Memorandum from Professor A R Bellamy,
University of Auckland
The current NIMR Mill Hill site has many attributes
that make it an ideal site for an expanded Medical Research Institute
that is partnered with a major London University. The most important
attribute of the site is space for the extensive ancillary facilities
that are required for modern Medical Research, particularly animal
1. My name is Alfred Richard Bellamy. I
am a Professor of Cellular and Molecular Biology at The University
of Auckland. I am a virologist with over 35 years experience in
biomedical research. Currently I am Dean of Science at the University
of Auckland, New Zealand where I direct 12 Departments comprising
approximately 650 employees. Biomedical Research forms an important
component of our Faculty.
2. I am very familiar with the NIMR, having
spent a year working there in the 1970s and I have visited the
Institute quite often, since that time. During the 1960s, 70s'
and early 80s', the Institute was not in a strong position and
in some areas was in something of an extended scientific decline.
The appointment of John Skehel as Director reversed that trend
and Sir John has now established a thriving biomedical culture.
I am impressed with the ability of the Institute to attract leading
highly qualified scientific staff over recent years. I believe
the performance and publication output of staff has been outstanding.
3. I understand that a case has been made
to the MRC Council that retaining the NIMR on its present site
and on its current scale is not compelling and that retention
of the Mill Hill site does not fit with the strategic direction
of the MRC. And further that the current NIMR location is too
isolated from clinical and other academic units to compete and
to remain attractive to scientists in the longer termas
it has been able to do in the past.
I believe that these views overlook the important
long-term desirability of achieving a balance between:
A continued strong MRC presence in
the Greater London area.
Access to sufficient land for major
animal facilities and other space-intensive infrastructure.
The desirability of having access
to the very large student base provided by the University of London.
The attraction of London to international
researchers and the access available to the many major clinical
centres in London.
The presence in London of a very
large patient base.
4. An initial proposal to relocate a reduced
NIMR to Addenbrooke's has now been discarded. From this distance
that proposal did not appear to have been adequately investigated
or thought through. Despite many years of effort to build clinical
linkages between LMB and Addenbrooke's, these are widely known
to be fragmentary at best. For whatever reason, topline medicine
internationally continues to be located near major medical schools
and hospitals located in major urban centres. I do not believe
that shifting a reduced NIMR complement to Addenbrooke's would
ever have altered that fundamental equation.
5. The more recent proposal of 13 October
reached by the Medical Council and published on their website
is based on the "renewal of NIMR as a multi-disciplinary
Research Institute in the London area focused on basic and translational
research". I believe that to be a much wiser decision. However
I note that in deciding upon a suitable site, the Council Steering
Committee will now need to consider what would be required at
Mill Hill if that site is to meet the Task Force vision.
6. It is my submission that the Mill Hill
site retains many attractive features as the site for a renewed
and expanded Institute for Medical Research. For its advantages
to be weighed against others, will require that the Mill Hill
site be compared and carefully costed alongside the other options.
7. I believe that such an analysis is likely
to reveal that a continued presence on the larger site at Mill
Hill would provide a strong "driver", particularly given
the need for extensive animal facilities. Provided that the Local
Planning Authority is supportive, the Mill Hill site is likely
to provide a more cost effective option than would a Central London
8. Formal identification of Mill Hill as
a satellite campus of a major teaching institution such as University
College London appears to be an obvious solution. Such an approach
would address most of the requirements of the MRC vision, viz:
"best science and value-for-money in the broader scientific
and health context". I believe that the arrangement I propose
would provide many benefits to Medical Research in the United
Kingdom while also building upon the wider international research
effort in the Medical Sciences generally.
10 November 2004