Novartis move spurs "unprecedented opportunity" for life sciences at White City

Aerial shot of White City

Aerial shot of White City

Imperial welcomed Novartis to White City as the global pharmaceuticals company opens its new UK headquarters.

Novartis has relocated its UK base and more than 600 staff to The WestWorks at White City Place, opposite Imperial’s White City Campus.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock MP formally opened the new offices at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday 11 February, attended by Vas Narasimhan, Chief Executive Officer at Novartis and Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial.

Building a healthier tomorrow

Novartis is the latest in a series of life sciences companies - including Autolus, Gamma Delta and Synthace - to take up residence in the region, which is emerging as a leading cluster for European life sciences research and innovation.

As the largest sponsor of clinical trials in the UK, Novartis is already a close collaborator with the College. The company has supported clinical studies at Imperial spanning healthy ageing, immunology and inflammation, as well as research into the early stages of the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, liver fibrosis, and better treatments for women with ovarian cancer.

It is envisaged that the move will pave the way to greater collaboration between Imperial and Novartis through proximity to the College’s White City campus, which co-locates multidisciplinary research teams, global businesses, new startups and fast-growth companies to translate discoveries into benefits for society.

Haseeb Ahmad, Managing Director, UK, Ireland and Nordics, Novartis Pharmaceuticals and Country President, Novartis UK, said: “The UK life sciences sector is at a crossroads, with many opportunities available for cutting-edge innovation and partnerships. White City is fast becoming one of the UK’s most exciting new hubs for life sciences, and puts us in the perfect position to continue working with our partners to find new ways to innovate and collaborate to build a healthier tomorrow”

Historic moment

What we set out to do at White City is all about synergy - of having strong corporate, international and academic partners, having our doors open to these partners and having the ability to collaborate freely in close proximity. Professor Alice Gast President, Imperial College London

Speaking at the ribbon cutting event to mark the opening of the new Novartis Headquarters, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock MP said he was “excited” about the developments at White City and its emerging ecosystem, and underlined the importance of a “holy trinity” of “private enterprise, academic research, and the effective and empowering role of Government”. He added: “We are all on a collective endeavour - a common mission to improve people’s lives right across the planet.

Vas Narasimhan, Chief Executive Officer at Novartis, said at the event: “This is a historic day for Novartis in the UK. It is the moment we will all remember as the start of the next chapter on our journey to be a leader in providing world class medicines to the UK population.” Describing the UK as “one of the most important places on the planet for innovation” he said that the move to White City would enable Novartis to become part of the capital’s digital and biotech ecosystem.

Synergy and collaboration

To coincide with the opening of the new headquarters, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) - known as the company’s ‘innovation engine’ - hosted a scientific symposium for around 200 UK scientists at Imperial’s Molecular Sciences Research Hub (MSRH). The £167 million facility on the College’s White City Campus convenes more than 800 scientists, clinicians, engineers and business partners to address global challenges across areas such as energy, healthcare and sustainability.

The NIBR team collaborate across scientific and organisational boundaries, with a focus on powerful new technologies that have the potential to help produce therapeutic breakthroughs for patients. The symposium, titled At the frontiers of science: Novartis research, innovation and collaboration, explored research and development in cell and gene therapies, inflammation and oncology.

Opening the symposium, Professor Alice Gast referred to a comparative study she undertook of White City and Kendall Square, Cambridge MA for Imperial’s Council. In it she said that she wrote: “it all took off when Novartis moved in”, referring to the company’s move to MIT’s neighbourhood in 2002. “I feel a certain sense of déjà vu and good karma about your move here,” she said.

“What we set out to do at White City is all about synergy - of having strong corporate, international and academic partners, having our doors open to these partners and having the ability to collaborate freely in close proximity.”

We already collaborate significantly with Novartis UK and I look forward to welcoming the Novartis team to joins us in new modes of fruitful collaboration...I believe it will be unique in the world". Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.

Deborah Evanson
Communications and Public Affairs

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