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Major Institute Opening

Image of New Heart and Lung Institute

A major new institute opens today, bringing together the largest concentration of scientists and clinicians in heart and lung medicine in Europe.

On 18 August 1979, Keith Castle – despite being described by surgeon Sir Terence English as "not an ideal patient from a medical point of view" – made history, becoming the first person in the UK to undergo a successful heart transplant.

The operation was performed at Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire, which specialised in heart and lung surgery. It was not the only 'first' to take place there: seven years later, Papworth surgeons – alongside surgeons from nearby Addenbrooke’s Hospital – conducted the world’s first heart, lung and liver transplant.

In 2019, the hospital – now Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – relocated to its new home on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Shortly afterwards, at the end of February 2020, work began on a new building next door, the realisation of a decade of planning. Construction was barely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the country, and now, just two-and-a-half years later, it is opening.

Welcome to the Heart and Lung Research Institute.

The building will see more than 380 staff from the University of Cambridge and Royal Papworth housed under one roof, all working together to tackle some of the world’s major killers: cardiovascular diseases are estimated to cause nearly 18 million deaths per year, mostly due to heart attacks and stroke, with respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and lung cancer just behind. There will be 'wet labs', a clinical research facility, data science and epidemiology research teams, spaces for postgraduate education, collaboration spaces and much more.

Cardiovascular and respiratory disease have been a strategic priority for the University for many years, and in 2013, the University became one of the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Centres of Research Excellence. It is this expertise, coupled with Royal Papworth’s clinical excellence, that makes the new institute so unique, says Morrell.

"Papworth routinely comes out top in various assessments of safety and mortality and success from operations, and has a history of innovation. It's an international brand in itself, rather like the University is, so we’re bringing those two things together to synergize and maximise our research potential."

The institute has attracted significant funding thanks to this pairing: alongside the University’s contribution, there is £30m from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, £10m from the British Heart Foundation – one of the charity’s largest ever strategic awards – as well as additional funding from the Wolfson Foundation, Royal Papworth Hospital Charity and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

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