Plans to build a major new hub for the life sciences sector in central London have taken a major step forward with the appointment of key partners in the scheme.
Guy & St Thomas’s Foundation has revealed that investment body Oxford Properties and developers Reef Group are the preferred partners to work with it on the £350 million project, known as the Snowfields Quarter.
The next stage will be to name a construction firm to carry out the work of excavating and preparing the land before the new buildings can start to emerge at the site, which is adjacent to the Guys campus next to London Bridge Station and the Shard. DSFHA and Perkins & Will are to be the architects for the scheme and will work alongside UrbanR, Reef’s in-house designers.
London plant hire firms are set to be kept very busy by this latest construction project in the area, as the three new labs will be built over a 300,000 sq ft site.
It is the second project of its kind in the vicinity, with the foundation already working on developing a site nearby at Royal Street in partnership with Stanhope and Baupost Group.
Commenting on the announcement of the prospective partners chief executive of the Guys & St Thomas’s Foundation Kieron Boyle said the selection process had been undertaken after a “fantastic level of interest” was shown by a number of potential partners. These included Stanhope & Cadillac Fairview, Nuveen, Biomed & Blackstone and Breakthrough Properties.
The fact that there were so many potential partners wanting to get involved in a life sciences project of this kind indicates that there is likely to be plenty more investment in this field, as prospective investors seek other opportunities in London and elsewhere.
That could, in turn, lead to a large number of new construction projects as more labs and offices are built.
Speaking about the Guy’s & St Thomas’s project, Abby Shapiro, head of life sciences at Oxford, said there is an “already significant ecosystem” in the vicinity.
The presence of a cluster of projects in one part of London may make the London Bridge area a major hub for activity, but, because the area is already heavily built up and space will be limited, it may be that other clusters will be created in different locations across the capital and beyond.
Britain already has a strong presence in life sciences and this may grow substantially as a result of the expertise demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic, ranging from the UK’s extensive sequencing work to help detect new variants to the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
This may continue amid vigilance against new variants, the quest to develop more effective antivirals and also a desire to make the whole sector more agile and responsive to be able to handle future pandemics.
Last year, the government and life sciences sector teamed up to publish a ‘Life Sciences Vision’, designed to grow the sector, with an increase research capacity being a key element of the plan.