A leap forwards for the future home of UK DRI at UCL

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The London Borough of Camden’s planning committee has approved UCL’s planning application to redevelop the former site of the Eastman Dental Hospital, paving the way for a new world-leading research centre for dementia and neurological disease research. The site will house over 500 researchers from the UK Dementia Research Institute and UCL’s Queen Square Institute of Neurology, all working towards the Government’s 2020 Challenge on Dementia.

The Eastman Dental Hospital is due to vacate the site by the end of this year and relocate to a new development at Huntley Street. This will allow redevelopment of the site on Gray's Inn Road with scientists expected to move in 2024. In addition to cutting-edge research facilities, the building also plans to have dementia treatment outpatient facilities for the University College Hospital Trust, an on-site public café and dedicated space for community and public events.

Today marks a huge leap forward. We’re excited to see the ambitious plans for the new hub of the UK DRI at UCL come to life. The world-class facilities and infrastructure will be like no other and will provide a modern and adaptable platform for our hundreds of scientists to ultimately find ways to treat and prevent dementia. Dr Adrian Ivinson, UK DRI Director, COO

Dementia costs society an estimated £26 billion a year, more than the costs of cancer, heart disease or stroke. It is estimated that if there was a disease-modifying treatment from 2020 that delayed the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by five years, by 2035 there would be 425,000 fewer people with dementia, with accumulated savings from 2020 of around £100 billion.

Speaking on the announcement, Prof Alan Thompson, Garfield Weston Professor of Clinical Neurology and Neurorehabilitation and Dean of Faculty of Brain Sciences, said: 

"We are delighted Camden Council has approved these plans, which will ensure this historic site remains at the heart of London’s cutting-edge health and science communities.

This world-leading facility will transform our ability to tackle the devastating global health challenge of neurological diseases such as dementia, which is now the leading cause of death in England and Wales.

By bringing the new building into UCL’s existing neuroscience community, we aim to create the most comprehensive, coordinated neuroscience research hub in the world.”

Prof Michael Hanna, Director of the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, added: 

I am truly delighted that this critical stage has now been reached. We have all been working for the last eight years with the aim and hope of reaching this key point. We are now poised to create one of the world’s best environments to accelerate discovery in neuroscience and to develop new treatments that will improve the lives of our patients with devastating common and rare neurological diseases. 

This will be a truly exceptional environment to attract and train the next generation of translational neuroscientists and to enable partnership working with all stakeholders nationally and globally. This is undoubtedly a historic milestone in the 75 year history of clinical and research excellence of the Queen Square Institute of Neurology, and secures a very bright future.”

All this is thanks to UCL, the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, the Medical Research Council, and philanthropic donations – as well as money raised, through the plastic bag tax, by the UCL Dementia Retail Partnership.

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Great collaboration

Following approval, exciting plans can now be put into place to create this new new world-class, purpose-built biomedical facility.

Big data is an ever growing and fundamental part of research. Having academic floorspace with neurological research in the same site will allow for greater innovation, research and allow us to become world-leaders in the field. These elements have been seen to excellently foster collaboration in the local area, for example the Francis Crick Institute and Google. 

Together our aim is to provide the most comprehensive, coordinated neuroscience centre in the world – from research at laboratory benches to patient care. It will bring neuroscience and neurology researchers together who are working across eight interlinked neurological diseases.

There will be between 500-600 people working in the new centre of excellence. The majority of these will be researchers, alongside administrative and support staff.

Great location

Camden as a borough is recognised as an international centre of excellence in medical research. The site is situated within London’s Knowledge Quarter, which is one of the greatest knowledge clusters anywhere in the world. It is home to a collection of diverse organisations of all sizes, which form a part of the knowledge community. This includes UCL itself, The Wellcome Trust, the Royal College of Physicians, the Medical Research Council and the Francis Crick Institute. This enables researchers and clinicians based at the new centre to collaborate with these organisations to encourage new advances that will further medical, academic and scientific research. Collaboration and knowledge-sharing fostered by the expansion of the Knowledge Quarter will encourage new advances that will further academic and scientific understanding.

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Great facilities

The centre of excellence will support 500-600 people with a 200-seat versatile seminar theatre, six new MRI scanners as well as new public spaces and a café, open to the whole community. It will be designed with patients in mind, offering bright and welcoming spaces to move away from traditional institutional design.

First class conferencing facilities will be included in the building to allow the centre to host international events in dementia care and research. As well as offering a modern space for work and collaboration, the new facility will have excellent sustainability credentials. 

The design of the building is forward-thinking. It has longevity and it will be able to adapt to ever-changing practices in scientific research and modern ways of science. There are some elements that will always be required, such as wet labs, but the build works will take approximately four years and we cannot predict where science will be when the building opens. Therefore, we are designing it to be flexible and reconfigurable. It will be very technologically advanced and it will be cost effective because numerous researchers will share technology, laboratories and equipment rather than each department having its own.

Respect for the environment and local community are key principles underpinning the development. The new building will target BREEAM Excellent rating, aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 40% and produce low levels of waste going into landfill from the construction process. It will be open to the public with a café and exhibition spaces as well as thoroughfares for both walkers and cyclists. New landscaped areas will include a sensory garden, a courtyard and plenty of green space to create a calm environment for patients, visitors, workers and residents alike.

All for great science that improves lives. 

Inside New Building

In May 2019 a planning application was submitted to London Borough of Camden for the landmark future home for the UK DRI hub and UCL IoN which hopes to open its doors in 2024 – to view the application and submit comments to London Borough of Camden Please visit: using reference: 2019/2879/P

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