A pioneering new centre in Oxford will bring together over 200 leading researchers in developmental biology and regenerative medicine. An official ground breaking ceremony for IDRM construction took place today (20 September 2019).

By gathering collective expertise across cardiology, immunology and neuroscience, the Institute of Developmental and Regenerative Medicine (IDRM) aims to improve understanding of normal biological development and apply this learning to help deliver advanced therapies that can repair the damage caused by a range of debilitating diseases.

The IDRM will be on the Old Road campus of the University of Oxford in Headington, west of the city. It will pool the expertise of over 200 researchers and specialists to improve the understanding of how the immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems develop and function normally. This creation of molecular and cellular ‘blueprints’ for these systems will facilitate the IDRM community to work on therapies that repair biological defects ‘from within’ by harnessing the activity of cells and processes that are central to development, such as tissue resident stem cells.

Georg Hollander, Research Professor in Developmental Medicine at the University of Oxford is one of the academic leads behind the Institute. “The main goals of the Institute are to further our understanding of disease and the mechanisms of diseases, but also to increase our knowledge of normal physiological development” he says. “I’m a paediatrician by training and, up until now, most of our understanding in this area has been based on what we know about inherited pathologies. There is little research into how normal development relates to early life medicine and this new Institute aims to pave the way for developmental biology to better inform regenerative medicine.

“Cell and gene therapies have huge potential for a wide range of patients,” he adds. “And by bringing such expertise together in the one physical place at the IDRM, we aim to break down the silos of specialisms and hope to create a vibrant multidisciplinary hub to help this sector develop and innovate.”

Paul Riley, British Heart Foundation Professor of Regenerative Medicine at the University of Oxford is the other main academic lead behind the Institute. “The IDRM is a truly world-leading initiative in Oxford in seeking to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to merge developmental biology and regenerative medicine across three key areas of biomedical science,” he says. “In addition, the new Institute will enable us to assemble the best in Oxford across these disciplines under-one-roof, and serve as a vehicle to recruit-in talented young researchers from around the world, to establish and sustain transformative discovery science and translation to the clinic.” The Institute will seek to actively collaborate with partners to translate these key areas of basic research into real world science.

Construction of the IDRM is planned to start at the end of this year (2019) with a proposed completion date of March 2021. The building will consist of approximately 6000 m2 of laboratory, office and shared space, and will be positioned close to a collection of partner facilities such as the Target Discovery Institute, the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics, the Big Data Institute and the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology. This will provide the IDRM with access to a range of specialist resources such as targeted pathway analysis, computational gene expression profiling and immunology expertise.

It is expected that about initially 60% of researchers will come from the University of Oxford and the remaining will be recruited from around the world. Some of these will be PhD students and, in the future, the Institute may also run specialised taught research programmes.

The Institute is funded by the British Heart Foundation, a private Japanese philanthropist and the University of Oxford.