Global life science research campus in Whitechapel moves step closer

World renowned life science research at Whitechapel

A life sciences campus in Whitechapel has moved a step closer (archive photo of laboratory work at Royal London Hospital) - Credit: Mike Brooke

A deal to develop a life sciences cluster in Whitechapel for world medical research has got the government go-ahead for Queen Mary University.

The project involves Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the Royal London complex, to establish a “major centre of life science excellence” and make Britain a global science superpower. 

It follows a campaign, begun in October last year by Tower Hamlets councillor Rabina Khan, for government funding for a life science research agency. 

Colonnade of proposed lifer science research campus

Colonnade of proposed life science research campus - Credit: QMUL

The landmark deal with the Department of Health extends the university's commitment in tackling health inequalities at local, national and global levels. 

“This is a momentous day,” Queen Mary’s principal Prof Colin Bailey said. “It signals one of the largest research investments in our history and reinforces our commitment to the health and economic success of east London's community.”  

The scheme involves a planning application to Tower Hamlets Council for the whole cluster, which is earmarked between Whitechapel Road and Commercial Road. 

It is a major coup, Mayor John Biggs believes, with families in the East End to benefit from better health treatment.

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The mayor added: "Establishing Whitechapel as a major research centre will also attract business and provide young people with the chance to train for life science careers.”  

The go-ahead comes a year after Cllr Khan called for a life science bureau initially suggested for Canary Wharf, first revealed in the East London Advertiser in October 2020, in the wake of the European Medicines Agency quitting the UK over Brexit.  

Her campaign was backed by Lord Fox, Lord Newby and London Assembly’s Caroline Pidgeon who appealed to Parliament in January this year for a life science bureau. Tower Hamlets would be ideal, they suggested, because of Barts' 32,000 patients taking part in clinical research programmes. 

The government minister for innovation, Lord Kamall, said: “Clinical research has been vital in our fight against Covid-19. Making the Whitechapel Life Sciences cluster a reality is an important step towards tackling health disparities as we build from the pandemic.”

Whitechapel has a track record of world standard research, such as the East London Genes study that helped identify genetic links in conditions like Covid-19 among the East End’s Bangladeshi population.  

The new Whitechapel research cluster reaching as far as New Road

The new Whitechapel research cluster would reach as far as New Road - Credit: QMUL

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