as cancer, escapes the immune system control. We are now in a position to re-establish ‘natural’ control of a number of diseases by using innovative forms of immunotherapy.