The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has been awarded a £2.13 million Getting Building Fund grant from Hertfordshire LEP to create a Cardiovascular Imaging Centre of Excellence (C-ICE) in the county.
The centre will encompass state-of-the-art R&D facilities to bring forth the next generation of treatments for animals and humans, as well as advanced skills training provision for academics, students and veterinary sector SMEs, helping strengthen the local skills pipeline.
Life sciences presents a major opportunity for growth across the East of England and London, with Hertfordshire’s biopharma sector already employing over 120,000 people and contributing revenues of more than £55 billion to the UK economy. Strengthening the county’s world-class science clusters is one of the priorities identified in Hertfordshire LEP’s Economic Recovery Plan 2020, and is key to attracting inward investment and accelerating recovery, business growth and local job creation.
In support of cluster development, RVC is investing heavily in its Potters Bar campus. A £45 million redevelopment of this site by the college will provide greatly enhanced teaching facilities and a Veterinary Vaccinology and Cell Therapy Hub, the latter co-funded by a £7 million Local Growth Fund grant from Hertfordshire LEP.
At the heart of C-ICE will be a state-of-the-art 3 Tesla MRI scanner capable of producing high-resolution images of pathological conditions for diagnostic and treatment evaluation. It will also be used to investigate novel treatments initially in experimental animal models of human disease and then in veterinary patients – in particular, neurological and cardiac conditions.
The scanner will be fully integrated with RVC’s Queen Mother Hospital for Animals, home to the largest group of veterinary clinical specialists in Europe. This ‘One Health’ approach, which recognises the interconnectedness of humans, animals and ecosystems in healthcare, will enable C-ICE to support the development of precision medicine.
C-ICE will also complement recent investments in the cell and gene therapy cluster in Stevenage through its cardiac catheterisation lab, created as part of the Veterinary Vaccinology and Cell Therapy Hub. The lab will enable the delivery of cell and gene therapies, or ‘living medicines’, into the cardiac circulation via coronary artery catheterisation.
This combination of advanced imaging equipment and expert veterinary clinicians will be unique within Hertfordshire and the wider Oxford-Cambridge-London triangle. As a result, RVC will be able to facilitate world-class translational research, clinical work and advanced skills training, while also creating highly skilled jobs in Hertfordshire.
Jonathan Elliott, Vice-Principal for Research and Innovation at the RVC, said: “I am delighted that the RVC has been awarded this grant. The establishment of this centre will not only pave the way for innovation in the field of regenerative medicine, precisely tailored to the individual patient, it will also contribute to the growth of our local economy.
“At the RVC we recognise the importance of a collaborative ‘One Health’ approach to cutting edge science which benefits both veterinary and human medicine. This centre will facilitate research which could transform the treatment of some of the most important debilitating chronic diseases affecting today’s ageing society.”
Mark Bretton, Chair, Hertfordshire LEP and the LEP Network, said: “Our £16.8m Getting Building Fund allocation will back five major projects to boost Hertfordshire’s high value sector clusters including life sciences, film and TV, and smart construction; and give residents greater opportunities for high quality employment locally.
“Hertfordshire’s thriving life sciences sector already adds significant value to UK plc. This new advanced medical imaging centre at the Royal Veterinary College will work in symbiosis with the existing cell and gene therapy ecosystem to strengthen the county’s and the UK’s unique advantage. The innovative ‘One Health’-led research that will be made possible by the centre, supported by LEP funding, is ever more critical against the backdrop of a global health pandemic.”
Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Luke Hall MP said: “I'm delighted that we’re backing the Centre of Excellence with a £2.13 million Getting Building Fund grant. The world-class research, clinical work and advanced skills training at the centre will put Hertfordshire on the map as a national leader in this sector. The creation of highly skilled jobs will allow the benefits of the project to ripple across the community and level-up the local economy.”