The Wellcome Genome Campus expansion to boost science in UK and health globally


Wellcome announces major investment in phase one of Cambridgeshire development which will deliver new lab space, homes, amenities, and unlock future development across 315-acre campus expansion site 

The Wellcome Genome Campus will undergo a major expansion that will secure its status as a world-leading hub for genomics and biodata – two of the most cutting-edge areas of scientific research, Wellcome has announced today. 

Investment for the expansion’s first phase has been approved by the board of Wellcome, a charitable foundation and one of the world’s biggest funders of biomedical research. This first phase alone will be one of the largest contemporary investments in the UK’s life sciences infrastructure. 

The new development – for which Wellcome has allocated hundreds of millions of pounds – will be part of the foundation’s investment portfolio and will generate a return to support its mission of supporting science to solve urgent health challenges. 

Thirty years after the creation of the campus, the expansion will add much-needed capacity for biosciences at a time when the UK is facing a shortage in laboratory space, and will build on the success of existing long-term occupiers: the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), and the BioData Innovation Centre, which houses a range of start-up companies as part of the site’s genomics and biodata community.

The site will continue to focus on genomics and biodata, aiming to attract global leaders in these fields and provide enhanced opportunities for this research to be translated into real-world solutions for health challenges. The new facilities will accommodate a range of occupiers from start-ups and scale-ups to more mature organisations, growing and enhancing the existing scientific ecosystem.

Julia Gillard, Chair of Wellcome, said: 

“Bringing great researchers together to share ideas and inspire one another is one of the best ways to cultivate new discoveries. Scientists at the Wellcome Genome Campus have already made remarkable contributions to our knowledge of life and health. Growing the campus now will accelerate advances and change even more lives for the better around the world.”

New community amenities and increased biodiversity

Today’s news is a major milestone in the Campus’s expansion, after South Cambridgeshire District Council granted planning permission in early 2021. Since then, Wellcome, teams on the campus, and development experts Urban&Civic have been working on detailed aspects of the plans. 

This first phase will unlock development across the 315-acre extension by putting in place crucial infrastructure and readying parcels of land for new occupiers to build on. It delivers a near doubling of the built area of the existing campus with:

  • 180,000 square feet of new research space, plus a gym and swimming pool, shops and cafes for the local community and people on campus
  • around 400 of the 1,500 total planned homes for people working on the site
  • an electrical grid throughout the site, connected to a new substation that will support renewable generation on site, along with other enabling work, roads and parking to underpin the expansion of the campus.

It will also deliver:

  • upgrades to transport infrastructure, including to local road and cycle networks
  • new habitats for wildlife and increased biodiversity, open to the local community and integrated into existing wetlands.

Detailed building designs will be developed this year with the first buildings due for completion in early 2026.

Future phases will see a further 1.4mn square feet of laboratory and research space, the remaining homes, further amenities and community facilities, and a local primary school.

As part of the development Wellcome will also be supporting:

  • a construction jobs scheme to help local people gain employment on the development
  • improvements to Hinxton village hall alongside the new community facilities on campus
  • a new community development worker to facilitate community activities and staffing for Sure Start work for young families.

Wellcome will use low-carbon methods of construction and is looking at the best ways to generate renewable energy on site, with an aim for the development to be net zero in operation.

The Wellcome Genome Campus opened in 1994, building on the establishment of the Wellcome Sanger Institute – then called the Sanger Centre – in 1993. The institute was responsible for sequencing one third of the human genome as a partner in the Human Genome Project.

This thriving campus is the leading hub for genomic science in Europe, bringing together nearly 3,000 people including employees, PhD students and visiting workers between Sanger, EMBL-EBI and those in a range of specialist and innovative genomics and biodata companies.

Recent developments in genomics pioneered on the campus have shown promise in treating various types of cancer, have helped in diagnosing rare genetic diseases, and are contributing to early-warning signs for infectious disease outbreaks.  

Paul Schreier, Interim Chief Executive of Wellcome, said:

“This is a major milestone in the growth of the Wellcome Genome Campus, cementing its position as a world-leading genetics and biodata hub.”

“As a charitable foundation we think about the long term when we’re investing. For the campus expansion, that means sustainability in every sense is crucial to us because we expect to be looking after it for decades to come.”

Matt Hurles, Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said:

“Expanding the campus will create opportunities to catalyse additional collaborations, so that we can continue to do innovative science at scale to overcome the challenges facing society. It is only by working together that we can continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in genome research – from finding new ways to understand and treat cancer, to helping provide children with rare genetic disorders with a diagnosis for the first time. I look forward to the next few exciting years to come, as these ambitious development plans become reality.”

Ewan Birney, Director of the European Bioinformatics Institute, said:

“Few places are as vibrant as the Wellcome Genome Campus, which brings together first-class research and open data resources that the global scientific community relies on. The concentration of expertise on the Wellcome Genome Campus meant that EMBL chose to establish its European Bioinformatics Institute on this site over 25 years ago. In that time our data resources have grown dramatically and an evaluation found that EMBL-EBI data and services contributed to the wider realisation of future research impacts worth £2.2 billion annually in 2021. This reflects the importance of open data to the discoveries of tomorrow. 

Adrian Ibrahim, SVP, Operations & Alliances at Mosaic (resident member at the BIC), said: 

Mosaic Therapeutics Mosaic is applying massive scale genomics and advanced computational capabilities to resolve cancer’s complexity and power a new generation of cancer therapies for patients.  For us, the Wellcome Genome Campus provides state of the art infrastructure and the support needed to set up as a start up in the life sciences sector. Our position at the campus has enabled us to go through our initial discovery platform and subsequent Series A $28m investment process and as we are expected to grow, we welcome the campus expansion, which we hope will enable us to expand even further.”

Anthony Finbow, Eagle Genomics CEO, said: 

“We are the pre-eminent platform business using graph technology and network science to drive the global Bioeconomy. We’re proud of our strong links to microbiome R&D across numerous industries. Being headquartered at one of the global epicentres of genomic research at the Wellcome Genome Campus in Cambridge has promoted close relationships with key stakeholders and partners and supported our international expansion.”