Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Professor Tony Minson, Department of Pathology, Cambridge University

  The UK needs a National Institute of Medical Research and it needs to be located on a single site. In my view any attempt to locate the Institute on more than one site will create a "virtual institute" that will quickly loose its identity.

  Defining the remit of the Institute is more difficult. As the MRC task force noted, investment in a new Institute will take at least a decade and priorities in the future are uncertain. The remit of the Institute should therefore be basic and translational medical research and should remain sufficiently broad to respond to changing priorities.

  It is crucial that the Institute has effective clinical links but I question whether this can be achieved by association or co-location with a single hospital, because it is unlikely that any one hospital will provide the necessary range of specialities. I note, for example, the current focus of NTMR on infectious disease, neuroscience and development. While there are hospitals in London with excellent clinical expertise in each of these areas, no single hospital could provide the patients or provide high level clinical expertise to cover them all. Doubtless the emphasis at NTMR will change, but the point is made. It would be unfortunate if the priorities of a national centre were driven by the clinical remit of a single hospital. The challenge, then, is to achieve effective links with multiple clinical centres while locating the NIMR on a single site. It does not seem to me that current proposals meet this challenge.

  Finally, we cannot ignore the problem of research with experimental animals. In its current location NIMIR has excellent accommodation for experimental animals and has the necessary security arrangements in place. The use of experimental animals will remain essential to the success of NIMR for the foreseeable future. Any proposal to re-locate NIMR, regardless of the site, must face up to the realities and costs of planning, building and running a large new animal facility. Recent experience in Cambridge and Oxford suggests that this is a key issue.

16 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