Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Professor Critchley and Professor Calder, University of Edinburgh

  We understand that the Science and Technology Select Committee has been considering the future location of the MRC funded National Institute for Medical Research at Millhill and has been consulting on this issue. We write to contribute to the debate by expressing our unambiguous view concerning the best location for such a Medical Research Institute. We are in no doubt about the added value of location adjacent to a busy (preferably teaching) hospital which is dealing with the clinical problems which are ultimately the target of the research agenda of the scientists. Such a location benefits greatly from the opportunity for exchange of ideas between basic scientists, clinical academics and medical specialists. Those who work "at the bedside" are then in the position to interact with colleagues working "at the bench" in active regular interchange of ideas in relation to the important questions that need to be addressed. Translatable studies are more easily executed from the laboratory when the patients are in close proximity. Geographical isolation inevitably makes collaborations more difficult. Joint meetings between hospital and laboratory staff become a reality thereby providing opportunities for each to recognise the others' needs where there is a common goal namely optimisation of patient care.

  In Edinburgh, we have been privileged to have enjoyed several such arrangements for several decades. Our own participation lies within the Centre for Reproductive Biology which is a tripartite collaboration consisting of the Medical Research Council Unit of Human Reproductive Sciences together with the University Division of Reproductive and Developmental Sciences and the National Health Service Centre for Reproductive Health located in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. When the hospital faced relocation two years ago to a greenfield site, the strategic decision was taken that the three components of the Centre for Reproductive Biology would remain in close association; indeed with the opportunity for new building currently under construction as the Research Institute for Medical Cell Biology, this integration has been enhanced. The consequence of this is that clinicians and basic scientists identify as being part of one organisation with common goals. Joint seminars take place and all of the professionals contribute to both undergraduate and postgraduate training. Clinical research is a central part of the culture of the hospital as a whole and there is a wholly positive attitude about the benefits of a research agenda which is held by all staff (clinical and non-clinical) as well as the many patients who themselves feel part of that culture of common pursuit of the highest quality of clinical care and who willingly participate in the relevant research endeavors. We believe that the conduct of basic research in a clinical vacuum detracts from its impact on the effective development of enhanced treatment opportunities and consequently runs the risk of failing to achieve the full potential of this vital investment.

November 2004

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