The Queen opens new Francis Crick Institute building

09 November 2016

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by The Duke of York, have opened the £650 million Francis Crick Institute in London this morning (Wednesday 9 November).

During a tour of the new biomedical facility, The Queen started the sequencing of Sir Paul Nurse's genome - all three billion letters in his DNA code.

The Crick is the biggest biomedical research institute under one roof in Europe and is investigating the fundamental biology underlying human health and disease.

Paul Nurse, director of the Crick, former president of the Royal Society and Nobel laureate, said: "It was a delight to welcome the Queen to our new building for the Francis Crick Institute and show her some of the science that we are carrying out to understand the human body better in health and disease."

He added: "As part of the visit, she sequenced my genome and we'll find out the results in the coming weeks. In our normal work at the Crick, we use this type of advanced sequencing to understand more about genetic influences on disease, or the changes that occur in cancer cells as tumours develop."

The Crick was formed on 1 April 2015 and is a registered charity. Its founding partners are the Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK, Wellcome, UCL (University College London), Imperial College London and King's College London.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh toured the new building for the Crick next door to St Pancras and the British Library. They saw some of the state-of-the-art facilities for research, including the advanced sequencing and peptide chemistry laboratories. They met many of the scientists and staff of the Crick, along with major donors who contributed to the Crick via a Cancer Research UK fundraising campaign. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were also introduced to representatives of each founding partner.

The Royal party met artist Robert Ballagh and unveiled his portrait of Francis Crick, a portrait commissioned by James Watson, who worked with Crick on the structure of DNA. The visit finished with the Queen unveiling a plaque to mark the opening of the institute.

The Crick is bringing scientists together from across disciplines to tackle the pressing health concerns of the 21st century. It will be home to 1,250 scientists and a further 250 support staff at full capacity in 2017.

Construction of the new building for the Crick was completed in August 2016. Researchers will continue moving into the new building from the Crick's legacy institutes until the end of the year.

As a world-leading centre of biomedical research and innovation, it has scale, vision and expertise to tackle the most challenging scientific questions underpinning health and disease. The aim is to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, infections and neurodegenerative conditions like motor neurone disease.

The Crick also has a strong national role. By taking a collaborative approach, training future science leaders, taking forward discoveries towards new treatments for patients and engaging with schools and the public, the Crick aims to boost UK science and help drive the UK economy.

Notes to editors

* For further information and images, contact:
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* The Queen was crowned in 1953 (2 June) within six weeks of the structure of DNA being published (25 April) by Francis Crick and James Watson, making use of work by Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin.

* The Queen set one of the latest advanced DNA sequencing machines going during her visit. The machine will process a sample of Paul Nurse's own DNA, purified earlier from a drop of his blood, and give a readout of the sequence of the A, C, G and T letters that make up his DNA code. Over the coming weeks, the data will be analysed by Crick scientists to see if there is anything that can be learned about Paul's genetic makeup and his possible susceptibility to conditions like diabetes or heart disease.

* The 170m-long building was designed by HOK working with PLP Architecture and developed with input from scientists, local residents and community groups. The building has almost one million square feet of floor space (over 17 football pitches). It was constructed by Laing O'Rourke, Arup and AKT II were the engineers on the project, with Arup also the project manager. CBRE advised on the acquisition of the land, planning and environmental consultancy, and the firm continues to advise on planning and provides maintenance and engineering infrastructure for the building. Turner & Townsend were cost consultants on the project and Cordless Consultants have provided IT and AV facilities.

* In steady state the Crick will have around 1250 scientists and around 250 operational staff.

* The Crick building has been an engineering project in itself. It required very high specifications to be met for the most sensitive and advanced research equipment to be used - such as high vibration resistance, close temperature control, minimisation of electromagnetic interference and high rates of air change. The building has also been designed to minimise impact on the environment, with solar panels on the roof and its own combined heat and power system. The energy-saving features should reduce the energy bill by a third and the building has been given an 'excellent' BREEAM rating.

* On 1 April 2015 the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research and Cancer Research UK's London Research Institute merged to become the Francis Crick Institute. These research groups are being joined by scientists from our university partners (UCL, Imperial and King's), who bring with them specialist knowledge, skills and resources across a range of scientific disciplines. In particular, university researchers working in the Crick help add expertise in the physical and clinical sciences.

* Our naming conventions are:
Full name: the Francis Crick Institute (lower case t)
Short name: the Crick or simply the institute (lower case i)