Memorandum from Professor Andrew Garner,
University of Manchester
The high-level strategic missionincluding
the areas of biomedical research that the institute will focus
All research environments, including
universities, must sharpen their focus. It is no longer possible
to attain critical mass in all areas of biomedical research.
Any national institute for medical
research must integrate fundamental and clinical research. The
emphasis should be on translational research, including prevention
A flagship MRC institution such as
NIMR should be forcing the pace in key areas of greatest clinical
need and working with the academic, health and biopharmaceutical
An understanding of the institute's national
role, eg, in training and providing centralised facilities:
World leading expertise in a few,
clinically relevant research fields will naturally lead to a recognisable
role as a national training facility; pre-eminent institutions
are characterised by a sustainable "youth team" and
an ability to attract "trainees" on an international
NIMR can only be expected to provide
a UK-wide service, whether in training or technology, in one or
two distinct areas. There are a number emergent fields in which
the barriers to entry such that the national can only afford one.
A description of how clinical links might be
Physical co-location of basic and
clinical research centres is a major driver of translational research,
for example in facilitating patient access and joint appointments/projects.
It is vital that basic and clinical
scholars interact on a daily basis and that effort is expended
in fostering an interactive environment; physical co-location
alone is not sufficient to build strong clinical links.
An outline of other potential partnership arrangements,
eg, with academic research organisations, industry, other funders
of biomedical research:
The re-engineered NIMR should work
hard to build a range of partnerships in order to increase awareness
of clinical and commercial pressures that impact on translation
of basic biomedical science into improved clinical outcomes.
Given that Pharma is seeking to work
in partnership with the NHS and looks increasingly to academia
to outsource basic research, then co-location at a site combining
academic, healthcare and industrial sectors could potentially
have the greatest impact.
A specific location and an indication of overall
size, structure and major on-site facilities:
Change can be disruptive as evidenced
by mergers in the higher educational and pharmaceutical sectors.
Whilst the character of NIMR will change, a reinvigorated and
more relevant institute is likely to emerge. MRC will need to
minimise the impact of change on current high-performing research
Size, structure and ethos will depend
on location. It strikes me that three possibilities exist. Remaining
in London has some obvious advantages and a move to either Cambridge
or Oxford would give immediate credibility.
A more radical solution would be
to move from the overheated South-east to the North-west where
a comparable environment exists combining the UK's largest university,
NHS trust and concentration of pharmaceutical R&D with lower
costs, better communications and higher disease burdens.
Some ideas on leadership and internal governance:
Strong, clinically-minded leadership
will be crucial. A charismatic, team-builder who is able devote
his or her full time attention to the new institute will be needed.
Performance-based governance that
combines a culture of accountability with a tight touch style
of management should characterise the institute.
23 November 2004