The Zayed Centre for Research celebrates first anniversary

With a vision to develop new treatments and cures for seriously ill children, the Zayed Centre for Research into Rare Disease in Children, is celebrating its first year of work and achievements.

Run jointly by UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) the purpose-built Zayed Centre for Research (ZCR) brings together pioneering research and clinical care under one roof - a world first for paediatric medicine.

Opened in late October 2019, the ZCR sits next to UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health in London and GOSH and cares for both UK and international patients.

Its state of-the-art facilities enable hundreds of researchers and clinicians to work side-by-side, so that patients benefit from the latest developments in the laboratory, accelerating the progress of new diagnoses, treatments and cures for rare and complex diseases.

In the last year, the ZCR has seen over 13,300 children attend appointments in its Falcon Outpatients suite, where they have received expert care for rare and complex conditions.

ZCR and COVID-19

While thousands of patients have walked through its doors, with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, some research activity changed as ZCR’s scientists and the specialist facilities were mobilised to COVID-19 research activity.  

Researchers have tested patient and staff samples to quickly detect infection and enable staff and patients to be treated. In addition the UCL/UCLH/GOSH funded Pathogen Genomics Unit together with UCL Genomics, based at the ZCR, has "sequenced" over 1,300 Covid-19 genomes. This helps scientists to learn about gradual changes in the virus over time and can reveal how it is spreading through different parts of the population.

In October it was announced that the first human challenge trial for a Covid-19 vaccine would take place. The PGU has played a pivotal role, providing sequenced data that has been used to select the viruses that will be used in the trials.  ZCR facilities have been singled out for their quality and scale and will manufacture the virus needed for the trial and the PGU will work with others from UCL and Imperial College London to investigate host viral interactions early in the challenge infection and the impact of drugs and vaccines.

Professor Judith Breuer (UCL Pathogen Genomics Unit, UCL GOS ICH and GOSH), who has played a key part in pivoting research efforts, said: "We have been contributing to the COG-UK effort to sequence Covid-19 genomes which is being used to understand the spread of the virus in the country.

"We’re also using sequencing to understand the impact of drugs in a personalised medicine approach.  This research follows directly from work that is already underway in the Zayed Centre for Research to understand more about how new and repurposed drugs can be used to treat serious viral infections in children."

The Zayed Centre for Research was made possible thanks to a transformative £60 million gift from Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, wife of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the United Arab Emirates, in 2014. We are also grateful to Research England, The Wolfson Foundation, John Connolly & Odile Griffith and the Mead Family Foundation whose generous support contributed to the creation of the Zayed Centre for Research. The centre is a partnership between UCL, GOSH and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

Mat Shaw, Chief Executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital said: "Collaboration is absolutely critical for the work we do for seriously ill children and never more so than at a time when we are facing the challenges that Covid-19 has presented. It’s amazing for both GOSH and UCL to have this facility to work together in, and it’s thanks to the incredible dedication and collaboration of scientists, researchers and clinicians from across our organisations that we have achieved so much in such a short space of time."