Memorandum from Professor Wayne Hendrickson,
I write with regard to your inquiry into the
future of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in
relation to a move to central London that is being contemplated
by the Medical Research Council (MRC). I suggest that the proposed
move would likely break up the NIMR and that a protraction of
the decision-making process would be a grave mistake.
I am broadly familiar with the situation at
NIMR, and I have the immediate perspective from having served
in October on a Molecular & Cellular Medicine Board Review
of four NIMR divisions of structural biology and the Biomedical
NMR Centre. I was most impressed by the overall excellence of
this group of NIMR divisions and by their integration with other
NIMR units. John Skehel and Guy Dodson have provided superb leadership
for these activities. They have built up one of the finest of
structural biology groups in the world to complement the world-class
excellence of NIMR in general.
The prospect of a move to central London, presumably
to facilitate the translation of basic science into medical application,
is an unsettling one. Excellent institutions are built slowly
and carefully, but they can be brought down quickly if not constantly
nourished. Should the prospect of this move continue to be held
open, I would expect an adverse impact on retention and recruitment
of talent. In such an unsettled state of affairs one can expect
some of the best to leave first. In the eventuality of an actual
decision to move to central London, one can expect that many will
not follow for personal reasons. The rebuilding process will necessarily
slow scientific progress and may cripple the institution.
In summary, it does not seem to me that the
case for a move from the Mill Hill site has been a persuasive
one and I urge a swift and clean conclusion to maintain a vigorous
NIMR at its current site.
23 November 2004