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Cutting edge research facility could transform Whitechapel and benefit patients

17 January 2017

Whitechapel could become home to a cutting edge research facility where doctors and scientists join forces to bring new treatments to patients faster.

New plans propose the creation of a thriving Life Sciences Institute at the heart of a vibrant 24-hour campus which would sit next door to The Royal London, one of London’s top teaching hospitals.

The Institute would be home to up to 100 researchers and serve 1,000 students. They would work alongside doctors, chemists, engineers and computer scientists to investigate the genetic makeup of the local population and solve some of the riddles that puzzle healthcare professionals around the world.

The plans, drawn up by Barts Health NHS Trust and Queen Mary University of London, seek to redevelop under-used land left over after the completion of the new state-of-the-art Royal London Hospital in 2012.

The Trust and the University plan to capitalise on the scale of the country’s largest group of NHS hospitals, the world-leading reputation of the University in Life Sciences research and education, and the extraordinary diversity of the local population that both institutions serve.

The aim is to translate exciting discoveries from academic research into ground-breaking clinical practice that improves patient care. Developing new diagnostic tools, new drugs or new medical technologies could in turn generate commercial opportunities that bring new jobs and wealth to one of the most deprived communities in Britain.

The University and the Trust have already started mapping their mutual expertise to generate a mixture of research projects and clinical trials. Now the two bodies want to develop an institute that will harnesses the strength of each for the benefit of the local population. For example, it might look at why south Asian men are more prone to diabetes, or Afro-Caribbean women are vulnerable to high blood pressure. The ultimate prize is to determine how patients could be better treated.

Alwen Williams, chief executive of Barts Health said: “The size and diversity of our population means we can effectively run global clinical trials locally. We have many of the world’s population groups on our doorstep, in sufficient numbers to provide an unrivalled store of health information. Using Life Sciences disciplines with the expertise of our doctors and scientists, this gene pool can be explored for insights into why different types of people get sick in different ways.”

Professor Simon Gaskell, President and Principal, QMUL, said: “We have an extraordinary opportunity to work with BHT and other partners - both academic and commercial - to take new capabilities in the life sciences and convert them into tangible benefits for our local communities and well beyond. This multidisciplinary endeavour will draw on the University’s key strengths and expertise in research and teaching, and combine with those of our partners to establish a translational medicine centre of international renown.”

Barts Health has obtained approval from NHS Improvement to explore options for realising the benefits of its under-used land by either selling it, or setting up a joint venture to develop it and provide a valuable long-term income stream. The new plans will now be considered by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets before work can start on more detailed business cases in April 2017.

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Barts Health NHS Trust

With a turnover of £1.4 billion and a workforce of around 16,000, Barts Health is the largest NHS trust in the country, and one of Britain’s leading healthcare providers. The Trust’s five hospitals – St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City, including the Barts Heart Centre, The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, Newham University Hospital in Plaistow, Whipps Cross University Hospital in Leytonstone and Mile End – deliver high quality compassionate care to the 2.5 million people of East London and beyond.


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