The new Uren Hub on the White City campus provides an excellent opportunity for new collaborations for the NHLI.
Members of the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) have started moving into the new space and facilities on offer at the Sir Michael Uren Hub on Imperial’s White City campus. Uren forms a key part of the White City North campus, which also houses the i-Hub, a home for bioincubator start-up companies such as DNAnudge, and the Molecular Sciences Research Hub (MSRH), the new home for the Department of Chemistry in White City.
"It is exciting to see the Uren Hub itself take shape, but even more so to see the dramatic growth of the White City innovation ecosystem around it develop" Professor Sian Harding
Professor Edwin Chilvers, Head of NHLI, comments on this new chapter for NHLI and the importance of taking full advantage of this opportunity, “Don’t set any boundaries, share your science around, recruit staff from unusual backgrounds and with diverse skill sets, put your trust in young people”.
Professor Sian Harding has been overseeing the project on behalf of NHLI and I spoke to her about the work to date and what this new space has to offer our community of researchers and students.
An intriguing prospect
My first alert to the 2014 gift from Sir Michael Uren, and the idea to use it for a new building dedicated to musculoskeletal regeneration, was from BBC Breakfast. It was illustrated with an eye-catching animation of legs spontaneously regrowing. As Director of a BHF Centre for Cardiac Regeneration, obviously I was intrigued, and I watched from my office window in ICTEM as the building rose. Conversations with the Dean during construction revealed that this was to be a multi-faculty building, bringing together the Department of Bioengineering and various groups from the Faculty of Medicine. Clearly this aligned with NHLI aims, not only the regenerative medicine area but the BHF Centre of Excellence, directed by Martin Wilkins, which brings together NHLI researchers with those from Bioengineering, Materials, Computer Science, Aeronautics and Mathematics to tackle cardiovascular disease. Co-location would stimulate those collaborations and create more, as well as removing logistical barriers of working with groups at South Kensington.
A box of delights
Seven years on, we have taken possession of half of the 9th floor of the new Sir Michael Uren Hub. The thirteen storeys contain neuro-muscular and musculoskeletal research, Materials, the School of Public Health, Brain Sciences, and an industrial scale-clean room suite.
The Uren Hub is a unique multi-faculty, interdisciplinary building. In addition to the research floors, there’s a core facility floor which will provide shared facilities and services for building occupants (and others) to use. This will include Histology, Genomics, microbiology and cell culture facilities, as well as a Micro CT scanner. There will also be a microscopy facility and a 'Makerspace' where mechanics and electronics, 3D printing and laser cutting can be carried out.
The top floor of Uren houses a lecture theatre, and two smaller seminar rooms - with amazing views of London (when the weather is good!). These will primarily be used for teaching, but will also be available for seminars and events.
White City South Campus is under development and houses ‘Scale Space’, an innovation hub for start-up companies, with links to the Business School. A giant outdoor screen has been installed, which will be used to show sporting events (currently Wimbledon), and promote campus events.
New ventures and partnerships
Collaborations between NHLI researchers and those on other floors are starting to take shape, for example with Frank Kelly’s air quality group on the 10th floor and Molly Stevens Regenerative Materials on the 3rd floor. Our floor is shared between Cardiovascular and David Sharp’s Dementia Research Institute (DRI), which has sparked a new collaborative venture. This DRI is focused on remote monitoring of patients with cognitive impairment or dementia. In the middle of the floor is a “Living Lab” - a studio flat with bed, sofa, TV, kitchen and bathroom - all wired to a control room. Here the subjects can be continuously observed while wearing the remote monitoring devices, to understand their real-world use and value. Independent ECG and EEG testing booths are also in the floor. Cardiovascular measurements are part of the range of information that will be important to gather remotely from these and other patients, and so the groups of Professor Nick Peters and David Sharpe are now working together.
Looking to the future
It is exciting to see the Uren Hub itself take shape, but even more so to see the dramatic growth of the White City innovation ecosystem around it develop. With the iHub, Scale Space and Hammersmith Hospital there is now a thriving translational landscape on the Imperial Hammersmith and White City Campus. This links across to the growing number of medical and technology companies coming into the White City area to form a stimulating MedTech community.
A final word from Professor Edwin Chilvers:
"Martin Wilkins and Sian Harding deserve most of the credit for getting us to this point and setting out the vision to have shared space in the Uren Building. It gives us new opportunities to work with the David Sharp (UK DRI Care Research & Technology), Frank Kelly (Environmental Research Group and MRC Centre for Environment & Health) and several major groups within Bioengineering and Material Sciences. It is an important new asset for NHLI and supports our drive to constantly evolve to enable us to deliver innovative and cutting-edge research through collaboration".
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