'Bring life science home to East End' - Tower Hamlets call to government

Campaign to set up research agency in east London

There's a campaign to set up a research agency in east London - Credit: QMUL

Britain’s place as a “global science superpower” could be centred on the East End with the government announcing a life science research bureau to be set up.

It follows a campaign by Tower Hamlets councillor Rabina Khan to use Canary Wharf. 

Pioneering inventors would be funded by an agency for research “that offers the chance of high rewards and supporting ground-breaking discoveries”, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced on Friday, February 19. 

Cllr Rabina Khan calls for Life Science agency to be set up in Canary Wharf

Cllr Rabina Khan says a life science agency should be set up in Canary Wharf. - Credit: Mike Brooke

It follows calls by Cllr Khan - first revealed in the East London Advertiser in October - for a “life science bureau” at Canary Wharf to replace the European Medicines Agency which quit the UK over Brexit. 

“The medicines agency's departure took 40,000 business visits away from Tower Hamlets,” Cllr Khan said this week. “This has been one of the areas I have been pushing for even more so with the impact of the pandemic.” 

Her campaign is backed by Lord Fox, Lord Newby and London Assembly’s Caroline Pidgeon who appealed to Parliament’s science and technology committee in a joint letter on January 13.

Their letter says: “We would like to point you towards Cllr Khan's proposal for replacing the European Medicines Agency with a life science bureau to provide hope for Britain’s economic, social, and green sustainability. Tower Hamlets would be ideal, as proven by Barts NHS Trust which has 32,000 patients from the community taking part in clinical research programmes.”

Barts medical research in east London

Barts medical research involves tens of thousands of people in east London - Credit: Barts Health NHS Trust

Queen Mary University and Barts Life Sciences are already world leaders in groundbreaking research into areas such as cancer, heart and other disease. 

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Cllr Khan points out: “Barts Health has one of the richest databases in Europe. Tower Hamlets would be the perfect area to replace the medicines agency as it is wedged between Canary Wharf and the City financial districts. It's the perfect place for Britain’s new science research.”  

World groundbreaking medical research at Barts Life Science Whitechapel labs

World groundbreaking medical research at Barts Life Science Whitechapel labs - Credit: Mike Brooke

The agency would have £800million government cash to inspire inventors to turn ideas into new technologies, discoveries, products and services “to help maintain the UK’s position as a global science superpower”. Legislation to create the new agency is being introduced when Parliamentary time allows, the government promises, to be fully operational by 2022.