UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI) - Science and Technology Committee Contents

3  Benefits for the UK

44. In the last chapter we examined the UKCMRI's scientific vision. In this chapter we look at the potential benefits the UKCMRI's vision offers the UK.

Translation of health research

45. UKCMRI Ltd has stated that the UKCMRI project was "developed in response to the Cooksey Report, an independent review of arrangements for funding health research in the UK".[52] This was a report, A review of UK health research funding,[53] commissioned by the UK Government in 2006 and carried out by Sir David Cooksey, Chairman of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration Industry Reference Group (and, as we have noted, now Chairman of the UKCMRI), that set out a vision for enhancing the effectiveness of health research in the UK.[54]

46. In its submission to us the consortium indicated that the "UKCMRI will play a key role in addressing concerns identified by Sir David Cooksey's 2006 review of publicly funded health research in the UK, specifically around the risk of failing to reap the full economic, health and social benefits of public investment in UK health research."[55] The Cooksey Report identified cultural, institutional and financial barriers to translating research into practice in the publicly funded research arena. In addition, it also found that, in the private sector, the pharmaceuticals industry was facing increasing challenges in translating research into health and economic benefit. It recommended that the UK aim to sustain and continue to build on its excellent research base and that this was of crucial importance to the UK maintaining its global reputation as an excellent location to conduct health research. It warned that the UK was at risk of failing to reap the full economic, health and social benefits that the UK's public investment in health research should generate and that there was no overarching UK health research strategy to ensure UK health priorities were considered through all types of research.[56]

47. The Report highlighted two key gaps in the translation of health research:

  • translating ideas from basic and clinical research into the development of new products and approaches to treatment of disease and illness; and
  • implementing those new products and approaches into clinical practice.[57]

48. Sir David, in oral evidence to us, indicated that the UK still had a problem "getting the translation through clinical development", that the NHS should have a greater focus on clinical development, and that concentration on front-line services had prejudiced participation in clinical research.[58]

Benefits to the NHS

49. The Scientific Vision and Research Strategy document published by the UKCMRI outlined its research strategy:

    cancer will naturally be a strong focus. So too will be circulatory conditions such as heart disease and stroke—with cancer, the UK's biggest killers—as well as infections and conditions linked to an overactive immune system. Diseases of the nervous system, particularly those of later life, are likely to figure strongly. Less common disorders may also be studied, as they often generate insights of more general importance.[59]

50. The majority of the public funding for the UKCMRI will now come from the Department of Health. Sir Paul Nurse, UKCMRI's Chief Executive and Director, indicated to us that the Department was putting up this money because "they see the advantages for the NHS".[60] The Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Quality, Department of Health, said that "the benefits of UKCMRI would indirectly be dispersed more widely in the NHS over time by virtue of researchers migrating from London to other centres around the country". The Minister also told us that the links between the UKCMRI and local clinical centres of excellence would "help to define what the priorities are in the research that is undertaken and also provide a direct route through which clinical applications can be progressed", and that where "you have a hospital trust that has exciting work going on at the cutting edge of treatment, you not only attract the best clinicians but the standard of care goes up as well".[61]

51. We welcome the Department of Health's investment in this important project and can see the positive benefits that the planned research at the UKCMRI should bring to the National Health Service. If the strategy underpinning the UKCMRI works with the dispersal of scientists and the improved translation of research throughout the UK, it will provide the NHS with a pool of talent and an extensive medical science base. We consider the question of the dispersal of the benefits expected from the UKCMRI further in the next chapter.

Pharmaceutical industry

52. On 1 February 2011 the multi-national, pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced that it would be closing its research and development (R&D) centre in Sandwich in Kent. Press reports indicated that Pfizer "would exit the site over the next 18 to 24 months as part of a global programme to create a more focussed and sustainable R&D machine".[62] When we announced in February 2011 that we would take oral evidence on Pfizer's decision, we were concerned—as the press notice we issued explained—that:

    Life sciences have been identified by both this and the last Government as a priority in the UK. Pfizer's announcement that it will be closing its research and development facility in Kent is deeply worrying. It [...] raises questions about UK plc's ability to use science to drive the economy.[63]

53. When we raised Pfizer's decision, Sir David Cooksey told us that the reason for the decision was that the "productivity of those large institutes has not delivered", and that:

    the pharmaceutical industry is changing its model and wants to work alongside institutes such as UKCMRI, the universities and other MRC and Wellcome-sponsored institutes of various types. By using that mechanism, they can get to the basic research discoveries that they need probably more quickly, and certainly more cheaply, and can focus on the ones that are most likely to bring success.[64]


54. We conclude that UKCMRI offers not only improvements to the NHS, but also is in step with the new models of operation emerging in the pharmaceutical sector. We agree with UKCMRI's view that improved cooperation between the NHS, commercial ventures, the pharmaceutical industry and institutions like the UKCMRI should increase the speed at which basic research discoveries can be translated into clinical practice and enhance the effectiveness of medical research in the UK.

52   "Background", UKCMRI website, Back

53   A review of UK health research funding, Sir David Cooksey, HM Treasury, December 2006: 

54   A review of UK health research funding, Sir David Cooksey, HM Treasury, December 2006, Executive summary Back

55   Ev 48, para 10 Back

56   A review of UK health research funding, Executive Summary Back

57   As above Back

58   Q 96 Back

59   Scientific vision and research strategy, UKCMRI, June 2010, p 9 Back

60   Q 88 Back

61   Qq 159 and 162 Back

62   "Pfizer to shut major Sandwich site, home of Viagra", Reuters, 1 February 2011, Back

63   "Committee to hear evidence on Pfizer's decision to close its research and development facility at Sandwich in Kent", Science and Technology Committee press notice 34, 4 February2011  Back

64   Q 95 Back

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Prepared 25 May 2011