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POSTED ON: 14 December 2021
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One year ago, a world-first research centre opened its doors at The London Cancer Hub – accelerating efforts to find a new generation of ‘anti-evolution’ treatments.

The Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery is one of a cluster of new buildings that have recently opened at the site in Sutton, South London. In 2019, Harris Academy Sutton opened, becoming the UK’s first super low-energy Passivhaus secondary school.

This was followed by Maggie’s Cancer Centre, a facility to enhance emotional support for patients at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust – and, most recently, in late 2021 the Innovation Gateway opened. The Innovation Gateway is an incubator hub offering life science companies the opportunity to collaborate with partners on site.

The pioneering Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery is one of the flagship buildings at The London Cancer Hub – a collaboration between The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The London Borough of Sutton. It will enhance the ICR’s ability to discover innovative new cancer treatments and partner with industry to take new treatments to patients.

The £75m state-of-the-art facility now hosts hundreds of drug discoverers and cancer evolutionary scientists under one roof to lead a revolutionary ‘Darwinian’ research programme: the building brings together around 300 leading scientists across different disciplines who are searching for ways to overcome cancer’s ability to evolve and become drug-resistant.

The Innovation Gateway, located only metres away, offers high-quality laboratory, office and collaboration space for a range of companies working in the life sciences – providing exciting opportunities for partnering with industry.

A vibrant research hub

Over the last year, 21 research teams have moved into the Centre, and as Covid-19 restrictions have eased the building is coming into its own as a lively hub of collaboration. Dr Olivia Rossanese, who leads our Cancer Therapeutics Unit, explains.

“One of the most jarring things about moving into the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery during the pandemic was seeing the shared spaces quiet and empty.”

“The whole building was designed with collaboration in mind – we designed the shared spaces to be vibrant, welcoming hubs that promote interaction and collaboration. And then we moved in at a time when those very interactions were not allowed!”

But that is changing.                              

“It has been an absolute joy over the past year to watch those spaces fill up,” Dr Rossanese says, “first with furniture, then with scientists and researchers, bursting with new ideas and eager to interact with team mates and colleagues. I am so delighted to see the building in use as intended, supporting our researchers in their work to discover the next generation of cancer therapeutics.”

A new era of collaboration

For Professor Swen Hoelder, a Team Leader in Medicinal Chemistry within the Cancer Therapeutics Unit, the move to the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery was a major step change for research and collaboration.

Previously, his team was based in a building that was constructed in the 1980s – which was functional, but outdated. Their new labs are designed for state-of-the-art, cutting-edge research – but just as importantly, their new position in the Centre locates them alongside other teams.

Professor Hoelder says: “The building on the whole is a lot more communicative. We mix a lot and share the writing area with several other teams. There are areas where I can sit down and talk and I also bump into people more, and stop and chat about science or football and other things.

“Being in the Centre makes a huge difference. We could work in our previous facility. But now we’re in a space we really like to be in and where you feel your mind can open up and develop new ideas.”

Find out more

To find out more about the Innovation Gateway, including opportunities to take space and collaborate with the ICR’s scientists in cancer drug discovery and other areas of oncology, visit our Innovation Gateway page or contact our Business Development Manager Andy Carr.

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