Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Professor Richard Flavell, former member of the Task Force on the NIMR

  I was until recently a member of the task force charged with making recommendations to MRC council on the future of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) currently at Mill Hill. The conclusions of this task force have been made public and it's not necessary for me to expand on those here. I would however, like to take the opportunity of providing you some feedback. The main issue that the Task Force did not address is what should be done in the absence of a successful viable outcome in the search for a central London site for the renewed NIMR. I, as with the majority of the Task Force Members, favoured at the time and continue to favour a central London location for NIMR providing that a number of difficulties including cost, governance, security both for animal research and researchers and placement of high level containment facilities for potentially dangerous microorganisms in the middle of a major city can be solved.

  A key feature of the recommendation made by the Task Force was that the central London options should offer realisable advantages over the current site as modified and improved to bring the site up to modern standards. This is obviously sensible; there is little point to moving an institute to another location incurring great cost to end up with an inferior result. If however the proposed move were not to yield a superior result, then I and I believe several other colleagues on the Task Force (who should speak for themselves) favour maintenance of NIMR on its Mill Hill site. From my knowledge of translational research at Yale, and from what I know of the facilities and culture at NIMR, I am confident that NIMR can meet the task force's and MRC's vision for biomedical research on the Mill Hill site. I further recommend that this option be considered as part of due process in order to reach the most soundly reasoned decision on this topic which is most important for the future of British biomedical science. As a previous member of the Task Force I would be happy to assist in any reasonable way with your deliberations of this process as I've made clear to MRC Council.

  The Task Force worked long and hard to make the best recommendations it could to MRC council within the very taxing time constraints of the process. I am pleased that you have initiated this review process and I believe that this is the right thing to have done. I wish you all success with this and remain in the meantime, with best wishes.

12 November 2004

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