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History of the Kennedy Trust

On October 5th, 1966 an opening ceremony was held in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester to mark the creation of the first research Institute in the world dedicated wholly to the search for the causes and cures of rheumatic diseases. Until the founding of the Kennedy Institute, there had been no single building, in any country, designed specifically to serve the needs of research workers investigating the fundamental causes of the rheumatic diseases.

The new Institute came into being because Terence Kennedy and his wife Mathilda, who was a daughter of Michael Marks, the founder of Marks & Spencer, had a particular respect and affection for their general practitioner, Dr Leslie Lankester who became crippled with the effects of arthritis. So, Mr and Mrs Kennedy conceived of a specialist Institute, which could benefit future sufferers of rheumatic diseases.

Sadly, Mrs Kennedy died before her dream could be realised but the Mathilda and Terence Kennedy Charitable Trust made an endowment of £500,000 to the Board of Governors of West London & Charing Cross Hospitals to build a group of laboratories in West London.

The Institute was first located on a site in Bute Gardens, W6 close to West London Hospital which had a long association with rheumatism research. The land was leased on a peppercorn rent by the Special Trustees of the Charing Cross and West London Hospitals. A fine modern building was designed by architects, Alan Stubbs & Partners.

In April 1969, HRH The Princess Margaret graciously consented to become Patron. In the same year, the Institute was formally incorporated as a company limited by guarantee and not having a share capital.

Occupancy of the new building began in 1966 under the Institute's first Director, Dr D L Gardner who established five divisions.

Throughout its existence, the Institute has received continuous financial support from the Arthritis Research Campaign on a substantial scale. As a result of this financial commitment, the independent Management Committee of the Institute was merged into the Executive and Finance Committee of the ARC in 1977. This arrangement continued until July 1997 when the Boards were again separated.

In 1990, Professor Maini was appointed the Director of the Kennedy Institute, and in 1992 succeeded Professor Sir James Gowans as the Director of the Charing Cross Sunley Research Centre. This was the first step in the integration of the two institutes and was followed by the assignment of the Sunley Research Centre in Lurgan Avenue on the Charing Cross Hospital campus and its freehold lease by deed of gift to the ARC. This increased the research space available to the Institute on the two sites by some 40% and enabled the group of scientists headed by Professor Sir Marc Feldmann to be integrated into the Kennedy Institute.

Within a short period of this acquisition, the ARC decided to relocate the Institute adjacent to the Charing Cross campus by extending the existing Sunley building. After over 30 years at Bute Gardens, that building was vacated in May 1997 with the completion of the “new” Kennedy Institute in Aspenlea Road. The new building, which was fully funded by the ARC, was formally opened by the Duchess of Kent (Patron of the ARC) on 17 June 1997. Later in the same year, HRH The Princess Margaret, Patron of the Institute, came to visit the new building.

On 1st August 2000, the Institute transferred its staff and research activities to the management of the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine as the “Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology Division”, the tenth division of the newly formed Faculty of Medicine.

On the same day, the Institute changed its name to “The Mathilda and Terence Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology Trust” to distinguish it from the newly formed division within Imperial College.

Following a review of the optimal location for the Trust's financial support, an agreement was reached with the University of Oxford to transfer the Kennedy Division to that university with effect from 1 August 2011 as the new Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology within the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences.

In July 2012, the Trust changed its name to the Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research to reflect its wider role in funding research.