Blog POSTED ON: 16 February 2018

Our vision for The London Cancer Hub took a step closer to becoming reality this month, with a £14 million investment in land on the hub’s Sutton site. Here Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Operating Officer at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, explains what this important milestone means for the future development of the project.

The London Borough of Sutton and the ICR recently announced a new £14.1 million investment in land on The London Cancer Hub’s site in Sutton, south London.

It was a big moment for the project, doubling the new land secured on the site for cancer research, treatment, education and enterprise.

The investment by the London Borough of Sutton follows an earlier £14 million purchase of land on the site, and will be crucial in unlocking the project’s commercial potential.

The ICR, working closely with our partners at the Council, is busy building links with investors and encouraging interest among potential occupiers of new buildings on the site.

Securing investment in new facilities, and bringing together world-class scientists and clinicians with innovative private companies, is fundamental to our ultimate vision – to become the world’s leading cancer-specialist life-science community.

Future plans for the site

Working together, the ICR and Sutton Council have big and exciting plans for the new land, which will host exciting new academic and commercial buildings.

At its heart will be The London Cancer Hub’s pioneering new ‘Knowledge Centre’ which will provide a focal point for research, knowledge sharing, teaching and communication.

The Knowledge Centre will form the centrepiece of the new campus, bringing together academic researchers, innovative companies, clinicians, patients and the public – encouraging intermingling that will stimulate new ideas and accelerate advances in cancer research and treatment.

There will be laboratories, academic, clinical and commercial meeting facilities, public exhibition space and a rooftop viewing gallery. The centre will drive greater integration between research and care, and facilitate strong partnerships between academia, the NHS and industry.

And this is just the start. The total transformation of the site will cost in excess of £1bn over the 20-year lifetime of the project, financed through a combination of private investment, Government grants, philanthropy and commercial rental income.

Commercial partners are vital

Key to our success will be attracting high-calibre commercial tenants to locate on the Sutton site.

We are particularly excited about new opportunities to accelerate discoveries from the lab into the clinic, which will come through forging new collaborations and partnerships with these companies. So we now need to attract the right companies who share our vision of accelerating discoveries to defeat cancer.

We know we offer an attractive proposition, with unique new opportunities through locating on the same site as a world-class comprehensive cancer centre. And we are pleased that our initial discussions with potential commercial R&D partners have already confirmed a strong demand to co-locate alongside the world-class research and healthcare provision already at the Sutton site.

Benefits for commercial partners

If we’re going to attract the best, we need to articulate clearly what the benefits are for potential commercial partners in locating onto the site. I would see our site having four key advantages over other life-science clusters elsewhere in the UK or internationally.

Excellence

The ICR is one of the world’s most influential cancer research organisations, and the top higher education institution in the UK for research quality and impact. The Royal Marsden is the UK’s leading cancer hospital.

Scale

Together, the ICR and The Royal Marsden already form one of the top four centres for cancer research and treatment globally – and one of the largest in the world. Likewise, the joint Drug Development Unit in Sutton is one of the world’s largest Phase I clinical trial centres. The London Cancer Hub will allow the ICR and The Royal Marsden to continue to grow, doubling the amount of space available for cancer research, treatment, education and enterprise.

A core focus on cancer 

Unlike other life-sciences campus developments, The London Cancer Hub will have a single, clear therapeutic focus. Together, the ICR and the Royal Marsden comprise the only NIHR Biomedical Research Centre dedicated to cancer.

Co-location

Having world-class research on the same site as healthcare facilities and commercial space will drive cross-sector collaboration, with corporate partners gaining access to world-leading experts in cancer research and treatment, as well as to cancer patients.

Flexible opportunities

After several years of planning, this new land deal now enables us to accelerate our activities. We have already begun engaging directly with commercial partners who are potential tenants for the first wave of development, including the Knowledge Centre. 

The development path of The London Cancer Hub is not fixed. We are open to different models that are tailored to suit the needs of individual commercial occupiers. Our research suggests that, unlike with some similar life-sciences campuses, companies may wish to co-locate specific functions onto The London Cancer Hub that complement expertise already available on the site.

For example, we’ve had discussions with a mid-sized European biotech company who are interested in co-locating some of their staff next to the ICR’s Cancer Therapeutics Unit to work together on drug discovery projects.

We’ve also talked to some larger, global companies that are seeking to gain access to the translational capabilities of the ICR and The Royal Marsden by locating specific functions, rather than moving wholesale onto the site. Others are just seeking touch-down or office space for commercial or educational purposes.

Looking to the future

One of our next steps will be to follow up on the significant interest we have from development partners who wish to invest in the project in the short to medium term. We will also need to plan a more formal process of approaching a number of potential high-calibre partners who we think can help accelerate our mission.

And we are continuing to engage with national and London government – and indeed representatives from across the political spectrum – as we seek support for the enabling infrastructure, including the necessary improvements to public transport.

The ICR’s mission is to make the discoveries that defeat cancer. Increasingly, this requires working closely with clinical and commercial partners in new ways.

We are confident that The London Cancer Hub can become the world’s leading life-science community for cancer research, treatment, education and enterprise – one that will offer outstanding opportunities for commercial partners to join us on the site. We expect the new hub will reap benefits not only for the ICR and the local area, London and the UK – but, most importantly, for cancer patients worldwide.