HRH The Earl of Wessex visited the globally significant Centre for Clinical Haematology at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham this week.

HRH was given a tour of the facility, which reopened in January 2018, to witness the impact the Centre has already had for patients, staff and on the global fight against the disease. A plaque was unveiled to commemorate the visit which was organised after the Centre had a £3.4m redevelopment to double its capacity for blood cancer patients, groundbreaking clinical trials and specialist research nurses in 2017.

The funds to ensure this transformational project was possible came from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) which granted £2.4m towards the facility. The other £1m was raised by blood cancer charity Cure Leukaemia during 2017 through a combination of trust and foundation applications, major fundraising events and campaigns and generous donors.

Notable guests on the day included Laurie Dalrymple, Managing Director of Wolverhampton Wanderers after the club and its fans raised £110,000 towards Cure Leukaemia’s Centre Appeal following the diagnosis of goalkeeper Carl Ikeme. Midlands Regional Chair of KPMG Karl Edge and Managing Director of Deutsche Bank Birmingham Paul Anderson also attended after the support of both companies helped Cure Leukaemia raise the required capital.

Many patients that have and continue to benefit from the Centre attended as well as representatives from Cure Leukaemia’s key fundraisers and partners who all played their part in raising the funds.

Former England, Wolves, Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest footballer and blood cancer survivor Geoff Thomas this celebrates his 15thanniversary since he was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia and given just 3 months to live. Geoff first opened the Centre in 2006 and, with three other amateur cyclists Doug McKinnon, Hayden Groves and James Maltin, raised over £350,000 towards the Centre Appeal by cycling the epic 10,400km ‘3 Tours Challenge’ in the summer of 2017. Geoff said:

“In 2003 I was diagnosed with blood cancer and the only available treatment was a gruelling stem cell transplant from my sister.

Thanks to the amazing work of Professor Craddock and his team at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital I am now cured. However, it became clear to me that many patients still die of blood cancer and I have devoted my life since then to increasing access to the breaking wave of new treatments through investment in clinical trials.

It’s wonderful to see how this new facility at the QE will double the capacity for clinical trial delivery and hasten progress towards the eradication of blood cancer.”

Cure Leukaemia Co-Founder Professor Charlie Craddock CBE said: “It has been an honour to welcome HRH to the Centre to show him the extraordinary progress that is being made in the fight against this disease.”

“This Centre has and continues to, play an increasingly important role in driving the delivery of practice-changing clinical trials for blood cancer.

These connect patients to treatments they would not otherwise have seen and brought closer the day when we will have effective treatments for all blood cancer patients. At the same time, this has attracted inward investment from global pharmaceutical companies into the Birmingham Life Sciences Sector.”

Chair of the GBSLEP Tim Pile said: “Today’s visit by HRH The Earl of Wessex allowed us to highlight one of the region’s real success stories in the life sciences sector.

“GBSLEP’s support for the pioneering Centre for Clinical Haematology will provide a major boost to the local economy.

It is creating 75 new jobs and ensures that – by being at the forefront of innovation in global healthcare – Greater Birmingham’s thriving life sciences sector remains attractive to investors, businesses and talented workers from across the globe.”