GOSH celebrates one year anniversary of the opening of the Zayed Centre for Research into Rare Disease in Children

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It’s been a year since the Zayed Centre for Research opened its doors to patients, clinicians and researchers from across Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and UCL, and to celebrate we’re taking a look back at its work and achievements.

It opened prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the things we thought would take place in the Centre have happened such as seeing thousands of patients. But some of the research activity changed as our people and their skills and our facilities were put in service of supporting the hospital treat patients during the pandemic and on research activity to understand and inform our management of the virus.

Researchers have worked together to test patient and staff member samples to allow staff and patients to be treated, and have “sequenced” over 1,300 Covid-19 genomes. This helps scientists to learn about gradual changes in the virus over time and can reveal how it is spreading through different parts of the population.

In October it was announced that the first human challenge trial for a Covid-19 vaccine would take place. The Zayed Centre for Research state-of-the art facilities have been singled out for their quality and scale and will manufacture the virus needed for the trial.

Professor Judith Breuer of GOSH and UCL has played a key part in pivoting research efforts: “We’ve been continuing the UK effort to sequence Covid-19 genomes which is being used to understand the spread of the virus in the country. We’re also using sequencing to try and understand the impact of drugs, and that follows on directly from the work that is already underway in the Zayed Centre for Research to understand more about how viruses affect children.”

The Zayed Centre for Research’s award winning design and facilities have helped the researchers and clinicians over a challenging few months, as Judith explains: “The Zayed Centre for Research is just a wonderful place to work in, it’s so light and beautiful. It’s been particularly good when we’ve had to socially distance, as the large space is incredibly adaptable to the requirements for safe working during the pandemic. We have been fortunate to have access to these exceptional facilities to match the expertise of the teams working around the clock to help us improve the care we can offer to seriously ill children.”

The Centre has seen over 13,300 children attend appointments in Falcon Outpatients, where they have received expert care for rare and complex conditions.

The Zayed Centre for Research was made possible thanks to a transformative £60 million gift from Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, wife of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the United Arab Emirates, in 2014. We are also grateful to Research England, The Wolfson Foundation, John Connolly & Odile Griffith and the Mead Family Foundation whose generous support contributed to the creation of the Zayed Centre for Research. The centre is a partnership between Great Ormond Street Hospital, UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

Louise Parkes, Chief Executive at GOSH Charity, reflected on the Centre’s first year, commenting: “The ambition that drives all our work is to make a difference to seriously ill children from across the UK who are cared for at GOSH. As a dedicated space to help unlock the much-needed breakthroughs to treat rare disease, it is fitting that the Zayed Centre for Research is playing such a critical role in research around Covid-19. When we celebrated the opening of the Zayed Centre for Research in 2019, we never could have imagined the circumstances in which we would all be operating in, just one year later. We are incredibly grateful to all of our donors and supporters without whom we wouldn’t have this amazing facility which is so needed now more than ever. The Zayed Centre for Research is real testament to what we can achieve when we work together.”

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