2 The UK Centre for Medical Research
Expectations of the project
14. During the oral evidence sessions we asked all
those involved with the project what they hoped the UKCMRI would
achieve. Professor Grant, President and Provost of University
College London (UCL), described the UKCMRI as the "most exciting
science project in Britain today".
Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK (CR-UK), told
us that the UKCMRI would be "certainly one of the largest,
if not the largest, institutes in Europe",
and represented the opportunity for CR-UK to build on its:
tremendously successful [London] research institute
[at] Lincoln's Inn Fields [...] which has carried out some of
the most fundamental work into the understanding of cancer, how
it occurs, how it spreads and the factors that drive that. For
us this is about the continuation of that work, but much more
so it is about making sure that we have access to resources and
the creative energy that will enable us to accelerate that progress.
15. Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of
the Medical Research Council (MRC), explained that the "exciting
thing about this for the MRC is the prospect of added value through
interdisciplinarity, joining with other like-minded groups of
scientists in creating what will be the biggest and most exciting
development in the UK",
and Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of the Wellcome Trust, told
us that he hoped the UKCMRI would "achieve extraordinary
improvements in human and animal health".
16. Sir Paul Nurse, Chief Executive and Director
of UKCMRI, explained that the project was "the most exciting
biomedical research initiative for a generation in the United
Kingdom. It is an extremely important project. It is one which
is looked upon with envy from the community around the world",
and Rt Hon David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science,
echoed Sir Paul's words telling us that he considered the UKCMRI
was "perhaps the most significant development in British
biomedical science for a generation".
17. We acknowledge the importance of the UKCMRI
project to biomedical science in the UK.
18. We examine the scientific vision and its implementation
in detail from paragraph 26.
The Joint Venture Agreement
19. The Heads of Terms for a Joint Venture Agreement
(JVA) were agreed in early 2010 by the four partners in the consortium
and Government. Following further detailed discussions between
the MRC, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, HM
Treasury and the Department of Health, the JVA was signed by the
chief executives of the four partners and Sir David Cooksey, on
behalf of UKCMRI Ltd, in the presence of Mr Willetts and the Earl
Howe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Quality, Department
of Health, on 9 November 2010.
20. Through the JVA the consortium:
enter into a joint venture with UKCMRI for the
purpose of establishing and operating the Centre. The Centre will
operate as a single institute dedicated to advancing knowledge
of the biological basis of human health, enabling translation
of its research outputs to clinical utility and creating an environment
that will foster and enable innovation in medical interventions
PREPARATIONS BEFORE THE JOINT VENTURE
AGREEMENT WAS SIGNED
21. Preparations for the project predated the signing
of the JVA. Back in March 2009 the four partners in the consortium
appointed an executive team to take responsibility for the delivery
and operation of UKCMRI. John Cooper, formerly Director of Resources
of the Wellcome Trust, was appointed as Chief Operating Officer
and Interim Chief Executive of UKCMRI from June 2009. The Executive
team included a Construction Director, General Counsel, Finance
Director, two Scientific Directors and a Medical Director.
As we have noted, Sir Paul Nurse took up his post as the first
Director and Chief Executive of UKCMRI in January 2011 having
chaired the UKCMRI Scientific Planning Committee for the previous
22. The Planning Application for UKCMRI was approved
by the local planning authority, Camden Council, on 16 December
2010. The detailed
construction, fitting-out and commissioning programme has been
agreed with Laing O'Rourke, the appointed main contractor. Preparatory
work began on the site in early May 2011 and construction of the
Centre will begin on 27 June 2011. There will then follow a two
year build programme followed by two years' fitting-out and commissioning.
If everything goes to plan, the UKCMRI should therefore be able
to commence operations in late Spring 2015.
Potential new partners
23. Imperial College told us in written evidence
that it was "committed to becoming an equal academic partner
in UKCMRI with negotiations ongoing. Partnering with UKCMRI would
provide mutually beneficial opportunities across all of our activities".
When asked about the discussions with potential partners Sir Mark
Walport indicated that they were "ongoing" and "proceeding
24. Professor Sir Richard Trainor, Principal of King's
College, submitted that "close academic links with all three
major biomedical academic institutions in London (UCL, Imperial
and King's) would be of great benefit to UKCMRI" and that:
it would facilitate access by UKCMRI researchers
to the translational and clinical research facilities and resources
which all three institutions possess in abundance [and] provide
a fulcrum through which the three London academic institutions
can forge London-wide collaborations with UKCMRI and with each
25. The UKCMRI issued a press release on 14 April
2011 announcing that both Imperial College and King's College
London were set to join the consortium as additional academic
partners. We welcome
the addition of Imperial College and King's College London as
new partners to the UKCMRI project.
The UKCMRI's scientific vision
26. The rationale for the UKCMRI project is the scientific
vision it has at its core. The top-level vision is to understand
how living things work and use it for the benefit for humanity.
27. From the start of the UKCMRI project the consortium
decided that it would seek scientific advice from around the world.
In January 2008 the members of the consortium set up a Science
Planning Committee and asked Sir Paul Nurse to chair it.
Harpal Kumar, CR-UK Chief Executive, told us that Sir Paul was
"an appropriate choice as a Nobel Laureate to lead this thinking".
28. UKCMRI Ltd, in its submission, explained that
the membership of the Committee included many of the world's leading
figures in biomedical science, as well as representatives of the
founding partners in the consortium. In March 2009, the Science
Planning Committee held a Horizon Scanning Workshop attended by
some 50 eminent scientists from around the world and from MRC's
National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), CR-UK's London
Research Institute (LRI), UCL and the Wellcome Trust. The Science
Planning Committee concluded its work in April 2010, publishing
a report to the UKCMRI's consortium, which was "enthusiastically
June 2010, UKCMRI published a summary of the Science Planning
Committee's discussions and recommendations in the form of the
Scientific Vision and Research Strategy.
Its vision was summarised as follows:
- to research the fundamental
biological processes underlying human health and disease;
- broad and deep researchcapable of covering
all areas of disease and all levels from the molecule to the whole
- take interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary
approaches to biomedical research, drawing input from chemists,
physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, engineers and
others, as well as biomedical scientists;
- promote a dynamic working environment with constant
refreshment of ideas and research scientists;
- drive the development and roll-out of innovative
new technologies, to open new avenues of research;
- nurture a culture in which clinical and commercial
translation is valued as highly as discovery research;
- build extensive networks locally, nationally
and internationally, with academia, industry and the public sector;
- play a national role in developing technologies
and training scientists and technical staff for the benefit of
the wider UK biomedical science base; and
- engage with the public to build strong relationships
both locally and nationally.
29. The JVA explained how the vision will be put
The Chief Executive Officer, advised by the Scientific
Advisory Board, will prepare the Scientific and Innovation Strategy,
which will identify:
the capabilities and resources required effectively
to accomplish commercial and clinical translation and to encourage
the development of medical interventions;
subject to the provisions of this agreement,
the organisational and governance mechanisms that will ensure
its successful implementation of the Scientific and Innovation
the funding required.
- the scientific and innovation programmes for
30. In their joint memorandum CR-UK and the MRC stated
that the UKCMRI presented an opportunity for them to build on
the success of some of their current research institutes and would
allow the MRC to optimise its contribution to translational research.
CR-UK's expectation is that moving into UKCMRI will "help
to significantly accelerate progress in the fight against cancer."
The Wellcome Trust hoped that the UKCMRI would "provide an
environment in which outstanding researchers from around the world
can pursue big research questions, generating breakthroughs in
knowledge and innovations that will enable major advances in health."
GlaxoSmithKline supported these claims in its written evidence
stating that the UKCMRI "will lead ultimately to improved
patient and economic benefit for the UK."
31. The UKCMRI's Scientific vision and research
strategy states the necessity for the Centre to have a critical
mass: "Size matters not for its own sake but because it creates
the critical mass necessary for successful multidisciplinary research."
The MRC, in their Final Full Business Case put to Government in
January 2011, reiterated this point:
The founders were particularly aware of the importance
of creating a facility capable of sustaining "Critical Mass"
which is recognised as being scale of 1,125 scientists or more,
currently not seen in the UK. This scale will enable UKCMRI to
be competitive with the major new biomedical developments being
built in the USA, Europe and Asia.
32. UKCMRI's website states that in time UKCMRI will
grow to house some 1,500 staff, making it one of Europe's largest
centres of biomedical research in one building. Groups spanning
the biological, clinical and physical sciences will share insight
and techniques to capture a more complete understanding of life's
processes. The website explains "how the UKCMRI will blur
the boundaries between 'academic', 'industry' and 'public sector'
research, promoting interactions and collaborations to accelerate
translation and innovation. Clinical liaison and technology transfer
will be both encouraged and valued."
A key role for the UKCMRI will be to train scientists and technicians
at all levels to the highest standards, preparing them for leadership
roles in other biomedical research institutions across the country.
DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENTIFIC AND INNOVATION
33. Sir Paul Nurse explained that the driving idea
behind the UKCMRI was that "things really move with brilliant
individuals and brilliant individuals working together",
that the best results were achieved when you have "very high-quality
people" working in a "very fluid environment".
What really moves the needle is excellent people.
You need to identify the very best in the worldnot just
in this country. You attract them, you train them to the highest
standards within the country to generate a set of really excellent
people. This strategy self-assembles from brilliant individuals.
I can't emphasise that enough. [...] You assemble a hundred brains
that are as good as you, and you give them the tools and release
their creativity. You interact with them and you construct the
strategy that constantly evolves.
We examine "clustering" further in chapter
34. Sir Paul has the responsibility of preparing
the scientific and innovation strategy. Harpal Kumar, from CR-UK,
told us that
the director of the institute [...] will establish
the scientific strategy. The scientific programme will determine
who needs to be given space in the building in order to accommodate
that scientific programme and will allocate space and other resources
accordingly, entirely driven by that programme and strategy, which
[...] will be signed off by the board of UKCMRI but entirely driven
by what Sir Paul Nurse determines is the right programme of research.
Professor Savill, MRC Chief Executive, indicated
that the "bones of the strategy exist" and that "the
flesh will come as we move towards establishment and occupation"
of the UKCMRI.
ATTRACTING SCIENTISTS FROM AROUND
35. Sir Paul highlighted that a key part of the strategy
to attract the very best from around the world
to come and work here when they are young and try to encourage
them to put down roots so that the very best in the world contribute
to the British economy and to the British biomedical research
36. The UKCMRI career structure aims to:
develop world class researchers, many of whom
will go on to hold leadership positions in biomedical research
institutions in the UK and across the world. One measure of UKCMRI's
future success will be that a high proportion of its alumni hold
The UKCMRI's Scientific Vision and Research Strategy
outlines a typical group leader's career structure:
Table 1: UKCMRI scientific career structure
|A majority of UKCMRI research group leaders will be joining the institute to establish their own independent research programmes after a period of postdoctoral research. To enable its scientists to develop world-class research programmes attacking important biological questions pertinent to human health, UKCMRI will provide substantial long-term core support over a period of about 12 years, as well as a strong mentoring programme.
The UKCMRI group leader career structure will include the following:
- An initial research period of six years, towards the end of which the scientific programme will be subjected to external peer review. The review will assess whether the research programme is of high quality and is making significant impact internationally.
- Subject to the success of the initial review, an individual will progress to senior group leader status, and core support will be renewed for a further six years.
- At the end of this second six-year period, most group leaders will have become established as international leaders in their fields and will be expected to progress to scientific leadership positions in other institutions. UKCMRI will cultivate appropriate external relationships to facilitate such transitions, particularly within the UK. The group leader mentoring programme will be used to ensure that career transitions are made smoothly.
- Long-term group leader positions will become available at UKCMRI from time to time and recruitment for these positions will be on a worldwide competitive basis. Group leaders in the 'six plus six' career pathway will be free to apply for these positions.
Source: UKCMRI Scientific vision and research
37. The Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State for Quality, Department of Health, noted that "the
career structure available in UKCMRI will be such that we will
have brilliant young researchers training and becoming established
at the centre and then dispersing around the country, taking their
expertise with them."
38. Sir Paul added that the building's layout was
very much driven by the scientific vision of the project; the
structure within the building, the floor lay-out, will not be
departmentalised. People from different disciplines would be mixed
togetherthe structure would not be based on discipline
and would be "much more anarchic [...] where it will be driven
by the individuals themselves. [...] It is a completely new way
Science and technology at the
39. In our call for evidence we asked what new technologies
and innovations were being considered at the UKCMRI. UKCMRI Ltd
told us that the emphasis so far had been on "cultural and
structural approaches to ensure that the institute is continually
alert to the opportunities that arise during the course of its
Science Planning Committee had devoted a "significant"
portion of its work to potential programmes and had held discussions
with leaders from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors,
with clinicians, and with other experts in the field of technology
transfer and the exploitation of intellectual property.
40. UKCMRI Ltd's memorandum listed potential areas
- Model organisms: The ability
to engineer precise genetic changes into well-characterised models
is generating a wealth of data on the functions of molecules in
cells and the living body. Particularly exciting is the growing
ability to explore aspects of human biology.
- Stem cell manipulation: Reprogramming of adult
cells to create induced pluripotent stem cells is generating cells
for study, including cell lines derived from patients with particular
medical conditions. UCL's strengths in regenerative medicine will
provide an effective translational route for such research.
- Imaging: The ability to follow biological processes
continuously in real time is transforming our understanding of
living systems. The interdisciplinary nature of UKCMRI and UCL's
strengths will allow chemistry, computing, physics and engineering
input into the development of imaging technologies.
- Chemical biology: As well as genetic manipulation,
chemical probes can be used to interfere with biochemical pathways,
to assess their role in biological processes. UKCMRI's interdisciplinary
links will allow increasingly sophisticated probes to be developed,
thereby expediting the development of new drugs.
- Systems biology and mathematical modelling: While
'wet' biology will underlie much of UKCMRI research, computer-based
and theoretical approaches will draw upon advances in systems
biology and mathematical modelling.
- Synthetic biology: The application of engineering
principles is opening up increasingly sophisticated forms of genetic
engineering, in which different cellular components can be put
together in precise combinations to build biological systems with
41. Several areas of possible innovation opportunities
were highlighted, including new therapeutic drug opportunities
arising from basic science discoveries in specified disease areas,
diagnostic opportunities arising from basic science discoveries,
development of new technological platforms and of novel instrumentation
or research platforms, and discoveries that have the potential
for translation into new prevention or screening strategies.
42. We have set out the UKCMRI's strategic vision
at some length for two reasons: to show the rationale behind the
UKCMRI; and to provide a point of reference when we, or our successor
committee, re-examine the project. We welcome the scientific
vision set out for the UKCMRI. It shows, in our view, the concept
of the UKCMRI is underpinned with a comprehensive, ambitious and
ground-breaking scientific vision. If this can be realised, we
believe that it has an excellent chance in delivering its primary
objective of benefiting mankind.
43. In chapters 3 and 4 we discuss how the UKCMRI
intends to be a national asset, not just benefiting London. We
welcome the addition of new partners and, to ensure the benefits
of the UKCMRI flow to the whole country, we hope more partners,
particularly from a wider area, will be sought.
10 Q 2 Back
Q 13 Back
Q 2 Back
Q 4 Back
Q 5 Back
Q 80 Back
Q 136 Back
Ev 35, para 1.1 Back
UKCMRI Joint Venture Agreement, Recitals (A). [Copies of the redacted
Joint Venture Agreement for UKCMRI are available via the Charity
Commission's central register: www.charity-commission.gov.uk/about_us/about_charities/faqpage.aspx] Back
Ev 37, para 10 Back
"Plans approved for visionary institute: 16 December 2010",
UKCMRI website: www.ukcmri.ac.uk/news/news-archive/2010/12/16/plans-approved-for-visionary-institute Back
"Construction update", UKCMRI website: www.ukcmri.ac.uk/the-project/construction Back
Ev w12, para 8 Back
Q 6 Back
Ev w11, para 4 Back
UKCMRI press announcement, Two more leading universities plan
to join scientific powerhouse, 14 April 2011 Back
Q 102 Back
Q 41 Back
As above Back
Ev 37, para 6 Back
Scientific vision and research strategy, UKCMRI, June 2010
Ev 36, para 3 Back
UKCMRI Joint Venture Agreement, para 16.1 Back
Ev 48, para 15 Back
Ev 49, para 16 Back
Ev w17, para 2 Back
Scientific vision and research strategy, p1 Back
Medical Research Council, UKCMRI Final Full Business Case, version
7, January 2011, Foreword Back
"Scientific community", UKCMRI website: www.ukcmri.ac.uk/community/scientific-community Back
"National benefits", UKCMRI website: www.ukcmri.ac.uk/community/national-benefits Back
Qq 130 and 103 Back
Q 102 Back
Q 39 Back
Q 41 Back
Q 93 Back
Scientific vision and research strategy, p15 Back
Q 155 Back
Q 133 Back
Ev 39, para 27 Back
Ev 39, para 28 Back
Ev 39, para 30 Back
Ev 39, para 31 Back