Memorandum from Professor Peter Rigby,
Institute of Cancer Research
I am currently the Chief Executive of The Institute
of Cancer Research in London, although I write in a personal capacity.
I therefore have considerable knowledge of what it takes to run
a research institute that is heavily focussed on translational
From 1986 to 2000 I was a senior member of the
scientific staff of the National Institute for Medical Research,
serving as Head of the Genes and Cellular Controls (now Genetics
and Development) Group from 1986 to 1996, and as Head of the Division
of Eukaryotic Molecular Genetics for the whole of my time there.
I am therefore thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the Institute's
In considering the possibility that the Institute
might be relocated to a site in central London, the following
points should be taken into consideration.
1. So far as I am aware, there has not been
any challenge to the quality of the Institute's research. Indeed,
its activities have, over the past 20 years, been accorded the
highest accolades by the peer review committees of the Medical
Research Council. Why then, is it necessary to consider radical
reorganisation, let alone relocation?
2. Since the publication of the Council's
unfortunate Forward Investment Strategy, there has been a blurring
of the arguments. It is now held that the Institute must focus
on a translational agenda. Why is this? My current Institute is
intensely translational and I am totally supportive of such work.
But it seems to have been decided that all medical research institutes
have to be translational. There is absolutely no justification
for this. Institutes that do excellent basic research will remain
highly valuable, and the simplest survey of the rest of the world
will indicate how they are valued. The Council must state clearly
why they are of the view that this institute needs to adopt a
translational agenda. Many would say that this is the business
of its Clinical Sciences Centre (CSC). By embedding the CSC in
an academic clinical setting (as opposed to the now defunct Clinical
Research Centre next to a district general hospital at Northwick
Park) it was hoped this would be the MRC's Institute for carrying
out clinical/translational work. The Council should wait to see
whether it is achieving these aims, before carrying out experiments
on another Institute.
3. If translation is to be the name of the
game, then the financial consequences must be addressed. It is
widely held within the scientific community that the original
motivation for the Council's proposals regarding the Institute
was the saving of money. Be that as it may, the reincarnation
of NIMR as a translational institute will cost a great deal of
money. I am struck by the following facts. NIMR has some 800 staff
and an annual budget of £28 million. My institute has just
over 1,000 staff, it is a little bigger, but its annual budget
is £55 million. Why is this? The answer is translational
research. To do this effectively requires specialised facilities
and the salaries of large numbers of clinicians. So the transformation
of NIMR into a translational institute will cost a great deal
of money, and it is not at all clear that the Council has the
The costs of rebuilding the institute in central
London will be very large. I have been responsible for rebuilding
most of my current institute and can thus be expected to have
a reasonably authoritative view of the costs, which will clearly
be in excess of £100 million. There is also the unquantifiable
cost, both financially and politically, of seeking to recreate
the NIMR's animal facilities in central London. The Select Committee
should be under no misapprehension, without these facilities NIMR
will cease to exist.
If the funds for such a relocation were to be
available, then it is essential that the value for money of such
an investment is rigorously contrasted with what could be achieved
by investing at the present site at Mill Hill. The Council has
thus far been totally silent on the relative cost effectiveness
of the various schemes under consideration. The costs and benefits
of the relocation should be evaluated against what could be achieved
by investment on the Mill Hill site. It would be surprising if
the relocation option were to survive such an analysis.
There is no objective case for a radical reorganisation
There is no case whatsoever for it becoming a
Relocating it to central London would cost a
very great deal of money that could be better spent elsewhere.
It is essential that the benefits of investing
on the Mill Hill site are fully explored.
I would be happy to expand on any of these points
should the Select Committee find that to be of value.
23 November 2004