UK to take unprecedented step in international science leadership

UK to take unprecedented step in international science leadership
21 June 2010

A consortium of the UK's largest and most successful scientific and academic institutions has laid out its plans for the biggest centre for biomedical research and innovation in Europe. The UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI), founded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and UCL (University College London) has released its vision for the institute alongside designs for the building. It will be based at St Pancras and Somers Town in the London Borough of Camden. The project represents a substantial investment from charity and public funders in the future growth of one of the UK's leading sectors.

The Vision was drafted by a panel of leading international scientists who came together to conceive of an institute capable of tackling the underlying causes of our most challenging health problems. They were advised by experts from Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, Harvard, the US National Institutes of Health and other world-renowned institutions, as well as leaders from the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

The building, planned by a team led by the architects HOK working with PLP Architecture, is designed to foster innovation by allowing collaboration between different academic disciplines. The chairman of the Scientific Planning Committee - the Nobel Laureate and President of Rockefeller University, New York and incoming President of the Royal Society - Sir Paul Nurse, explained: UKCMRI aims to break down the traditional barriers between different research teams and different disciplines, thereby encouraging biologists, clinician scientists, chemists, physicists, mathematicians, and computer scientists to work together to answer shared questions. With 1250 scientists working with an encompassing infrastructure, UKCMRI will provide the critical mass, support and unique environment to tackle difficult research questions.

The institute's scientific vigour will be maintained by the continuous renewal of research interests and skills - a strategy at the core of the UKCMRI vision. Most of the research groups at UKCMRI will be led by researchers fresh from a period of postdoctoral research. The institute's research funding, its interactive and interdisciplinary environment, and its cutting-edge scientific infrastructure will allow scientists to tackle ambitious and long-term research questions. These researchers will develop a prominent international scientific profile during a 10-12 year stay at UKCMRI, after which the majority will move on to leadership positions in this country and elsewhere, thereby fulfilling UKCMRI's key role to propagate and disperse scientists of the highest calibre throughout the UK. The institute's cadre of established international research leaders will provide continuity and a science-led operational culture.

Sir Paul Nurse added: Design will be important to the fulfillment of the vision for UKCMRI. The design, created by HOK with PLP Architecture, will create an inspiring working environment.

Jim Smith, Director of the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, said UKCMRI builds on NIMR's interactive and interdisciplinary approach to science, and my colleagues are working hard, together with LRI and UCL researchers, to design the best possible building for our research. We are really looking forward to the new opportunities for collaboration and interaction offered by UKCMRI.

Richard Treisman, Director of the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, said UKCMRI recognises the increased need for multidisciplinary approaches to cancer biology, and LRI researchers are excited by the prospect of new ideas, new colleagues, and new collaborations.

David King, from HOK, described the challenge: This is a complicated project. We have to build a unique workplace that responds to the unique culture of this institute but also provides the core support to make it work, including the most precise and cutting edge equipment. Working very closely with dozens of scientists, we've strived to create a highly sustainable and logistically flexible building.

Fred Pilbrow, from PLP Architecture, has focused on the external design: The architectural strengths in many of the buildings surrounding the UKCMRI site have provided extraordinary inspiration. We have tried to create a design which respects and enhances that legacy - but which opens the science of the institute to the world.

The interim UKCMRI Chief Executive, John Cooper said: UKCMRI will create knowledge that will benefit patients through the NHS; the UK economy through discovery and innovation; and UK universities and research institutions through the dissemination of expertise. The London Borough of Camden is home to a unique concentration of scientific skill, leading hospitals and in UCL, one of the world's top universities - UKCMRI will aim to be a focal point for the extraordinary talent and knowledge in the borough. And we aim to play a pivotal role in the fortunes of the local community.

Scientific vision and research strategy [PDF 2.5mb]
UK to take unprecedented step in international science leadership [Press Release PDF 89kb]
Design Briefing [PDF 1mb]

Notes to editors
Additional quotes:

Sir David Cooksey, chairman of UKCMRI described how the institute would enable translation to the benefit of patients and the economy: UKCMRI will encourage researchers to work together to maximise the benefits of their effort. There is a wealth of opportunity in the UK for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries which will be enhanced by the creation of UKCMRI. Through its links with the NHS, the institute will provide long-lasting benefits to people and will help to deliver innovations that will improve health and strengthen our knowledge-based economy.

Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council: An inspirational building to house inspirational science. UKCMRI will combine the brightest minds in science with world class facilities. The result? A flourishing environment for internationally recognised research, which will provide the stage for the next generation of medical breakthroughs.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK: Our single vision shows our joint commitment to beating the diseases that affect the lives of so many people in the UK each year. By working together, UKCMRI scientists will produce cutting-edge research and help the UK keep its place as a world-leader in scientific innovation. Crucially, these advances will be translated into better treatments for diseases, including cancer. This collaboration will ultimately bring huge benefits for cancer patients in the future, who will be diagnosed, treated and cured using breakthroughs that will be made at UKCMRI.

Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust: UKCMRI will provide an outstanding environment for the best scientists to make important discoveries about human health and disease. The centre will recruit and train outstanding researchers and encourage creative research to investigate the most challenging questions. It will be a global beacon for medical research for the 21st century.

Professor Malcolm Grant, President and Provost of UCL: UCL is fully committed to UKCMRI as one of its founding partners. All four partners are major UK scientific institutions and bringing them together will be a major step forward for UK medical research. UKCMRI will be sited at the heart of a cluster of London's leading scientific, academic and hospital institutions. This brings numerous benefits locally as well as nationally and we anticipate that UKCMRI will be a vital catalyst for jobs and regeneration in Camden.

The UKCMRI consortium

The UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI) is an unprecedented partnership between four of the world's leading biomedical research organisations: the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and UCL (University College London). It will carry out research of the highest quality using the latest technology to advance understanding of human health and disease. The institute will be constructed on 3.6 acres of land at Brill Place, to the north of the British Library in the St Pancras and Somers Town area of north London.

Building on research excellence
UKCMRI will initially build on the complementary skills and research interests of two of the founders' research institutes, the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) and the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute (LRI), together with UCL scientists focusing on physics, computing, engineering, imaging and chemistry.


  • NIMR is renowned for its research in a diverse range of fields, including developmental and stem cell biology, structural biology, neuroscience, immunology and infectious disease. Its 600 scientific staff are based in laboratories in north London at Mill Hill. NIMR's director is Jim Smith.
  • LRI has an international reputation for basic cancer biology research, focusing on cell regulation and signalling, tumour and tissue biology, and genomic integrity. Directed by Richard Treisman, LRI has some 500 scientists working at laboratories at Lincoln's Inn Fields, central London and Clare Hall, Hertfordshire.

In addition to funding the cost of building UKCMRI, the founders will provide ongoing research support to the institute. Wellcome Trust support will fund interdisciplinary research spanning biology, chemistry, physics, maths and engineering.


Key facts

  • 1500 staff, including 1250 scientists
  • Annual budget of over £100m
  • Initial investment of £600m (breakdown)
  • 3.5 acres of land
  • 79,000 square metres of building


  • Summer 2010 - planning application
  • Early 2011 - Construction starts
  • 2015 - Construction ends
  • 2015 - Science begins

For more information on the project contact: [email protected] or call 0800 0286 731.


The partners:

The Medical Research Council: For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century.

Cancer Research UK is the world's leading charity dedicated to beating cancer through research. The charity's groundbreaking work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives. This work is funded entirely by the public. Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates double in the last thirty years. Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of more than 4,800 scientists, doctors and nurses. Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to beat cancer. For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7121 6699 or visit

The Wellcome Trust is a global charity dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.

UCL (University College London): UCL is London's leading multi-disciplinary university, with 8000 staff and 23,000 students from 150 countries engaged in world-class teaching and research. UCL is the fourth-ranked university in the 2009 THES-QS World University Rankings and one of Europe's largest and most productive centres for biomedical science. It is ranked second in the world for neuroscience and behaviour, with more than twice as many publications and citations as any other European institution. In 2008 it established UCL Partners, Europe's largest Academic Health Science Centre, with four key partner hospital trusts - Great Ormond Street, Moorfields, the Royal Free and University College Hospital.

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