A new University of Cambridge research initiative will push the boundaries of medical science by drawing physics deeply into the life sciences. The Centre for the Physics of Medicine is a £12.5 million construction project, started this week.
Designed by Building Design Partnership, number one firm in the Architects Journal Top 100, the three-storey building will create a suite of open accessible research laboratories, teaching rooms and offices.
Combining a wide range of expertise in physics, biology and medicine, it will be sited next to the world-famous Cavendish Laboratory, home to the Department of Physics at West Cambridge, the University's expanding science and technology campus.
The building will unite researchers from the Departments of Physics, Biochemistry, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering as well as the School of Clinical Medicine.
Head of the Cavendish Laboratory, Professor Peter Littlewood said: “We are very pleased that work has begun on this extremely valuable addition to Cambridge's world-changing research portfolio. This initiative continues Cambridge's commitment to innovative collaboration, bringing together researchers from different disciplines in one building to address and solve problems and produce scientific breakthroughs.”
At a start-on-site ceremony today Managing Director Mike Hart of main contractor Willmott Dixon told members of the University and the project team:
“We are very pleased to be back in Cambridge working on this important new facility for the university.”
The 13-month Develop and Construct project is being managed by the University's Estate Management and Building Service as part of its ongoing £600 million development programme to provide outstanding education and research facilities for the 21st Century.
The future of this 66-hectare site was transformed in 1999 when total new development of over 180,000 m2 of academic, research institute, residential sports and other facilities, including 41,000m2 of new commercial research accommodation was approved.
The commercial research land is spread around the site. This reflects the University's view that development at West Cambridge ought to be complementary to the University's core intentions in spreading westward. These are, to allow the University the space needed to compete with other leading international universities, to act as a pioneering centre for research collaboration with local and international industry expansion, and to position Cambridge as one of the top technical players on the world stage in addition to boosting the British economy.
The site has long been home to the renowned Cavendish Laboratories, the Veterinary School and the Whittle Laboratories. Also long established at West Cambridge are British Antarctic Survey, Schlumberger Cambridge Research, Aveva Group plc (formerly CadCentre) and the Hitachi Cambridge Laboratory.
A more recent arrival has been Microsoft Research, which has its European Headquarters here. This is a fitting match with the University's Computer Laboratory, which is housed in the adjacent William Gates Building, constructed in 2001.
The academic development is focused on the physical sciences and technology. More recent completions have been the Nanoscience Centre and Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics. Both have encouraged significant commercial and academic research collaborations.
Construction is planned to start next year of the East Forum, which will house Cambridge Enterprise, together with its incubator space and technology transfer activities; and a new building for the Institute for Manufacturing, part of the Department of Engineering.