£20 million Cancer Research UK drug development centre underway

24 Oct 2007
A state-of-the-art facility devoted to developing experimental cancer treatments is to be built at Cancer Research UK’s Clare Hall Laboratories in Hertfordshire, helping to bring the latest scientific developments to patients’ bedsides.

The £20 milllion purpose-built facility will house Cancer Research UK’s Biotherapeutics Development Unit (BDU), responsible for developing antibodies, gene therapies and cancer vaccines for use in clinical trials.

The facility plays a crucial role in producing new biological therapies, which will be tested in early clinical trials through the charity’s Drug Development Office. If successful, they could one day be used to treat cancer patients, helping turn scientists’ discoveries into potentially life-saving treatments.

The biological therapies to be investigated are developed from natural substances in the body. They fight cancer by either specifically targeting cancer cells, encouraging the body’s immune system to attack the cancer or by preventing abnormal genes from working.

The new facility, which will house £3.5 million-worth of new equipment and employ 15 staff, will significantly increase the number of biological treatments produced by Cancer Research UK for testing in humans.

Building work has already begun at the site, with the facility scheduled for completion in May 2009.

Gillian Lewis, the head of Cancer Research UK’s Biotherapeutics Development Unit, said: “The new facility is a hugely exciting development for the charity, giving us a building designed specifically for the BDU from the inside out.

“Biotherapeutics really are at the cutting edge in terms of the development of new cancer treatments, and in order to achieve significant advances we need the best facilities. That’s exactly what the new building gives us.”

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive added: “Bridging the gap between the bench and the bedside is especially challenging in the development of biological treatments, with a great deal of work necessary before new treatments can be used in clinical trials.

“Ensuring that patients continue to benefit from the latest research into cancer treatments is crucial for the charity. The new BDU facility a vitally important development in making this happen.”