Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Professor Wayne Hendrickson, Columbia University

  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

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