More than 120 distinguished guests attended the opening, including the Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Lord Patten of Barnes, the Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Louise Richardson DBE, Dr Tetsuya Nakamura, BHF Chief Executive, Dr Charmaine Griffiths, and BHF Medical Director, Professor Sir Nilesh Samani.
Shortly before the official opening, Chancellor Lord Patten unveiled a new statue of Dr Nakamura and his father and IMS-Group founder Dr Tetsuo Nakamura by sculptor Martin Jennings.
IDRM Director Professor Paul Riley then greeted a number of BHF supporters, many of whom made generous donations towards the construction of the building, taking them on a tour of IDRM’s BHF Cardiovascular Research Floor. Supporters were treated to an exclusive look inside the McKie McLean Laboratory, and observed some of the researchers at work, with Associate Professor Sarah De Val and Professor Shankar Srinivas on hand to outline some of the research and equipment. Professor Riley concluded the tour in the Weston Breakout Space, which together with other social spaces around the building, is designed to encourage IDRM staff and students to meet and interact with each other across the three floors.
All guests then gathered in the ground floor café to hear the opening event speeches. Chancellor Lord Patten opened with a moving tribute to Shinzo Abe, offering his condolence to Japan for his tragic assassination. He went on to express this thanks to the IDRM founders, Professors Paul Riley, Georg Holländer and Matthew Wood, and the donors for all they have done to make the Institute a possibility, allowing critical work to take place and tackle some of the most prolific global diseases:“Bringing together developmental biology with regenerative medicine and other scientific programmes will help us to deal with chronic illnesses that kill two thirds of people around the world. These disciplines are as important as vaccines in tackling serious illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, which is particularly close to my heart.
“Regenerative medicine will play an increasingly important role in healthcare as populations grow older and as society continues to tackle the long-term effects of serious diseases like COVID. It is vital that we continue to invest in this research to continue to attract the best international researchers and collaborators, and this would not be possible without the generous support of the donors we are joined by today.
“I would also like to thank the ‘three musketeers’, our own Professors, who helped drive this through, which would not have happened without their enthusiasm.”
The Chancellor was followed by Professor Paul Riley, British Heart Foundation Professor of Regenerative Medicine and Director of the IDRM:
“It’s an enormous honour and privilege to be here at this momentous occasion. Matthew, Georg and I have been thinking about this building for ten years, and it’s been a fantastic journey and team effort.
“The creation of the IDRM is the most exciting project I have been involved in, as we seek to establish world-leading research programmes merging developmental biology with regenerative medicine. The IMS-Tetsuya Nakamura Building will ensure we can be much greater than the sum of our parts, enabling multidisciplinary collaborations across our major themes in neurology, cardiology and immunology and nurturing the next generation of scientists. With the building now officially open, we are already well underway with the next phase of filling the Institute with the very best researchers and working together to pioneer new treatments for birth defects and acquired diseases.”
Professor Riley concluded by thanking everyone involved, including Dr Nakamura and the IMS Group, the BHF, Divisional Registrar of the Medical Sciences Division Chris Price, the University’s Estates team, the companies who built, designed and project managed the building – McLaughlin & Harvey, SRA Architects and RIDGE, IDRM’s neighbours and the general public for their support through the public consultation process, and acknowledged Regius Professor of Medicine Sir John Bell, who is responsible for the creation of the Old Road Campus.
Dr Nakamura took to the stage for the penultimate speech of the afternoon. He recalled the ground-breaking ceremony of December 2019 at the start of the building’s construction, and was delighted to see the fruition of efforts despite the difficult circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic
“I am deeply honoured and grateful to have been able to contribute to the establishment of the IDRM.
“IMS Group started in 1956 with only 5 beds and has now grown to have 12,000 beds in 134 facilities providing medical and nursing care services. I am one of the Group’s 1,200 doctors, and we all constantly have the difficult job of facing patients with serious cardiovascular, neurological or immune system disorders.
“It is this experience that led me to support so wholeheartedly the mission of the IDRM and want to contribute to it. I very much hope to be able to contribute to the ongoing development of the IDRM.”
Proceedings were rounded off by Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation:
“We are proud to support the IDRM to become a new powerhouse in regenerative medicine research. Heart failure affects almost a million people in the UK and many millions round the world. The potential to repair the heart through regenerative medicine brings real hope to these people and the work of the IDRM will have a profound impact.
“Buildings, even as nice as this one, are nothing without the people. The IDRM already has world leading scientists working here, and I hope it will attract many more to come.”
The event concluded with VIP guests, IDRM researchers, operations and building staff networking and enjoying a sparking drinks reception with canapés. Some reflected on the opportunities for new connections and collaborations brought about by the IDRM. Dr Claudio Cortes Rodriguez of the Riley Lab and Dr Susann Bruche of the De Val Lab were pleased to get to know each other better after previously being based at the Sherrington building and Ludwig Institutes respectively:
“We would only see other around once a month or so before. It has been great to get to know each other’s research in more detail, and now we have Filipa Simões’ new group as well. We have been able to meet a lot of new people, access lots of new equipment, and enjoy opportunities to interact.”
The Institute now looks forward to engaging with the public and local community, particularly with local schools and colleges. We have an open-door policy for organised visits, please contact Iris Hofmann if you are interested.