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Video: A first look inside the new home of Cancer Research UK’s new Manchester Institute

Headshot of Martin McGlown
by Martin McGlown | News

3 May 2024

1 comment 1 comment

Picture of the new Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute

A gleaming new building in South Manchester pierces the skyline. But this is no ordinary tower block, no ordinary story of urban renewal.  

It represents a remarkable story of hope over despair, of triumph over tragedy, and the future of cancer research in the north of England. 

On the 26th of April 2017, disaster struck. For scientists and support staff at the Paterson Building in Withington – home to the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute and adjoining the world-renowned Christie Hospital – the day started out normal enough as scientists headed to the labs and began their experiments. 

Then the fire alarms sounded. 

At first, most assumed it might be a drill, though not a scheduled one. But within a couple of minutes, it became clear that it wasn’t. Outside, acrid smoke could be seen billowing from the building which was ablaze. 

Around 100 firefighters were scrambled as stunned researchers poured onto the pavement outside. All they could do was look up and witness their work – in some cases projects that had been years in the making – being consumed by flames. 

The Paterson building housed over 400 scientists and support staff from around the globe, it was a beacon of hope for cancer patients and their families. ‘Was’, because by this point it was suffering significant damage. 

Surgery at The Christie had to be halted and patients in the midst of chemotherapy were evacuated.  

A fire service investigation found that the blaze had been accidentally sparked by repair work being undertaken on the roof. Fortunately, no one was injured. But the inferno left scars – not only on the local landscape, but also on the spirits of researchers who suddenly found themselves without a workplace  

Within weeks, temporary lab space was secured at the sprawling Alderley Park science campus in Cheshire. The quest to find new treatments for people with cancer went on. It had to.  

Regeneration – ‘bigger, better and more visionary than ever’ 

Over the past few years, Cancer Research UK, The Christie and The University of Manchester have been working in partnership – securing funds to not only rebuild, but to come back bigger, better and more visionary than ever.   

Through a combination of insurance payments, philanthropic giving, local charity support and investment from government agencies, a new £150m research centre has risen from the ashes.   

Earlier this year over 300 scientists and 400 clinicians and operational staff moved into the dramatic, polished structure. At over 25,000 square metres, the building is twice the size of the previous facility, allowing experts to deliver discovery research and translate this into innovative clinical trials at scale.    

We were absolutely thrilled to move into the new research facility which is even more impressive than we could have imagined when we looked at the original plans. The opportunities for multi-disciplinary collaboration will lead to exciting discoveries in the future. The state-of-the-art facilities here in Manchester will enable researchers to go further and faster in finding new ways to diagnose and treat cancer.

- Professor Caroline Dive, Director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute

Exploring the new institute 

Now, for the first time, video cameras have captured the exciting potential of the facility where multidisciplinary teams will deliver trials covering the full extent of the patient pathway, from prevention and novel treatments to living with and beyond cancer.  

As the video shows, a central component of the building is the new Cancer Research UK National Biomarker Centre, which will be officially opened in June. Biomarker testing is a way of looking for genes, proteins and other molecules that can provide information about a person’s cancer and how it is behaving.  

Scientists can use biomarkers to do several things including detecting cancer early when there is more chance of cure; identifying an individual’s tumour type to predict what treatment might be best for them; and to anticipate when a tumour might become resistant to a particular treatment, so clinicians can change course.  

Spread across three floors will be the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute – one of four major institutes funded by the charity across the UK. Its aim is to understand the fundamental basis of cancer and apply that knowledge to developing new treatment strategies for many different forms of the disease.  

And there’ll be several research teams from The University of Manchester’s Division of Cancer Sciences who’ll focus on different types of blood cancer as well as immunotherapy (a type of treatment that harnesses a patient’s own immune system to attack cancer cells).  

The building will also be home to an experimental radiotherapy programme, plus the Academy of Surgical Oncology – a surgical research team, something very few UK cancer centres possess. 

Working in the new research facility feels so exciting. A big thank you to those who fundraised and played a part in helping to make the new building a reality.

Everyone was devastated by the fire which caused significant damage to the original Paterson building. It’s amazing to be back working now on the same spot where the original Paterson stood, but in such a futuristic building.

- Caroline Wilkinson, Chief Operating Officer of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute

The period ahead holds enormous promise for world-class cancer research in Manchester, with multidisciplinary collaboration being enabled by the reimagined building. 

In the wake of the 2017 blaze, who could have imagined such transformation?  Fire is one of the most powerful and destructive elements. But ash makes for fertile soil. 


  • Suzanne Caers
    9 May 2024


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  • Suzanne Caers
    9 May 2024


Tell us what you think

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Read our comment policy.