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Major new investment in life sciences infrastructure boosts much-needed lab space

By May 12, 2023No Comments

Wellcome has announced major investment in phase one of Cambridgeshire development which will deliver new lab space and unlock future development across 315-acre campus expansion site.

The Wellcome Genome Campus at Hinxton, Cambridgeshire will undergo a major expansion that will secure its status as a world-leading hub for genomics and biodata.

Investment for the expansion’s first phase has been approved by the board of Wellcome, a charitable foundation and one of the world’s biggest funders of biomedical research. This first phase alone will be one of the largest contemporary investments in the UK’s life sciences infrastructure.

The new development – for which Wellcome has allocated hundreds of millions of pounds – will be part of the foundation’s investment portfolio and will generate a return to support its mission of supporting science to solve urgent health challenges.

Thirty years after the creation of the campus, the expansion will add much-needed capacity for biosciences at a time when the UK is facing a shortage in laboratory space, and will build on the success of existing long-term occupiers: the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), and the BioData Innovation Centre, which houses a range of start-up companies as part of the site’s genomics and biodata community.

The site will continue to focus on genomics and biodata, aiming to attract global leaders in these fields and provide enhanced opportunities for this research to be translated into real-world solutions for health challenges. The new facilities will accommodate a range of occupiers from start-ups and scale-ups to more mature organisations, growing and enhancing the existing scientific ecosystem.

This first phase will unlock development across the 315-acre extension by putting in place crucial infrastructure and readying parcels of land for new occupiers to build on. It delivers a near doubling of the built area of the existing campus with:

  • 180,000 square feet of new research space
  • around 400 of the 1,500 total planned homes for people working on the site
  • an electrical grid throughout the site, connected to a new substation that will support renewable generation on site, along with other enabling work, roads and parking to underpin the expansion of the campus.

Detailed building designs will be developed this year with the first buildings due for completion in early 2026.

Future phases will see a further 1.4mn square feet of laboratory and research space, the remaining homes, further amenities and community facilities, and a local primary school.

Wellcome will use low-carbon methods of construction and is looking at the best ways to generate renewable energy on site, with an aim for the development to be net zero in operation.

The Wellcome Genome Campus opened in 1994, building on the establishment of the Wellcome Sanger Institute – then called the Sanger Centre – in 1993. The institute was responsible for sequencing one third of the human genome as a partner in the Human Genome Project.

This thriving campus is the leading hub for genomic science in Europe, bringing together nearly 3,000 people including employees, PhD students and visiting workers between Sanger, EMBL-EBI and those in a range of specialist and innovative genomics and biodata companies.

Recent developments in genomics pioneered on the campus have shown promise in treating various types of cancer, have helped in diagnosing rare genetic diseases, and are contributing to early-warning signs for infectious disease outbreaks.

Matt Hurles, Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute said:

“Expanding the campus will create opportunities to catalyse additional collaborations, so that we can continue to do innovative science at scale to overcome the challenges facing society. It is only by working together that we can continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in genome research – from finding new ways to understand and treat cancer, to helping provide children with rare genetic disorders with a diagnosis for the first time. I look forward to the next few exciting years to come, as these ambitious development plans become reality.”