U.K. $1 billion medical research center gets go-ahead


LONDON (Reuters), Dec 6 - The government has backed plans to build a 500-million-pound medical research center in London to bring together the country's best scientists.

It has agreed to sell land in central London to a consortium planning the new U.K. Centre for Medical Research and Innovation.

The consortium is paying 85 million pounds for the site, a government source said.

Several developers had made bids to buy the site, near the British Library and St. Pancras station, the new home of high-speed rail services to Europe.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown met researchers and officials leading the project on Wednesday and said it was an exciting development.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Britain to establish itself again in the leadership of medical science," he told them.

The center, expected to open at the end of 2013 and to employ 1,500 people, will have state-of-the-art scientific facilities, the consortium said in a statement.

Research there will lead to new treatments that Britain's National Health Service will be able to trial and adopt, it added.

The project is backed by the publicly funded Medical Research Council; the charity Cancer Research U.K.; University College London and the Wellcome Trust, Britain's largest charity which supports biomedical research.

The center will bring together researchers from the first three institutions while the Wellcome Trust will fund scientists working there.

Dr. Paul Nurse, president of New York's Rockefeller University and winner of the Nobel prize for medicine in 2001, will lead the scientific planning of the center.

The center aims to work on developing treatments for diseases such as cancers, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, meningitis, tuberculosis, and viruses such as the flu and HIV.

By Adrian Croft

Last Updated: 2007-12-05 12:30:14 -0400 (Reuters Health)

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