Aviva backs £1bn cancer hub in London

London Cancer Hub

A £1 billion development aimed at creating a major centre for cancer research and treatment in South London has taken a step forwards with the selection of preferred bidders for the project.

The in-house capital unit of insurance giant Aviva and Socius, a specialist in the design and development of mixed workspace/home projects, have now been selected to take the London Cancer Hub (LCH) in Sutton forwards.

The aim is a “life sciences district” dedicated to the research and treatment of cancer in collaboration with the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, and Epsom & St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust.

The project has been several years in gestation, with Sutton Council buying up land around Sutton Hospital’s largely abandoned site in Belmont to allow for the expansion of the Royal Marsden and ICR, with the aim of eventually building a million-square-foot life sciences district on a five-hectare site.

If completed, the ambitious plan could deliver 13,000 jobs - including around 7,000 in health, science, and education, and 6,000 during the construction phases - according to the partners, and would boost the UK’s ambition to become a life sciences superpower.

The project is developing alongside efforts to create another life sciences hub based at the Canary Wharf site in East London on 3.3-hectares, which aims to deliver 3.5 million sq ft of laboratory and affiliated space.

Prof Paul Workman, professor of cancer pharmacology and therapeutics at the ICR, said the project will encourage “innovative collaborations between academics, clinicians, and industry by facilitating the kinds of breakthroughs that can only come from working across scientific and organisational boundaries.”

LCH siteParts of the LCH project are already up and running; for example, the LCH Innovation Gateway, a building housing a number of cancer-focused start-ups, including Vortex Biosciences, Vesynta, Curesponse, and The Exercise Clinic, which opened last year.

Other developments at the site include the ICR’s £75 million Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery that opened in 2020, as well as the Marsden’s Oak Cancer Centre that opened in June, and a Maggie’s centre for cancer support.

Aviva’s chief financial officer, Charlotte Jones, said the project ties into its strategy of investing in critical areas of the UK economy, such as housing, green energy, and healthcare.

“We are using our capital to generate long-term income for our customers, and help the UK to grow,” she added.