Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from David Kerr, NTRAC

  I would like to focus this brief submission on the translational research potential of NIMR and why I believe that this would be significantly enhanced by its proposed relocation in partnership with one of London's major colleges.

  The science based in NIMR is widely acknowledged to be strong and internationally competitive in infection and immunity, developmental biology, neurosciences, genetics and structural biology. However, as has been previously noted, the existing Unit is somewhat isolated from the clinical mainstream and has not harnessed as fully as it might, its potential for joint training of clinical fellows or translation of its science for human health benefits. A reasonable operating definition of translational research would be the application of basic scientific research for patient benefit, through the creation of novel diagnostic predictive or prognostic assays and development of new treatments. This is a noble aim and one would imagine would be core business for the Medical Research Council's largest Unit. This mission should not and will not detract from the quality of the underpinning science, but rather has the potential to enhance it.

  It is unlikely that these values could be fully adopted in NIMR's current environment and location and I agree with the Task Force's recommendations that translational research could only be properly pursued from the sort of multidisciplinary environment offered by a major University which has a Medical School and associated teaching hospitals. Any notion that the quality of science would be diluted down by such a move in is fallacious.

  Clearly, the business case for relocation of NIMR has not yet been constructed, but if we are to have a National Institute for Medical Research, representative of its name, then we should support application for the funds necessary to achieve its integration, as outlined in the Task Force's report. Clinical research sits high on the Government's agenda for health and wealth creation, and I have no doubt that the reconfigured NIMR will have a key role to play in the seamless transition of high quality basic research into the clinical realm.

24 November 2004

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