BBC News

The Crick: Europe's biggest biomedical lab opens

Fergus Walsh
Medical correspondent

media captionMedical Correspondent Fergus Walsh explores the new Francis Crick Institute

Europe's biggest biomedical laboratory, the Francis Crick Institute, has opened in London.

The £650m building, behind St Pancras station and the British Library, will be home to 1,250 scientists.

Named after the co-discoverer of DNA structure, the Crick will examine fundamental questions about how illnesses develop, in order to find new ways to treat conditions such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, infections and diseases of the brain.

The director of the institute, Sir Paul Nurse, said the Crick would "attract brilliant, bold and creative scientists from the UK and around the world".

image copyrightCrick
image captionThe vast scale of the Crick can be seen from the air, as well as its position, behind the British Library and St Pancras station

Sir Paul, a Nobel Prize winner and former president of the Royal Society, is among the first scientists to move into the building.

He and his team are studying cell division, which is crucial to understanding how cancer and other diseases develop.

Sir Paul said the UK's decision to leave the EU meant the Crick would lose a planned £10m a year in EU funding, which would need to be replaced by government funding.

However, he said, Britain was a "great scientific nation" and the Crick would be a symbol the UK was "open for business".

image copyrightCrick
image captionThe Crick has eight floors above ground and four below

The Crick is funded mainly by the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust.

The building will replace ageing and cramped laboratories at Mill Hill in north London, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and Potters Bar, Hertfordshire.

Although the main focus of the Crick will be the biological processes underlying human health and disease, it will also do "translational research", which aims to turn lab discoveries into treatments for patients.

The institute has a partnership with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.

Facts about the Crick:

  • total floor space of 93,000 sq m (23 acres), more than 17 football pitches
  • eight floors above ground and four below
  • basement floors house electron microscopes and magnetic resonance scanners
  • vibration resistant so sensitive equipment in the basement is unaffected by underground trains and traffic
  • the basement has a large animal research facility
  • annual budget of about £130m

Related Topics

  • Disease
  • Medicine
  • Biology