New flu and stem cell centre opened by Government minister

A NEW �12m influenza and stem cell centre in South Mimms was opened by a Government minister.

Public health minister Anne Milton officially opened the Health Protection Agency’s new Influenza Resource Centre and UK Stem Cell Bank, at the agency’s National Institute of Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC), in Blanche Lane on Wednesday.

More than 40 scientists will be based at the new facility and the minister toured the newly-constructed hi-tech labs, which have been operational since December last year.

She met scientists who last year played a crucial role in developing an effective vaccine against pandemic H1N1 swine flu when it first emerged last year.

The scientists – now based in the new building – include one of a handful of teams in the world with the job of responding to pandemics by rapidly developing virus strains that can be used for large scale vaccine manufacture as well as the materials needed to measure vaccine strength.

Dr Stephen Inglis, director of NIBSC, said: “This new building gives us first-class facilities for the research and development needed both to counter a major global threat and also to speed the development of new classes of medicine that have the potential to revolutionise clinical treatment in years to come.”

Mrs Milton said: “This centre will help ensure we retain our position as one of the world leaders in this field.”

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The minister added: “It is a key public health facility that will improve our ability to respond rapidly and effectively to future flu outbreaks and will work to enhance our understanding of complex stem cell research.”