Research and Innovation Hub in Cancer (RIHC)

King's College London

The RIHC occupies a floor of the Cancer Centre at Guy's Hospital, co-locating academic researchers and clinicians in an open-plan laboratory.  The hub is designed to foster translational research by analysing patient conditions, developing personalised medicine and introducing new treatments through research-led trials. Central to the RIHC is the cancer biobank, designed to collect and store tissue samples from patients who are treated at Guy's Hospital and across the Guy's and St Thomas' Trust. Over £32m of co-investment was committed to the project in 2013, with £25m of charitable funding from the trust. The Cancer Centre opened in June 2016. Though the source of co-investment has seen some changes the total amount remains unchanged since the initial bid.

Key Findings:

  • The Research and Innovation Hub in Cancer is a 'one stop shop' for patients, researchers and clinicians, enabling integration of research and treatment.
  • The proximity of the RIHC's biobank and lab to the hospital means that researchers can obtain high-quality cancer tissue samples, supporting research and clinical trials. Collection of samples is improving as trials teams, researchers and clinicians work together. The trust's performance in a recent NHS England drive for samples has improved markedly.
  • The Cancer Centre is on track to reach their target of increasing patient participation in clinical trials from 17% to 30% by 2017.
  • The RIHC has received £31.9m of co-investment funding to date, exceeding the double-match funding criteria.
  • Not included in the monitoring information at the time of analysis is an additional £2m of funding from Cancer Research UK, MRC and Bloodwise. The target is to raise around £15m by 2018, with King's College London (KCL) bidding for Research Centre status.
  • The RIHC is incubating two spin-outs and its collaborative partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and international organisations are increasing in scope.

Project outputs

The RIHC is located in a busy, delivery-focused London Cancer Centre, supporting translational activity by putting previously isolated research teams at the heart of delivery. The links with clinicians have been strengthened due to proximity, and high-quality cancer samples for research are being collected more effectively. There have been specific translational posts developed and the move of the biobank has raised its profile in the Guy's and St Thomas' Trust, increasing research impact on the trust's strategy for treating cancer.

The research biobank

The biobank stores over 12,000 samples of cancer tumours spanning across several decades. The samples are from patients treated at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital Trust so treatment records can be linked to samples. The biobank collects data on a diverse range of cancers including breast, prostate and lung cancers and capitalises on the team's expertise in processing and storing samples. Clinical input into the biobank is increasing, as proximity has made it easier for busy clinicians to provide direction and expertise.

As part of the £2m of additional funding received from Cancer Research UK, MRC and Bloodwise, the RIHC has received £600k to purchase an additional biobank to increase storage capability. The raised profile of the biobank has spilled over into other parts of the university with researchers working in urology receiving over £1.5m of additional funding for biobanking.

Internal collaboration and increased efficiencies

The RIHC fosters a collaborative working environment between researchers, clinicians and the trials team. Shared activities (such as seminars) are encouraged to integrate the teams and to promote knowledge exchange.

The open plan layout of the hub ensures that equipment is shared across academic research groups. This has reduced equipment duplication, freeing up capital resources to purchase additional equipment. The centralisation of equipment has also provided efficiencies for the trials team, reducing the time spent transferring tissue samples. Trials team members also have hot-desks in the hub to facilitate interaction with academic researchers.

Industry collaboration and commercialisation

The RIHC has established a strategic partnership with Roche Pharmaceuticals. The collaboration encourages knowledge transfer between the university and Roche; researchers from KCL develop an understanding of the pharmaceutical cancer drug pipeline and staff from Roche are trained in biobank research at the hub. Access to specialist facilities such as the cancer biobank allows Roche staff to access tissue samples vital to their research. Other major pharmaceutical companies are exploring collaborations as the new facilities provide a wider range of research services for drug development.

Two spin-outs - Leucid Bio and GammaDelta Theraputix - are being incubated in KCL labs vacated by the move to the RIHC. Both spin-outs have access to the biobank, which is used in their drug development research.

Academic collaboration

Joint work with the Peking University Health Science Centre (PUHSC) has generated one accepted publication to date. PUHSC have also committed to put two PhD students at the Cancer Centre. A conference in summer 2017 with Tata Memorial Hospital (Mumbai) brought senior academics to the hub. The Masters in Research (MRes), a one-year course for clinicians and non-medical staff, who are trained in the labs, receives approximately 2-3 students from Mumbai each year. Students continue to collaborate with the Cancer Centre after they have returned to Mumbai.

Recruitment activity in the hub is ongoing, with five research posts filled so far. A key post that has yet to be filled is a professorship in molecular pathology to head the new Oncology Institute. The overall package of appointments - two professors, with 10 people for the group - continues to be progressed.

Additionality of the UKRPIF

Without the UKRPIF grant, a scaled-down refurbishment of the RIHC's previous facilities would have taken place at best. Funding from UKRPIF was critical to build confidence in research-specific investments, to leverage further funding from additional sources and to foster collaborations between researchers and clinicians.

Future activity and lessons learned

The RIHC views itself as part of the cluster of London life science facilities; its next key step is to formalise its research status through the Cancer Research UK Accelerator programme. The hub will progress the appointment of two Chairs, recognising that these would be crucial in developing the research agenda. An area already identified for investment is in bioinformatics, so that the substantial amounts of data associated with biobank samples (including linked patient clinical records) can be analysed.