5m award to transform the future of global eye health

Rendering of Oriel entranceRendering of Oriel entrance
The Wolfson Foundation has awarded £5 million to UCL for Oriel, the new integrated UCL-Moorfields Eye Hospital centre for advancing eye health.

The £5 million grant for Oriel will increase the speed of research breakthroughs in eye health and help to overcome eye healthcare inequalities, by bringing researchers and clinicians from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital together under one roof for the first time.

Oriel is the joint initiative between Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Charity that will see services move from their current premises near Old Street, Islington to part of the St Pancras Hospital site in Camden.

The purpose-built, integrated building will enable patients to experience the best care and participate in cutting-edge research first-hand. Researchers, clinicians, educators and innovators will have the opportunity to collaborate across disciplines, to share expertise and approaches, all in partnership with patients. This close collaboration will increase the pace at which new discoveries and treatments are developed and will benefit patients in London, the UK and internationally.

Oriel will also create new flexible learning space, ensuring practitioners stay at the cutting edge of new technologies, simulations and imaging, and supporting the next generation of clinical practitioners and new innovations.

Oriel was granted final NHS and government approvals at the end of 2022 and construction of the new state-of-the-art centre is due to start this year. The new centre will be located in the heart of the Knowledge Quarter, a world-class hub for science and innovation. It is close to the UCL Bloomsbury campus and several NHS, commercial and charity partners.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation said: "The longstanding partnership between UCL and Moorfields Eye Hospital has created significant improvements in healthcare for eye patients not just in the UK, but throughout the world. By bringing clinicians and researchers together at Oriel, we believe the two institutions will create the ideal platform to generate further breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of eye disease. We are delighted to be funding a dedicated innovation space at the heart of the new building, designed to foster close collaboration between different teams of scientists."

UCL President & Provost Dr Michael Spence said: "Our researchers at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, in partnership with Moorfields Eye Hospital and Moorfields Eye Charity, have been at the forefront of new eye health developments both nationally and internationally, from the first 3D-printed prosthetic eye to gene and stem cell-based therapy which has restored sight lost to eye disease.

"While these achievements are ground-breaking, the current set up across buildings at two separate sites means that we cannot realise the full transformational power of the partnership between UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital. Oriel will change that. The Wolfson Foundation’s award will unleash this untapped potential, leading to new and quicker discoveries and treatments that will improve eye health at a global scale."

Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences, said: "We are delighted that the Wolfson Foundation has made this award to Oriel. At the new centre, researchers will work alongside doctors and patients, for the benefit of patients. Barriers will be eradicated and collaboration will be a part of day-to-day working life. Students will be able to more closely observe and experience clinical settings, and greater patient involvement in research projects will be made possible. We know that the Wolfson Foundation is rigorous in their pursuit of research excellence and the award confirms that this is a project which will transform the research and education landscape in eye health."

Angharad Milenkovic, Vice-President Advancement at UCL, said: "Every day, 250 people in the UK begin to lose their sight. Across the world, major eye diseases are a growing health and economic burden. Philanthropy has a vital role to play in moving the dial of progress in addressing these challenges. We are grateful to the Wolfson Foundation for partnering with us through this award and for sharing our ambition of creating a world where more people’s sight can be protected and restored and the burden of sight-loss on individuals, families and communities is diminished. We look forward to working with other visionary philanthropic individuals and organisations as we work to transform the lives of countless people with sight problems in London, in the UK and globally."