Boost for Royal Free as Jeremy Hunt backs £42m research building

Jeremy Hunt tours the Institute of Immunology and Transplantation at the Royal Free and meets patien

Jeremy Hunt tours the Institute of Immunology and Transplantation at the Royal Free and meets patient Jessie Pione, who is receiving immunoglobulin replacement therapy. Pictured with Chris Burghes (Royal Free Charity chief exec), Cllr Simon Marcus, nurse Sary Workman (far right) and Dr Siobhan Burns (front). Picture: David Bishop - Credit: Archant

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has publicly backed plans by the Royal Free Hospital to build a £42million medical research hub in the heart of Hampstead.

The MP praised the “fantastic” research scientists are already undertaking at the hospital in Pond Street during a visit last Thursday and said he was looking forward to visiting the new “world-class” research centre once it is built.

It is a boost for the hospital’s plans for a new building to house the UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation. If approved, it will become Europe’s leading research hub in immunology, infection and transplantation - “transforming the lives of patients locally, nationally and globally”.

Touring the institute’s current home in the main hospital building, Mr Hunt said: “It’s incredibly exciting that here in Hampstead we’ve got a centre that is developing cures for the future.

“I’m very much looking forward to seeing the new building when it’s opened – it will no doubt achieve some incredible things. What I’ve seen here today is just fantastic.”

Patient Jessie Pione, who has been receiving treatment for an immunodeficiency since 2010, added: “I feel so grateful for the treatment I’ve been able to get here at the institute.

“What makes it doubly great is I’m helping them with their research, helping future patients.”

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The backing comes at a sensitive time for the hospital as it consults with the Hampstead community on the proposals for a five-storey building to accommodate 200 researchers and a patient hotel. It is set to be built on the site of a car park next to Hampstead Green.

Some residents are concerned about the building’s design, height and the impact of construction on nearby St Stephen’s.

Cllr Simon Marcus, parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, said residents’ concerns must be “taken seriously” but strongly supported the plans.

“My baby is set to be born here in October, my father has just come out of here after suffering a broken hip – the staff have always been there for us,” he said. “The new centre will make it a world leader in medical research.”

The Royal Free hopes to receive planning permission later this year and complete the build in early 2017.