Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Dr Robert L Coffman, Dynavax

  For the past 30 years, I have conducted research in the fields of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, two fields in which the NIMR is highly regarded throughout the world. I consider many on its staff as friends and colleagues and have followed the debate on the future of the NIMR with great interest and, more recently, considerable dismay.

  I will not attempt to restate or provide my opinions on all of the complex issues however, I would like to emphasise how critical the Mill Hill location is if the NIMR is to continue first-rate research in Immunology and Infectious Diseases. The arguments put forth concerning the need for significant expansion of facilities for infectious disease containment and animal research are quite compelling. It is inconceivable that significant facilities for these activities could, practically or politically, be constructed in central London. Having these specialised facilities at some distance from the main Institute laboratories is not a viable option either. Indeed, the Mill Hill campus has just the right balance of isolation, but proximity to other major research and clinical centres. In contrast, the need to have closer proximity to major hospitals to stimulate translational research is not a particularly compelling one. Clinical studies are done where there is appropriate medical talent and patient base and this differs greatly for different diseases. Mill Hill is, if fact, quite well located for clinical interactions, with an impressive array of hospitals within an hour's travel. For research on even fresh clinical samples, this is quite sufficient. I feel qualified to comment on these particular matters as I run research programs in both Immunology and Infectious Diseases and do significant research on clinical samples from the US, Canada and the UK.

  At a time when infectious diseases, naturally acquired or deliberately spread, are a rapidly growing health concern and diseases of abnormal immunity, such as asthma and autoimmunity, remain major sources of unmet medical need, it would be irresponsible for the leading national biomedical research facility to be unable to perform necessary research in these areas.

10 November 2004

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