The secretary of state for science, innovation and technology visited the future site of a new £75 million research centre in Manchester.
Michelle Donelan attended Bruntwood SciTech’s Manchester Science Park to officially mark UK Biobank’s new site ready for construction by completing planting of a ‘living wall’, which will increase biodiversity and improve air quality.
UK Biobank is a comprehensive source of health data used for research, providing access to de-identified data to approved researchers worldwide.
The cutting-edge 131,000 sq ft new building, of which UK Biobank will occupy three floors, will include laboratory space and a latest-generation robotic freezer that stores and retrieves 20 million biological samples four times faster than before, revolutionising the pace of scientific discovery.
The new centre is due to open in 2026 and will house UK Biobank’s biological samples, laboratories, headquarters and around half of its 250 staff.
UK Biobank will be located alongside fast-growth life science businesses working in diagnostics, genomics, biotech and precision medicine in the highly specialist purpose-built building, which includes specialist labs and features such as increased vibration resistance, piped gas distribution systems, enhanced cooling and ventilation systems, high security access and 100GB superfast connectivity.
The new facility will be 100% electric and net zero carbon in construction and operation in its shared spaces – one of the first lab spaces in the UK to be so.
Michelle Donelan said: “UK Biobank makes an unparalleled contribution to science across the whole world, by putting invaluable information at researchers’ fingertips. It is already unlocking insights with the potential to detect Parkinson’s sooner, and tackle heart disease. It is without question a jewel in the crown of UK science, and an envy of the world. UK Biobank’s new home at Manchester Science Park – supported with an accelerated £21 million from Government – will mean it has the state-of-the-art facilities it needs, to keep its place at the forefront of our understanding of human health.”
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser DBE FRS, chief executive of UKRI, said: “UK Biobank is a unique resource, powering research and innovation in the biomedical sciences, creating jobs, and connecting pioneering organisations. UKRI is investing significantly in UK Biobanks’ future.”
The campus is one of the UK’s most well-established life science and technology hubs, home to 150 startups, scaleups, and globally leading businesses, and is located within the heart of the Oxford Road Corridor innovation district – Europe’s largest clinical academic campus.
Supported by the University of Manchester, the new building importantly puts UK Biobank near leading institutions operating across research, academia, business and the NHS.
Dr Kath Mackay, chief scientific officer for Bruntwood SciTech, said: “The UK’s ambition to be a global leader in life sciences is contingent on the success and continued growth of regional hubs like Manchester Science Park. The arrival of UK Biobank at the campus marks an exciting milestone in its evolution, further cementing its position as one of the UK’s primary locations for innovation, collaboration, and discovery.”
Professor Sir Rory Collins FRS FMedSci, PCEO of UK Biobank, said the new facility is an essential step forward in ensuring that researchers across the globe can more efficiently access tens of millions of samples to turn them into data which can be used to propel research and innovation.
He thanked UKRI, whose generous funds have made the development of the new facility possible.