Cancer Research UK is sinking £20 million into building a “state-of-the-art” development facility at its Clare Hall laboratories in Hertfordshire and filling it with the latest equipment.

The new facility will house researchers from the charity’s Biotherapeutics Development Unit, who will develop new experimental treatments for cancer – including antibodies, gene therapies and cancer vaccines – for use in clinical trials, thereby helping to get patients faster access to the latest know-how in the fight against the disease.

Gillian Lewis, the head of Cancer Research UK’s Biotherapeutics Development Unit, said: “The new facility is a hugely exciting development for the charity, giving us a building designed specifically for the BDU from the inside out.”

CR UK hopes that the move will boost the number of new biological therapies – which are developed from the body’s own substances and work by either targeting cancer cells, igniting an immune reaction, or preventing abnormal genes from working - being tested in humans.

Bridging the gap

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive added: “Bridging the gap between the bench and the bedside is especially challenging in the development of biological treatments, with a great deal of work necessary before new treatments can be used in clinical trials. Ensuring that patients continue to benefit from the latest research into cancer treatments is crucial for the charity.”

Construction of the new facility, which will house £3.5 million-worth of new equipment and employ 15 staff, has already begun and should be ready for operation in May 2009.

Last month, the charity revealed that it had sunk a record £315 million into researching cancer in 2006, almost twice as much since its formation five years ago.

The group has invested heavily in investigating the causes of cancer and improving its prevention, diagnosis and treatment, with spending growth up £64 million, or 26%, on 2006, making it “the largest single independent funder of cancer research in Europe,” it said.