Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Professor Kay E Davies, former member of the MRC Task Force on the NIMR

  As you may know, I am a member of MRC Council and was also a member of the Task Force looking at the future of NIMR. I am writing this in my capacity as a member of the Task Force and an Honorary Director of an MRC Unit. I have been associated with the MRC and working at the interface between basic science and clinical medicine for the last 20 years. I am currently Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Department Health funded clinical trial which you helped so much to set up.

  The MRC is required by OST to re-assess the strategic relevance of an institute whenever there is either a quinquennial review or whenever a Director retires. The MRC therefore needed to consider the future of NIMR in the context of its strategic priorities for the next 20-30 years. The genetic revolution and sequencing of the human genome has provided an unparalled opportunity to exploit basic science in the clinic. The MRC would naturally wish to facilitate this transition as much as possible to strengthen links with the NHS in the UK and also to ensure the exploitation of the fruits of the genome sequencing era via the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. This step requires a shift from a purely biologically based research to a more multidisciplinary environment.

  The Task Force was set up in a spirit of openness and with no prior agenda. The first meeting endorsed the need for a National Institute but also recognised the need for the science to evolve towards more translational research. It was acknowledged that NIMR was already engaged in some translational research but the renewed institute would need to have more emphasis in this area.

  Some discussion was had about whether the remit of NIMR should cover clinical research as well as translational research. This was decided to be inappropriate as the former would need another type of infrastructure. Indeed, the report from the Academy of Medical Sciences has recommended a dispersed model for clinical research activity. The Task Force vision does not conflict with this recommendation.

  It can be debated whether translational research is done better adjacent to a medical school or not. However, there are additional considerations in locating a renewed institute. Translational research needs more interdisciplinary working in order to achieve its aims of delivery to the clinic and establishing links with industry to produce new drugs. In particular, there is a need for modern synthetic chemistry, physical chemistry, engineering and imaging. The Task Force therefore invited bids for other London institutions to accommodate NIMR.

  The membership of the Task Force was made up of leaders in the field many of whom have been involved in multidisciplinary institutes and translational research. The discussions were open and the proceedings published on the web. There was no bias at any stage.

  The Task Force recognised the high cost of re-location but also recognised the cost of keeping NIMR at Mill Hill. It was therefore decided to invite bids for a re-location. MRC Council could then make an informed decision about the future.

9 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