Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Sir David Cooksey, Advent Venture Partners

  My principal activity is as Chairman of Advent Venture Partners, a substantial venture capital firm investing in innovative early stage companies in the fields of life sciences, information technology and communications. I have also been involved in public policy issues having been Chairman of the Audit Commission and the Small Business Investment Taskforce. I am currently Chairman of the Committee of the Non-Executive Directors of the Bank of England and of Diamond Light Source Ltd (DLS), the joint venture between the Office of Science and Technology and the Wellcome Trust. DLS is constructing the new synchrotron light source at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. I was formerly a Governor of the Wellcome Trust.

  Most recently I have been invited to chair the MRC/DH Health Research Delivery Group to oversee joint working between these bodies to improve the effectiveness of clinical research in the UK. The Chancellor announced extra resources for clinical research building over four years to £100 million per annum for the MRC in his 2004 Spending Review and a similar figure was allocated to the NHS R&D budget in his 2004 Budget. The Delivery Group is responsible for ensuring that these extra resources significantly improve medical translational research in the UK.

  This concentration of resources for translational research followed two reports that were issued in November 2003. The first was from a group headed by Professor John Bell at the Academy of Medical Sciences which pointed to the current shortcomings of clinical research in the UK and the second was from a joint DH/DTI/BioIndustry Association study group, the Biosciences Innovation and Growth Team (BIGT), chaired by me. It demonstrated the opportunity to build a substantial Biosciences sector in the UK by 2015 but showed that this could only be achieved by co-ordinated efforts between the DH, NHS, MRC and the biosciences industry. Government's immediate response was to set up the UK Clinical Research Collaboration under the leadership of Sir John Pattison (and since his retirement by Professor Sally Davies). This has been complemented by the MRC/DH Health Research Delivery Group. Much needs to be done but a good start has been made with a real commitment from the NHS, academia and the pharmaceutical/biosciences industries. The prize for success is very large in terms of better health for patients and more successful pharmaceutical/bioscience industries located in the UK.

  In the case of NIMR, I must emphasise that I have no direct involvement in it myself, and I would not wish to comment on the decision to move it to central London or on the specific choice of a partner organisation. On the other hand, I am well aware of the scientific reputation of NIMR and of the very significant contribution it has made to the field of medical research in this country. Its international reputation for scientific excellence is without question. It is very important that we preserve this continuing contribution in whatever form it may emerge.

  In the broader context, it has been very pleasing to see the way that the MRC is responding to the new translational research agenda. It has embraced the requirements of the BIGT report and is redirecting its efforts alongside the revised approach by the NHS R&D function to implement the BIGT recommendations.

  In this regard it is important that NIMR can play its full part in the evolving translational research agenda. I am persuaded that more progress will be made if the NIMP is located in a medical school environment with good access to clinical medicine where the broadest range of supporting disciplines relevant to its fields of research are available. This should include access to secure animal facilities, which inevitably will reduce the choice of partner organisations.

  I commend the Committee to address the issues identified above in their overall consideration of the future of NIMR.

17 November 2004

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2005
Prepared 8 February 2005