Countdown is on to opening of £81m research and health hub
- Credit: Archant
It is just months away from opening and will be the first of its kind in Europe - and potentially the world.
And the Quadram Institute on the Norwich Research Park is already making waves as buzz around the 'research pipeline' puts the city on the map .
A look behind the scenes showed the centre - which will be at the forefront of combined research into food science, gut biology and health - taking shape, with construction workers busy to meet the end of summer deadline to hand over the keys.
Dr Simon Rushbrook, the clinical lead for gastroenterology at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), said: 'It's basically the bringing together of people who want to study science and clinicians who need to investigate patients.'
Once complete, the £81m building will be home to the Quadram Institute Bioscience (formerly the Institute of Food Research), researchers from the University of East Anglia, and will also see up to 40,000 patients a year as the base of NNUH's gastroenterology department.
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It will welcome some 300 researchers and 100 clinicians as well as housing 40,000 endoscopy tests.
Dr Rushbrook said moving his department was a necessity, as population growth, people living longer, and the need to screen a wider range of people, meant doubling capacity.
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But from state-of-the-art labs, to high-tech equipment, he was assured it was a step in the right direction.
'Not only will it be at the forefront of endoscopic delivery, teaching, and innovation,' he said. 'But it will also allow for future proofing the endoscopic delivery of care for the population of Norfolk and beyond. This means rapid access to endoscopic diagnostics for patients and rapid access for the diagnosis or exclusion of gastrointestinal cancer.'
He added: 'It's very unusual to find a scientific institute and an NHS facility this close together. This is a unique environment, you won't find anything like this in the world.'
On the clinical aspect, patient areas were designed specifically to benefit what Dr Rushbrook called 'patient flow' - or the most efficient way of moving patients through the department.
Patients would move through different areas, kitted out with equipment such as a £17,000 movable arms and technology to stream procedures to lecture theatres above, as they progressed through their consultations and treatments.
And to put an end to waiting aimlessly for your turn, electronic buzzers were to be introduced. This meant patients would be able to check-in, then take a device with them to - for example - the cafe, which would then buzz when it was their turn.
Dr Rushbrook also said there were plans to ensure one nurse followed a patient through their whole procedure for continuity.
The research side of the centre will focus on four key themes - the gut and the microbiome, healthy aging, food innovation, and population health.
Professor Alastair Forbes, joint director of research for NNUH and UEA said shared staff areas in the project had been created deliberately to encourage collaboration between clincal and research staff.
He said: 'It is a major step forward. There is an extraordinary appetite for research at all levels within the hospital and university and we expect this will grow stronger. There will also be purpose-built trial and assessment rooms, participants' lounge, kitchen and dining space alongside a clinical laboratory.'
Just one part of the research at the centre will look at how recent discoveries point towards a wide variety of gut microbes influencing how well a patient whose cancer has spread responds to treatment.
And Norfolk's cancer charity The Big C donated £400,000 towards looking into this area last year.
• Opportunities to work at the Quadram Institute are highly sought after, but a number of nursing and research posts are available - as well as roles for potential PhD students. To find out more, visit quadram.ac.uk/vacancies-listing/