Public Health Minister, Anne Milton MP, has officially opened the Health Protection Agency's new £12m Influenza Resource Centre and UK Stem Cell Bank, at the agency's National Institute of Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) in Hertfordshire.

The new laboratory development is a unique partnership between the HPA, Department of Health and the Medical Research Council (MRC). It will be dedicated to supporting the development of vaccines for preventing both seasonal and pandemic influenza, and it will house the UK Stem Cell Bank, a world leading initiative designed to help translate exciting research into successful clinical treatments through provision of ethically approved, quality controlled stem cell lines for research.

More than 40 scientists will be based at the new centre. The Minister will tour the newly constructed high-tech laboratories, which have been operational since December 2009, and meet scientists who last year played a crucial role in developing an effective vaccine against pandemic H1N1 'swine' flu when it first emerged in 2009.

The scientists - now based in the new building - include one of a handful of teams in the world with the job of responding to pandemics by rapidly developing virus strains that can be used for large scale vaccine manufacture as well as the crucial materials needed to measure vaccine strength. During May of last year they were able to make and send out producer strains for H1N1 vaccine production in less than a month, and were the only lab in the world able to supply both the reference materials that global manufacturers needed to complete the production process.

The Minister will also hear about how the work of the stem cell team in the new Centre is supporting researchers in the UK and abroad to develop effective therapies for devastating conditions such as Parkinson's disease, severe spinal trauma and multiple sclerosis.

Dr Stephen Inglis, director of NIBSC said:

"This new building gives us first class facilities for the research and development needed both to counter a major global threat and also to speed the development of new classes of medicine that have the potential to revolutionize clinical treatment in years to come. The health impact of the work to be done here will be felt by thousands, if not millions of people here and abroad in years to come and we are delighted that Anne Milton MP is here to witness first-hand some of this work today and officially open our new centre."

Public Health Minister Anne Milton said

"I am very pleased to be able to open this Influenza Resource Centre and the UK Stem Cell Bank at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control today.

"It is a key public health facility that will improve our ability to respond rapidly and effectively to future flu outbreaks and will work to enhance our understanding of complex stem cell research.

"This centre will help ensure we retain our position as one of the world leaders in this field."

Dr David Heymann, Chairman of the Health Protection Agency said:

"The National Institute of Biological Standards and Control is currently a crucial part of the HPA's overall flu response and we are excited about the new and unique possibilities of this additional partnership with stem cell research.

"With the ever improving expertise in vaccine development and looking forward to the coming years in stem cell research the HPA is excited about continuing to work closely with partners at the cutting edge of the future of health protection."

Notes

1. The £12m Influenza Resource Centre and UK Stem Cell Bank at National Institute of Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) has been partly funded by the Department of Health (DH) and the Medical Research Council (MRC). The DH provided £7m to the project and the MRC provided £5m.

Source:
Health Protection Agency
Medical Research Council

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