Institute for Regeneration and Repair
Institute for Regeneration and Repair Logo

Origins, vision and aims

The Institute for Regeneration and Repair has ambitions to change the way doctors treat disease.

2020 heralded the beginning of a new decade, a time to think ahead, innovate and reimagine the future. What kind of world do we want to live in in 10 or 20 years time? What do we want to achieve?

At the University of Edinburgh, we have been reimagining the future of regenerative medicine. Our vision is for a day when patients could walk into a clinic and not only be offered treatments to stop any further damage to their bodies, but could actually be given treatments designed to repair existing damage. There are currently no regenerative medicines available in the clinic, so if this was achieved it would be transformational.

This vision is being manifested through the formation of the Institute for Regeneration and Repair.

If you go to your GP at the moment with an illness you will be given a treatment that is designed to stop any further damage happening. So you’ll be given an antibiotic for an infection or an anti-inflammatory for an inflammation process but you’ll never be given a treatment that’s actually designed to enhance the repair of the body, to repair the damage that’s already been done, because there aren’t any.

Professor Charles ffrench-Constant


Video: Institute for Regeneration and Repair: origins, vision and aims
Professor Charles ffrench-Constant outlines the origins, vision and aims of the new Institute for Regeneration and Repair at the University of Edinburgh.



At a basic level, the new Institute for Regeneration and Repair is the coming together of multiple existing world-class research centres at the University of Edinburgh . This currently comprises the Centre for Inflammation Research and the Centre for Regenerative Medicine, with more centres to be added as capacity increases.

Centre for Inflammation Research

Group image of members of the Centre for Inflammation Research
Scientists from the Centre for Inflammation Research

The Centre for Inflammation Research (CIR) was established in 1999 and has since 2005 been located in the Queen's Medical Research Institute building, situated in the Edinburgh BioQuarter - a site shared by the Royal Infirmary Hospital and the University's Clinical Research facilities.

The Centre is home to over 300 scientists working on inflammation. It has a multi-disciplinary approach to the research of mechanisms underlying inflammatory disorders with the aim of designing new treatments for and new methods to monitor and image these important conditions.


Centre for Regenerative Medicine

Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh BioQuarter
Centre for Regenerative Medicine building

The Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) was established in 2008 and was an important strategic initiative for the University. It was the brainchild of CRM’s first Director Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, the lead scientist behind Dolly the sheep, and was designed to be a new centre focussed on stem cells and regenerative medicine. For the first time, stem cell biologists working in the School of Biological Sciences were brought together with scientists in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine interested in damage and disease.

In 2011, CRM staff moved into their new home, a £56 million purpose-built facility, also located in the Edinburgh Bioquarter. The building contained state-of-the-art laboratory space for over 250 researchers. By physically co-locating these scientists, interactions and expertise were created that were simply not attainable before.


Triad of effective regeneration

 “without inflammation, regeneration doesn’t happen" 

As the Centre for Regenerative Medicine continued to grow, it became clear that an additional group of scientists were needed – people working on inflammation – as research was showing that without inflammation, regeneration does not happen.

With the Centre for Inflammation Research based just across the BioQuarter site, it seemed the obvious choice to bring these two world-class centres together to create a new, larger Institute which would become a global leader in the field of regeneration, repair and inflammation - the Institute for Regeneration and Repair.

Regeneration is a process that is driven by resident stem cells in the tissues, generating new cell types for repair. Inflammation is required in order to choreograph the whole process and create an environment that allows the new cells to integrate into the three dimensional architecture of the tissue.



History of regenerative medicine and inflammation research

More broadly, the establishment of the Institute reflects the achievements and progress made in regenerative medicine and inflammation at the University of Edinburgh over previous decades.

Timeline of regenerative medicine and inflammation at the University of Edinburgh


Building the Institute

Illustration of building site by artist Emily Fong.
Construction of the new Institute building. Illustration by CRM artist-in-residence Emily Fong.

In 2015, The University of Edinburgh secured £10.7m capital funding to build a new research facility adjacent to the Centre for Regenerative Medicine building, which would provide the extra space needed to house the Institute for Regeneration and Repair.

Construction of the building began in October 2017 and is due for completion in 2022. Once complete, the two neighbouring buildings will provide space for over 600 Institute scientists, including the relocation of researchers from the Centre for Inflammation Research. This co-location will enable researchers to interact and collaborate further on pioneering new research focussed on tissue regeneration, inflammation and repair.

Located within the Edinburgh BioQuarter, the Institute is in close proximity to an NHS teaching hospital, top class Clinical Research Facilities, a life sciences innovation centre and an integrated Cell Therapy facility. This makes it extremely well connected and best placed to translate research into new therapies and drive them into the clinic.



Vision and aims

The ultimate goal of the Institute for Regeneration and Repair is to develop new regenerative treatments and for them to be made available in the clinic.

The Institute brings together stem cell biologists, scientists working on damaged tissue and those working on inflammation. This triad defines effective regeneration, enabling us to start thinking about developing treatments.

Potential new therapies may include cell-based treatments, where cells are infused into damaged tissues to repair them, or drug based treatments, where the endogenous stem cells that are present within different tissues are activated.

Diseases studied by scientists at the Institute include cancer, heart and lung disease, liver failure, diabetes, and degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's. If in the next 10 to 20 years our research has resulted in a new treatment for one or more of these devastating conditions, this would be a mark of success. 


Timeline of the lab to clinic drug discovery process

We are well placed to translate our research to the clinic. We underpin all of what we do with solid base of excellent science and we are starting to see the fruits of this approach. With the strength of our two Centres we will see more examples of therapies for serious untreatable disease in the coming years.

Professor Stuart Forbes, Director, Institute for Regeneration and Repair